Largest agricultural exhibition in Israel kicks off today in the Arava

Multicolored veggies, tour of facilities on the agenda.

Arava R&D 248 88  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Arava R&D 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ever seen a yellow cherry tomato or a purple pepper that looks like an eggplant? Those are just a few of the vegetables that will be on display at the Central and Northern Arava R&D open house and exhibition Wednesday and Thursday. What started as an annual open house for the public organization has grown over the years into the biggest agricultural exhibition in Israel, general manager Alon Gadial told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. The exhibition will feature the country's leading agricultural companies, farmers, and scientists showing off their technology and products. The entire event is free and open to the public. This year, the lectures will take place in Sapir, and the company's Yair station will be open for tours. Last year, about 15,000 people visited the exhibition, Gadial said. In addition, the exhibition and lectures also provide an opportunity for farmers, companies and scientists to meet and share information, he said. Central and Northern Arava R&D has a specific mission, according to its general manager. "The company focuses on practical research. We are not an academic institution that can research an idea for 20 years. We take a project, research it for about three years and then come up with an answer," Gadial explained. The company was created to assist the agricultural endeavors of the central and northern Arava, which covers about 1.5 million dunams - about 30,000 of which are used for agriculture. The area is home to some 3,000 residents and 460 agricultural settlements. Relying solely on the domestic market is not practical, Gadial said, so the Arava's farmers focus on exporting "premium" products to Europe, including exclusive items like purple and brown peppers and yellow tomatoes. "We can't compete with the massive amounts of regular tomatoes grown in Spain or Morocco and exported to Europe, but we can compete in the premium market and in research and development of new types of produce," Gadial said. Relatively fewer pesticides are used in the Arava, which is a draw in Europe. The products are also rich in vitamins and minerals, he said. "One pepper equals four oranges in nutritional value," he pointed out. Gadial rejected claims that agriculture used water wastefully or that exporting vegetables essentially meant exporting water abroad. "We are constantly looking for ways to improve efficiency and conserve water and fertilizer. That is built into our system," he insisted. "Moreover, we use brackish water to water our crops [and not fresh water]," he went on. "If you check with the chief scientist of the Agriculture Ministry, he can show you that over the last 10 years, agriculture has actually reduced its water use. What's more, we use every cubic meter of treated sewage water, and we would use all that the municipalities could produce. The problem is that there aren't enough pipelines leading from the Center to the Arava to bring it to the farmers here." In addition to new types of vine tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and other vegetables, the company also raises clown fish in fish ponds, Gadial said. "There's demand in the market for them. Instead of hunting them illegally, we breed them in captivity and sell them abroad," he said. Clown fish gained international recognition following the animated film Finding Nemo, which featured two clown fish as the main characters.