Haifa brings prosperity to the south and global agriculture

Advanced fertilizers that reduce water usage and carbon footprint; An App that provides farmers with agronomic information enabling big-data-based, professional decision-making:  The Haifa Group continues its innovation journey and expands the factory in Rotem Industrial Park. Motti Levin, Haifa Group CEO, discusses global and local activities, the group's environmental emphasis and its commitment to the development of the south.
Haifa Group, the international specialty fertilizer giant, bears the name of the northern city where it was founded 60-odd years ago. The company, whose primary production center in Israel has moved to the Negev, alongside its two production facilities in France and Canada, engages in producing fertilizers for precise plant nutrition. The company's special fertilizers are administered to the plant through its roots or foliage using the fertigation method (fertilization through irrigation systems).
"Using Haifa products greatly reduces the use of fertilizers and water with a trifecta effect: with our fertilizers, one achieves more - with less. The farmer maximizes yield, uses fewer fertilizers and much less water, does not alter soil composition, does not pollute water sources and, as a result, significantly decreases gas emissions, and reduces the greenhouse effect," says Motti Levin, the group's CEO, in a special interview to "Israeli success," where he presents the company's plans for the future and its vision for global and local operations.
Levin describes the unique methodology named "Fertigation," which was mentioned in the introduction and is a combination of "fertilization" and "irrigation." The term was coined upon the company's establishment in the late 1960s, around the same time as Netafim. In fact, precision agriculture was jointly developed by both these companies. Over the years, Haifa has grown and with it, also precision agriculture. In the agricultural world, the term 'precision agriculture' is strongly associated with The Haifa Group. For many farmers in the world today, 'Haifa' is a brand, a very well-known one. If you ask farmers worldwide what 'Haifa' is, they will not necessarily associate the term with the city but will certainly know the brand. A super-brand in plant nutrition which, in my opinion, is one of the strongest Israeli brands out there. There may be many global companies in Israel, but there are very few local brands that have become world-class brands."
Expanding production capacity through renewable energies
Haifa products are distributed worldwide through 17 subsidiaries, each of which is a regional HUB. Thus, its products are sold in over 100 countries worldwide. Further to its extensive global activity, Haifa is currently expanding its plant in the south, located in Rotem Industrial Park. This expansion will, directly and indirectly, add hundreds of jobs in the region. Actually,  the company already directly employs hundreds of workers and thousands more through secondary circles.

Tell us about the new factory.
"In addition to a long list of production capacity expansion and regulatory projects, we are also establishing an Ammonia production plant to obviate Ammonia import, practiced today. These moves, which entail extensive investments, will allow us to expand our production capacity and meet the growing global demand for our products. All this will be done using renewable energies and in compliance with our vision for implementing the concept of a 'circular economy' (an approach that strives for a sustainable economy and the prevention of waste and pollution by optimally using raw materials and/or energy) in the production processes.  Ammonia is recognized as a green energy material and is a source of great pride for us. Simultaneously, a large solar field we are building will enable the supply of energy to produce 'Blue Ammonia.' All this is part of the sustainable, environmental concept that characterizes us."

You emphasize the environmental aspect. How is it expressed in practice?
"Let me provide an example. As mentioned above, we are building a solar field to meet the energy needs of the Ammonia plant. The Ammonia shall be returned to the production line of Haifa products and will simultaneously be used as a cooling liquid in the factories. Hence, we can say goodbye to the problematic Freon gas and use Ammonia to cool our facilities. Furthermore, we will build a facility to absorb CO2, a gas used in the food industry and seawater desalination facilities. We will transfer that same CO2 into exemplary greenhouses built on factory premises to demonstrate the correct use of fertilizers and CO2 to improve yields in greenhouse crops. This is a 'circular economy’ at its best because, in the end, the peppers from the greenhouse will also end up in the factory's kitchen. In general, the sustainable concept is one of our company's growth engines and today, we get a platinum rating from Maala – the social responsibility organization, publish an annual ESG report and build an impact strategy to support our growth plan."

Let's talk about another motif that you emphasize, namely: innovation. How do you incorporate innovation into your products?
"Generally speaking, Haifa sees itself as a 'solution company.’ Our essence is to leverage the tremendous agronomic knowledge Haifa has accumulated over the years, to build a product and service portfolio that would give growers tools to deal with the needs of managing an agricultural economy. The innovation Haifa Group implements in its production processes is reflected in its new products and technological applications. For example, many companies invest in developing sensors that make it possible to map the environment and the conditions in which plants grow. In our opinion, the plant is the sensor. A pepper bush has its own language, and the almond tree knows how to speak. Our job is to learn these languages, translate them and make our conclusions accessible to growers.
"Our challenge is understanding the plant's needs, so we invest in agronomic technologies. A year ago, for example, we invested in a startup called AgriOt.
"The Croptune App we developed allows farmers to get information about the nutrient levels in the plant by photographing the leaf, a sort of MRI photograph of the leaf by smartphone or drones. With the help of two images and big-data-based AI, we know how to identify the plant’s specific needs and provide unique fertilization recommendations. This action saves the farmers laboratory time and agronomist visits - processes that require plenty of time and resources.
"Beyond the acquisition of technologies, our R&D department sits next to the Technion, leads innovation processes and develops products and procedures, which it tests at the historic Aaronson farm that serves as the company's experimental farm. As part of the farm's restoration process, a visitor center will be established there, which will tell the history of the farm and the natural connection between a company like Haifa and this unique site."