Southeast Asia looks to Israeli tech to improve growing techniques

Israel's agriculture technology companies are seeking business opportunities in Southeast Asia, as countries like Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines look to the Middle East for ways to boost food production. Israeli agritech innovations have increasingly made their way into the farming communities in Southeast Asia through bilateral agricultural programs.

Israel expanded its cooperation with Thailand by marking the opening of a second greenhouse facility in Petchburi province in October. This followed its installation of the first greenhouse in 2018 as a demonstration unit for farmers in the area. The project is equipped with Israel's irrigation and sprinkler systems designed for efficient and sustainable agricultural production, and involved Israeli experts who helped Thai farmers apply the technologies to growing crops.

In another instance of bilateral engagement, Vietnam is set to ink a Labor Cooperation Agreement with Israel as soon as this year. Under the agreement, Vietnamese workers will be sent to Israel to gain experience in the country's agricultural sector.

Like Thailand, Vietnam has Israeli-enabled greenhouses in the northern province of Vinh Phuc, where farmers have successfully cultivated some crops using hydroponic techniques. "What Israel is providing usually is technology, and technology could be a drip irrigation system, better filtration, could be new system to make reverse osmosis, [where] use of water [is] more efficient, less energy-dependent," Israeli Ambassador to Singapore Sagi Karni said.

Israel has some 600 agritech and foodtech companies, according to Karni, with scores of them able to fine-tune solutions to suit farming conditions outside the country. The nonprofit Tony Blair Institute for Global Change noted in a 2019 report that Israel has managed to become a world leader in agriculture and water management despite the fact that two-thirds of its land is semiarid or arid with poor quality soil.

As Southeast Asia grapples with food security threats arising from climate change and supply disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel's experience with agriculture has gained attention among a handful of the region's countries seeking to enhance farming practices.

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