Agriculture played a central role in the life of ancient Israel: Each of the three major pilgrimage festivals - Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot – are linked to agriculture, and an entire section (“Seeds”) of the Mishnah, the 3rd-century compilation of oral traditions, is devoted to agricultural laws. Agriculture regained a place of prominence in Jewish life with the emergence of Zionism, which emphasized settling the land and self-sufficiency. Young Zionists, inspired by ideologues like A.D. Gordon, aspired to reconnect to nature and strike roots in the soil as members of rural communal settlements (kibbutzim and moshavim).
These new farmers faced difficult conditions: a scarcity of water and arable land. This spurred a continual effort to develop innovative methods and technology for agriculture – agrotechnology (agrotech). In fact, agricultural research already began in the late 19th century at the Mikveh Israel agricultural school, founded in 1870. The Agricultural Experiment Station was established in Tel Aviv in 1921 and later developed into the Agricultural Research Organization (also known as the Volcani Institute), which is today Israel's major institution of agrotech research and development.
In this short guide, we will outline some of the major achievements in Israeli agrotech that have allowed Israel to become self-sufficient in food supplies and export some $1.5 billion of agricultural produce each year (mainly premium quality fruits, vegetables and flowers to Western Europe.) In particular, we will note Israel’s developments in water technology and crop enhancement, as well as its efforts to share its agrotech know-how with developing countries.