China’s Yuanda Enterprise Group announced last week that it had bought the Israeli company AutoAgronome Israel Ltd for $20 million in order to expand its business to high-tech agriculture. The Israeli company produces smart irrigation and fertilization systems that are successfully used with 70 different types of crops in 13 countries including the United Kingdom.
“The movement to new technology is huge. Every year, the area of drip irrigation system farming in China increases about 20 percent, which is more than all in Israel and Europe together. It’s a huge market in China,” said Nissim Daniely, the general manager of AutoAgronom in China Daily.
Scientists at the China Agricultural University in Beijing believe that smart-farming techniques are the key to China’s food problems in a study released in early September. The acquisition of the Israeli smart irrigation tech company is significant in China’s struggles with food security.
Founded in 1988, AutoAgronom is the only full automatic system in the world which applies water and fertilizers without human intervention according to the company’s website. The system is based on more than 20 years of research and can reduce water consumption per acre from 500 tons to 150 tons, making it an affordable alternative for farmers.
“The plant tells you what it wants exactly with this system,” said David Kaholi, an Israeli farmer of the AutoAgronom system. The system works through monitoring the root of the plant with sensors and an electronic tensiometer that works around the clock, transmitting data from the root to the controller software. On the basis of the data reaching the system, it will decrease or increase fertilizer and water amounts, saving up to 50% in water and 70% in fertilizer delivery, while increasing yield.
Decreasing fertilizer use also protects the environment as less fertilizer pollutants reach underground water and lakes.
The Chinese company will take over the marketing for Israeli system. “Our cooperation is like a marriage. We offer technology and Yuanda focuses on marketing,” added Daniely.
Yuanda is also making plans to take the Israeli system abroad. “The system can help us to farm on sand, saline-alkali soil or even on the Gobi [desert], which may restore underground water and help manage heavy metal and garbage pollution,” said Kang Baohua, chairman of the Yuanda Enterprise Group in the China Daily.