Israel’s kibbutzim effort is sending water technology throughout the world
- By Katie McCarthy
- Aug 01, 2007
Situated in one of the
world’s most arid regions,
Israel has been overcoming
water shortages and
desertification since its
inception in 1948. Its
diverse topography, which includes plains,
mountains, deserts, and coastlines, makes for
many water challenges. A small country at 8,019
square miles (about the size of New Jersey), Israel
sustains a population of 6.35 million people.
Israel is resilient, constantly looking for new
solutions to water problems and looking toward
the future of water management. In the water
business, its people have made great advances
in technology. It is a country with big ideas.
Within Israel, innovation has happened in
small communities called kibbutzim.
In Hebrew, kibbutz means “gathering” or
“together.” It is an Israeli collective community.
The kibbutz movement dates back to the
early 20th century. As Jews immigrated into the
Middle East, limited natural resources made
independent farming impractical. Jewish communities
were threatened by opposing forces in
Palestine. The movement combines socialism
and Zionism in a form of practical Labor Zionism—
all philosophies that support communal
living. The communities first created to till the
fields have become so much more.
The kibbutz is based on common contribution,
joint production, and mutual support of all its
members, according to the Kibbutz Industries
Association (KIA). Recent years have seen many
adjustments to the kibbutzim as they adapt to
modern Israel and the social and financial
processes in the country today. Still, the kibbutz
keeps the principle of a co-operative partnership.
This type of communal living affects less
than 2 percent of the population residing in
kibbutzim, but kibbutz industries greatly affect
“While the kibbutz constitutes only 1.7 percent
of Israel’s population, the kibbutz industry
contributes 9.2 percent of Israel’s countrywide
sales, 7.2 percent of exports, 5.2 percent in
investments, and 9.2 percent in industrial
employment,” according to KIA. “The kibbutz
industries produce metal and electronics, plastic
and rubber, processed foods, optics and glass, textile and leather, medicine and chemicals,
office supplies, quarries and building materials,
toys, jewelry and musical instruments.”
Sales from the kibbutzim totaled $4.44 billion,
including $1.33 billion worth of exports
KIA, founded in 1962, represents more than
300 industrial enterprises from all of the 270 kibbutz
settlements. The association serves as a liaison
office to government agencies as well as public
and private companies. KIA also acts as a broker
bringing together investors and enterprises. Working
to protect this unique sense of community,
KIA is ensuring the future of thriving kibbutzim.
For those living and working in the communities,
preserving their way of life is paramount.
Water technology is well represented at Ma’agan
Michael and Amiad. Ma’agan Michael
develops plastic piping for agricultural uses.
Amiad develops self-cleaning water filtration
systems. Both communities are proving that life
and enterprise can share the same space.
“A kibbutz is a place where reality and ideology
are bound together. A kibbutz is about equality,”
said Oren Linder, a member of Kibbutz
Ma’agan Michael and regional marketing and
sales manager for Eastern Europe and Russia at
Ma’agan Michael is a co-operative located
by the Mediterranean Sea. The kibbutz was
founded in 1949, and more than 1,500 people
reside there. Plasson was developed by the
In 1964, a group of agriculturalists decided
that farming was becoming dependent on
technology and that they needed to modernize
and enhance their labor methods. They
used their knowledge to produce advanced
agricultural equipment by injection molding,
and Plasson was born.
Today, Plasson is an international company
with annual sales of more than $180 million
(U.S., in 2006) and a workforce of 800.
The company’s first products were transportation
cages and drinkers for poultry. Later,
Plasson developed a range of plastic fittings for
plastic pipes. Today Plasson’s products are used
for municipal water systems, industry, gas conveyance,
mining, telecommunications, agriculture,
and landscape applications.
For the water industry, Plasson specializes
in pipe-fitting solutions. The company features
electrofusion, compression PP (PP is the name
of a common thermoplastic polymer) and
polyvinyl chloride fittings. One new product
is designed to connect electrofusion fittings
with PEX, the common name for cross-linked
high-density polyethylene pipes, for high-temperature
Plasson is 75 percent
owned by the
kibbutz. The company
has been traded
on the Tel Aviv Stock
since 1997 allowing
the public to own
25 percent. Seventy
percent of Plasson’s
expenses are covered
by Ma’agan Michael. Linder said that this unique
structure fosters equality. Company employees
take home salaries based on the size of their families
rather than job titles and responsibilities.
“The founders’ commitment to quality, fair
dealing, and respect for their customers’ views is
the secret of Plasson’s success today,” Linder said.
Plasson has offices in Australia, Italy,
France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
The company also has a network of worldwide
Plasson is just one way Ma’agan Michael
earns its money. Agricultural and animal
resources, including poultry and cattle farms and
a fish hatchery, also support the community.
Kibbutz Amiad, established in 1946, is located
in the upper Galilee region. The kibbutz’s
population is only 345. For more than 40 years,
Kibbutz Amiad has developed technology to
help meet the need for clean water. The kibbutz’s
company Amiad, founded in 1962, has
grown into a large producer of water filtration
products and filtration solutions.
Amiad Filtration Systems’ headquarters
today covers more than 43,000 square feet and
includes an injection molding plant, production
and assembly halls, warehouses and office
space, an international filtration training center,
and research laboratories. Its automatic, selfcleaning
filters and manual filters are used for
industry, municipal, and irrigation applications.
Amiad Filtration Systems also is traded on the
London Stock Exchange AIM Market.
