05/16/2012 03:48
Agriculture exhibition showcases hundreds of new technologies ranging from water-converting drones to predatory mites.

Mayer Fitoussi, CEO of AQUA Israel, envisions equipping unmanned aerial drones with systems that can both harvest water from the air and allow the vehicle to remain for six months in the sky without touching down.

This technology, which Fitoussi boasted about with excitement, was one of hundreds on display at the enormous AgriTech Israel 2012 – The 18th International Agriculture Exhibition and Conference spanning the Tel Aviv exhibition grounds from Tuesday through Thursday.

Innovations ranged from water conservation technologies to eco-friendly pest repellants, from coconut-based soils to dairy farming techniques from countries across the world. Too numerous to fit in only one pavilion, the booths filled about four huge inside spaces, in addition to an outside exhibition area that featured tractors, gardens and chicken cages. The Agriculture Ministry’s space included a transparent plastic footbridge, underneath which swam large, brightly hued fish in a makeshift pond.

Back at AQUA Israel, Fitoussi described the water-harvesting technology that his company had developed, telling The Jerusalem Post that the IDF has already expressed interest in the future use of such technology.

Able to operate on the wings of a drone or in a stationary setting, the system is made up of photovoltaic solar panel cells of one square meter each, which provide the energy to transform air into water.

“It takes moisture from the air and gives you rain,” he said.

Combined with a hydrogen fuel-cell engine, the solar panels would also give a drone enough power to potentially fly for six months without landing, according to Fitoussi, who noted, however, that the technology will not be available for another three years.

In addition to the water-harvesting technology, AQUA Israel was also marketing its “Green Ball,” a plastic green ball filled with natural minerals that can work in place of detergent for 1,500 loads of laundry. Next to the Green Ball, Fitoussi and his team were displaying their “Smart Shower Head,” which builds pressure from the outside air and thereby uses 50-percent less water during showers, according to the company.

On a countertop at the booth of the BioBee company, pin-sized red and brown insects swarmed and crawled around in plastic containers.

“We’re using them as a biological solution for pests,” Amit Sadeh, of BioBee, told the Post.

The red insects were predatory mites, who feed on spider mites that attack many crops, Sadeh explained.

Next to the predatory mites was a container of larger insects, brown beetles that feed on millie bugs. Some of the pesticide insects are sold live, in tube dispensers, while others are stored as parasites in dead aphids, ready to be spread on plants and hatch.

“We call them mummies – inside this aphid, there is a developing parasitoid,” Sadeh explained.

The company, true to its name, also was marketing boxes of bumblebees on slathers of honeycomb to be used for plant pollination.

Another company focusing on water, Amiad, launched five new filtration products at AgriTech, with technology based on polymers only, the company said. The company expects that the five new products – developed by Amiad and its subsidiary Arkal – will save money and reduce water consumption in irrigation.

Many of the large, black filtration systems help increase flow rate, protect irrigation systems and their membranes and have self-cleaning mechanisms.

Nearby the Amiad setup, the Water Authority had arranged a large walk-through venue, where visitors could identify their home region on colorful maps of Israel and examine how much water on average is lost in evaporation per year, and how much precipitation the region receives. Among the placards were various LCD touchscreens, where residents could calculate how much water they should be showering on their home gardens each, based on garden size and average region climate for the past decade.

This way, people will not need to waste water and money by providing their gardens with more irrigation than necessary, Water Authority spokesman Uri Schor told the Post.

Outside the pavilion, in the outdoor exhibition area, the Water Authority had also set up a 120-square-meter garden, laden with about 30 types of plants, most of which do not consume a lot of water but many of which bear colorful flowers and leaves. Rather than planting only roses and flowers, which consume large amounts of water, people can revamp their gardens with water-saving plants, like succulents, and reduce their water usage by about 30-40%, Schor said.

Among the plants and carefully manicured stone and wooden paths within the tiny garden, people took turns relaxing in round, straw lawn pods, taking a break from the business of the exhibition inside.