US-Israel agriculture fund chooses 20 joint projects for $6.7 million investment

BARD R&D fund also sets investment priorities for next 5 years including food safety; plant, animal protection tech

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

A net greenhouse in Los Pinos, Mexico, the largest greenhouse tomato project in the country, developed with Israel's Netafim drip irrigation and greenhouse technology. (courtesy, Netafim)
A net greenhouse in Los Pinos, Mexico, the largest greenhouse tomato project in the country, developed with Israel's Netafim drip irrigation and greenhouse technology. (courtesy, Netafim)

Developing technologies to improve the harvesting of olives, mitigate the clogging of drip-irrigation systems and figuring out how to space out almond trees in orchards to get best yields are among the 20 joint US-Israel agricultural projects approved for funding by the US-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD).

The fund’s board of directors on June 1 approved the financing of grants and fellowships of joint research and development projects in agriculture for a total of $6.7 million.

This year, BARD will also grant five postdoctoral fellowships, three senior research fellowships supporting American scientists who will conduct research in Israel, and three joint US-Israel workshops, BARD, which promotes joint research by scientists in both countries, said in a statement on Sunday.

Among the 20 research grants for projects funded this year are: technology for developments for the olive, almond and pomegranate industries; drip irrigation systems, aquaculture solutions, and possible solutions for a variety of plant diseases in crops such as barley, sesame, and tomato. In addition, studies proposing to improve postharvest agricultural produce and biological and chemical approaches to improve plant nutrition under sub-optimal growing conditions have been awarded funding.

The board of directors also approved the research-priority areas that should be supported by the fund in the next five years: improved efficiency of agricultural production; plant, animal, and agricultural environment protection; agricultural production challenges in increasingly marginal conditions; food quality, safety, and security; technologies to boost soil and water quality and quantity; sustainable agri-environmental management, and precision agriculture.

“The BARD funding allows for investigators from the US and Israel to join forces and conduct agricultural research,” said Prof. Abed Gera, chairman of the BARD board and director of the Plant Protection and Inspection Services at the Israeli Agriculture Ministry. “This collaboration serves as a force multiplier, and the synergy generate far greater achievements than would have been attained with scientists working separately. ”

The fund received 131 proposals, and half of this year’s grant recipients are “early career scientists,” said Yoram Kapulnik, BARD’s executive director. “They are rewarded with an opportunity to work side-by-side with leading, experienced scientists, and benefit from their vast scientific experience.”

BARD is a funding program that supports collaborative agricultural research in areas of mutual interest to the US and Israel. Over the past 40 years BARD has funded more than 1,330 research projects with a total investment of $315 million. Joint research has led to approximately 200 new agricultural practices, 40 business deals, and 100 patent and breeding rights licenses, the statement said.

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