05/15/2012 05:09
Indian agricultural powerhouse Jain Irrigation Systems signs agreement with Kibbutz Na’an to buy 50% of jointly owned firm.

Indian agricultural powerhouse Jain Irrigation Systems signed an agreement on Monday morning with Kibbutz Na’an to purchase the remaining 50 percent of their jointly owned firm NaanDan Jain, a move that both view as a symbol of ever-expanding Indian- Israeli relations.

Jain Irrigation became a joint owner of the original NaanDan irrigation firm in 2007, with a call option to acquire the second half of the company when both sides saw fit. During the past five years of Jain Irrigation’s participation in the company, NaanDan Jain has increased more than 25% of its sales turnover, and more than NIS 125 million has been invested in the Israeli firm’s drip irrigation and sprinkler technology – marketed worldwide, according to the companies. The successful cooperation is a testament to the growing rapport between India and Israel, which are now marking 20 years of diplomatic relations.

“Sharing the love of the land is good,” Anil Jain, managing director of Jain Irrigation, told The Jerusalem Post during an interview in Tel Aviv on Monday.

“People have that hands-on feel about agriculture in both Israel and India, a willingness to work hard because you are surrounded with a lot of difficulties and a willingness to use technology.”

“Both countries consider agriculture very important part of their economies,” he added.

While Jain Irrigation predominantly serves small farmers in India, NaanDan Jain has a much farther-reaching market internationally, and serves the sprinkler irrigation market in addition to drip irrigation needs, according to Jain.

“Israel has been a birthplace for water irrigation technologies. Not only a birthplace – it has been ahead of the curve,” Jain said.

While much of northwest India shares Israel’s semi-arid climate, irrigation solutions for the two places are not exactly the same, particularly the size of farms themselves. India has the largest number of small farmers in the world – around 120 million – with about 1 hectare (2.47 acres) of land each, according to Jain. Thus far, Jain Irrigation has served about 3 million of them.

Jain will be bringing hundreds of those farmers to the AgriTech Exhibition taking place in Tel Aviv from Tuesday through Thursday, where NaanDan Jain will be exhibiting many of its products – in sprinkler irrigation, micro-irrigation, agricultural climate control, drip irrigation and bio-energy.

“We are trying to create the best practices in agriculture that will save resources on the input side and create best product for the farmer,” Jain said.

The company has been cultivating a culture of sustainable farming, with activities such as bringing in solar water pumps to irrigate many of these farms. Slowly, the farmers themselves are adapting to a culture of more environmental awareness, according to Jain.

Although NaanDan Jain already has an international presence, Jain said he hopes to expand it much further, particularly in Latin American, China, Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

While he is contractually bound to maintain the company’s Israel operations at Kibbutz Na’an through the year 2020, Jain said he intends to continue the Israel base far after that deadline.

“Israel has the best research and development in this field. The Israeli brand is a great brand around the world in terms of agricultural technologies,” he said, noting that the farmers are both knowledgeable and willing to be on the ground, in the field at all hours. “We will invest in Israel and grow in Israel,” he added.

Jain described his relationship with the kibbutz members as “extraordinarily good,” and said that kibbutz executives contacted his company six months ago requesting that they exercise the call option. With a business model quite similar to that of a kibbutz, his company also intends to keep the NaanDan Jain Israeli work force completely intact.

Jain’s religion, Jainism, represents only 0.5% of India’s population, but it influences every move of his company, which represents 60% of India’s irrigation.

Rooted in ideals of non-violence, Jainism emphasizes the importance of leaving the world a better place and allowing “every other organism live – it does not stop with human beings,” according to Jain.