“The Israeli government has been pro-active in uplifting the lives of underprivileged farmers in rural India,” said agricultural entrepreneur Harshit Godha.
By Tsivya Fox-Dobuler
When Harshit Godha, 24, from India, was introduced to avocados as a “superfood” while getting his undergraduate business degree at the University of Bath in the UK, he was inspired to grow them in his native hometown of Bhopal. However, he quickly learned that India’s hot climate is not suitable for growing avocados, which is why they remained scarce and expensive in the country.
Godha came across an article that highlighted Israel’s success in growing avocados in the hot Jordan Valley. Inspired to launch his commercial agriculture career by growing and selling avocados in India, as well as perhaps developing an export business, he contacted Westfalia, a South African multinational supplier of avocados, who led him to Israeli avocado growers Benny Wisse at Kibbutz Ma’agan on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee and Oren Wallach, from Oren Nursery near Hadera in Israel’s northern Sharon district.
“After talking to some Avocado agronomists, I was told that the Jordan valley in Israel has very similar climatic conditions [to] my city, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India,” Godha told United With Israel. “To learn more about avocado farming in hot climates, I went to Kibbutz Ma’agan in Israel and spent a month there in the summer of 2017 to observe (not to work, as I was on a tourist visa) their avocado farming practices.”
Godha praised Israel’s long and “very collaborative relationship” with India, “especially in the field of agriculture.” The government’s MASHAV organization, which Israel’s agency for International Development Cooperation, has established multiple Indo-Israeli Agriculture Centers of Excellence throughout out the country.
“Israel is very pro-active in uplifting the lives of underprivileged farmers in rural India,” he said.
MASHAV, under the leadership of Dan Alluf, shares cutting-edge Israeli agriculture techniques with the farmers of India, helping them improving their crop yield.
“The Indo-Israel Centers of Excellence also provide high quality planting materials to the rural farmers in India,” Godha explained to United With Israel. “These planting materials were developed through thorough research in Israel, so that the end produce is of better quality, has improved shelf life and is marketable to the end consumer, thus fetching the Indian farmer higher income.”
He credits private Israeli companies like Netafim, Naan Dan Jain (Indo Israel Partnership) and Rivulis, who brought drip irrigation to India and are heavily promoted by the Horticulture Ministry of India, for their water-saving technology, which eases large-scale agriculture production.
In fact, “the Indian government offers subsidies and grants to farmers who use these progressive Israeli irrigation techniques,” Godha said.
The young entrepreneur believes that India is an untapped market for healthy and delicious avocados. Therefore, after his initial “fact gathering” trip to Israel, he invited Wisse and Wallach to India to evaluate its climate conditions and suggest how best to develop avocado production in his homeland.
They suggested “a pilot avocado orchard of Israeli avocado plants to test which varieties perform best in Indian conditions,” Godha said. “After the test, we would double down on the varieties which work best in Madhya Pradesh’s climatic conditions.”
After a delay in receiving an import permit, Godha is now waiting for the arrival of “1750 West Indian race avocado root-stocks from the Israeli selection grafted with different commercial cultivars.”
“I want to disseminate my knowledge of avocado farming to the farmers of India, just like the MASHAV Indo Israel Agriculture Center of Excellence model,” Godha told United With Israel. “I aim to help these farmers by marketing their produce in the tier one cities of India by sorting out supply chain and logistics. Therefore, my pilot avocado farming project is an example that can teach other Indian farmers the Israeli way of raising avocado.”