Throughout the company’s history, Amiad
stayed true to its position that “the need for clean
water concerns everyone involved in sustaining
our quality of life. Society and economy cannot
exist without water.” This vision has led to the
design and manufacture of high-quality water
equipment. As a close-knit community, Amiad
has been able to ensure manufactured parts meet
standards, deliveries are timely, and there is a
constant supply of needed parts.
Amiad’s technology was designed to deliver
high-impact filtration systems. Fine textile
fibers in its product filtration media allow water
to be cleaned without the use of chemicals. Its
suction-scanning technology allows for fast,
efficient self-cleaning for the continuous flow
of filtered water, according to Yossi Katzman,
former CEO of Amiad Filtration Systems.
Amiad’s water technology is spread throughout
the world—with offices in Australia, Singapore,
China, France, Germany, The Netherlands,
Uruguay, and the United States.
Amiad has been on U.S. soil for the past
23 years. Today, the company features six sales
representatives that sell across the United States
and throughout Canada. Amiad USA sells
about 50 percent irrigation products and 50 percent
municipal and industrial products. The
current staff may need to increase as Amiad’s
presence in the United States continues to grow,
said Judith Herschell, vice president of sales and
marketing for Amiad USA.
Sales this year to date are up 60 percent over
“We’re growing by leaps and bounds,” Herschell
While Amiad USA continues to grow, most
of its customers will hear little about the kibbutz.
Some customers know about the kibbutz,
but Herschell said the company does not really
publicize its kibbutz.
“The term kibbutz is not as accurate as it
used to be,” Herschell said. Many kibbutzim
are not the communities they once were. Several
kibbutzim have gone public—even Amiad
is a public company.
The kibbutz is changing as people re-examine
how profitable its companies can be and
where it stands in the marketplace.
One kibbutz has decided to sell. In June,
Kibbutz Gvat announced it is negotiating to sell
its controlling interest in Plastro Irrigation
Systems to John Deere, the American agricultural
machinery company. At press time, Kibbutz
Gvat owned 75 percent of Plastro, which
makes drip irrigation systems. The remainder
of the company was publicly held.
Water is a challenge for the entire country and
technology development is represented at the
national and international levels. Israel wants to
use its knowledge to become the leader in the
water technology market.
Water professionals may want to be prepared
for the influence Israel could have over the market.
After all, this is a country that overcame
its own topographical challenges. And it’s not a
coincidence that chutzpah is a Hebrew word.
Israelis are always poised for the next challenge.
“Never say you have a problem, always talk
about a problem as a challenge,” said Booky
Oren, chairman of Mekorot Water Co. Ltd,
Israel’s national water company. Mekorot supplies
1.3 billion cubic meters of water per year,
which accounts for 90 percent of Israel’s drinking
water and 70 percent of all the water supply
in the country.
The National Water Carrier is Mekorot’s
crowning achievement. The total amount of
water supplied by the National Water Carrier
since its establishment 40 years ago is 12.4 billion
cubic meters. It carries water from the north
to the center and south of the country. Its total
pumping capacity is 72,000 cubic meters per
hour, and the total lift is approximately 400
meters, according to Oren.
A strong central water system is just one of
the water management technologies Israel has
developed. Now, the country is ready to share
its technologies with the world.
In October, WATEC 2007 (Water Technologies
and Environmental Control Exhibition
and Conference), hosted by the Ministry of
Industry, Trade, and Labor, will feature water
technologies developed in Israel, including its
low-pressure and drip irrigation systems. Israel
entered the international water scene in the 1960s
with these systems because farmers in southern
Israel were trying to reduce water use. They based
drip irrigation on the concept of dripping water
on strategic points through plastic piping.
Israel also has developed innovative automatic
valves and controllers, filtration systems, low-discharge sprayers, and mini sprinklers.
More than 80 percent of its irrigation products
are exported, according to the Ministry of
Industry, Trade, and Labor.
The unique drip irrigation systems allowed
Israel to achieve 70 percent to 80 percent water
efficiency in agriculture, according to Oren, who
is the WATEC event chairman. The irrigation
systems allow for more water conservation than
other irrigation techniques.
Today, Israeli firms control about 50 percent
of the global market in drip irrigation, according
to the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor.
To continue success in agricultural water
technologies, the Israeli government launched
a national program in the early 1990s to boost
the country’s water industry cluster. A cluster
is a geographical concentration of industries
that gain performance advantages through colocation.
Israeli’s national program promotes
research and development and encourages
water-dedicated incubators and technology
transfer within the cluster. Incubators are organizations
that support the entrepreneurial
process. They help to increase survival rates for
innovative startup companies. Israel’s venture
capital community also helps to reinforce the
water technology cluster through the establishment
of a water-technology fund. The Israeli
venture capital market is second in the world
for venture capital availability, according to the
“World Economic Forum World Competitiveness
Israel also has developed technologies in the
field of desalination, wastewater treatment, and
“It is estimated that over the next 15 years, there
will be a 35 percent shortage in consumable
water, due to the growing world population and
a decrease in the water supply. Water is the next
energy crisis. Israel sees that as a strategic business
opportunity,” Oren said.
Israel is focusing on exporting its technology.
In 2006, Israel’s water industry exports
totaled $900 million, according to the Ministry
of Industry, Trade, and Labor. The majority of
those exports were in irrigation and agricultural
projects (45 percent), while water valves
and meters accounted for 27 percent, and engineering
and projects were 13 percent.
“Israel’s proven track record for dealing with
water shortage and developing efficient solutions
to meet growing water demand uniquely
positions it to share its knowledge and become
a central player in the water technology market,”
said Oded Distel, WATEC water technology
And Israel should be in good shape, because
like Plato said, “necessity is the mother of
This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.