Published On: Tue, Jul 8th, 2014

‘Startup Nation’ Farmers Merge Innovation and Whimsy

Where else will you find a tomato bred to become sun-dried on the vine?



“Startup Nation” Israel has been at the forefront of agricultural innovation since long before it became a state. This is largely due to the need to find ways to grow crops in a hostile environment that required both draining swamps and irrigating arid land.

Israel’s farmers may have provided the initial inspiration for innovation in the high tech sector. Now they are working hard to prove themselves once again, by developing new agricultural techniques and crops.

Recently, Moshav Ein Yahav, a cooperative of independent, local farms in the Arava desert south of Beer Sheba, revealed that it had taken the forefront in pesticide free farming. The moshav is currently covering more than 6 million square meters (20 million square feet) of its fields in plastic. This is done in order to use the power of the sun to raise the surface temperatures below the plastic to as much as 55 degrees Celsius (131 Fahrenheit), as a natural substitute for pesticides.

Israeli farmers are also currently working on ways to breed new types of fruits and vegetables in different shapes, colors and sizes,  for easier storage and for consumer appeal. So far, in Ein Yahav they have succeeded in growing heart and star shaped cucumbers. It will not divulge exactly how it was done, except to say that the method definitely does not include genetic engineering.

Agronomist Rami Sade said, “We’re planning more shapes and applying the same shapes to other types of cucumbers. There’s high demand for these cucumbers. For the moment, we grow several hundred kilograms per week, which is not much.”

What about making yellow beetroot? If you have ever handled beets in any form, you know they leave red stains. Israel’s Eden Z’raim is partnering with a Dutch company in the project.


Tomato 1



Then there’s the mint-chocolate plant. Many people enjoy herbal teas,  in all sorts of flavors. But the same people are also concerned when they learn that their favorite teas might contain artificial flavorings that are unhealthy.

The Mentha × piperita f. citrata ‘Chocolate’ plant has leaves with a strong aroma, which can be used as a spice or as an herbal tea. Cultivated by Hishtil Nurseries, it is available for sale in Israel, Europe and the US.

Hishtil Nurseries also markets a natural, sun dried tomato created by Dr. Ari Schaffer of the  Agricultural Research Organization Volcani Center, in Israel. The tomato has pores, which allow it to dry out as it grows.

Another innovation of Israeli farmers are huge tomatoes that can keep their taste for a long time, developed by Bayer Cropscience and marketed by Mediterranean Seeds Ltd.

Also, a cheaper way to grow watermelons has been developed. This entails hanging them on hooks in greenhouses.

Founded in 1974, Hishtil is an Israeli based global nursery corporation which specializes in the production and sale of vegetables, herbs, seedlings and young plants, for the professional and hobby markets. Hishtil established a global nurseries network comprised of five sites in Israel and six joint venture nurseries in Turkey, Italy, South Africa Bulgaria, Frence and Bosnia.

The company also exports a comprehensive program, comprised of a wide assortment of edible and ornamental plants, including vegetables, herbs and perennials, selected for use in modern urban gardening.


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