At the intersection of water, food security and energy, drip irrigation enables farmers to grow more crops with less resources and less impact on the environment – this is sustainable productivity. Ever since our establishment some 50 years ago, Netafim has developed drip and micro-irrigation solutions for sustainable productivity. Sustainability has always been part of our core mission, and we recognize that it’s the key to our future.
As part of our commitment to sustainability, we also engage in several international platforms aimed at promoting sustainable business practices. We are active in several UN frameworks, including the UN Global Compact LEAD platform and the CEO Water Mandate, participating in related multi-stakeholder projects and working groups.
Netafim’s sustainability efforts are headed by Chief Sustainability Officer Naty Barak. Naty works across the entire company, aligning sustainability principles with our global business processes. Naty also takes the lead in driving strategy development and implementation throughout our business. He’s the main "voice" of Netafim's sustainability programs, and represents the company at global policy meetings and working groups of organizations with which we’re involved.
Netafim understands that it’s up to all of us not only to sustain what exists, but also to create and ensure dependable supplies for the future. To that end, we have focused on three key areas: environmental sustainability, social responsibility and corporate governance.
During my 40 years at Netafim, the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) position is the most challenging and rewarding of all the roles I’ve held. Sustainability is not only Netafim's commitment, but also our business.
Netafim was established in 1965 at my home, Kibbutz Hatzerim. Looking back to those days, our decision to turn the new drip irrigation invention into a business was the right one for us. We were a small community of young people, and our economy was based on farming, which was quite a challenge in the arid, water-scarce Negev region.
From the very first tests we conducted, we realized that drip was the answer to our major challenge – successfully growing vegetables in an arid region. And we soon discovered that it was also the answer for growing other crops in other regions worldwide. Whether it was grapes in California, sugarcane in Brazil, bananas in Colombia, cotton in Australia, olives in Greece, or corn in France, all crops flourished with drip irrigation.
My career at Netafim has been an extremely interesting and rewarding journey. I first joined the company in 1975 as treasurer, and then became a member of the sales and marketing team, assuming responsibility for sales in southern Israel. One day I’d be checking on a new drip installation in a tomato field in the western Negev. Then I’d meet a citrus grower in Gaza, joining him for a cup of hot black coffee on the pump house roof in the orchard, with a cool sea breeze hitting our faces and the pump ticking in the background. The next day I’d be talking to a pepper grower in the Arava region about his yields with drip. These farmers were not just customers; they were, and still are, friends.
Over the next several years I carried out similar tasks in different locales – Greece, the US and South Africa. In Greece, I met citrus and olive growers who, like those in Gaza, make fantastic coffee and are excellent farmers – a winning combination. Heading west in 1981, I spent a few years in California, helping to establish Netafim’s first subsidiary, Netafim Irrigation Inc. The pump house was in California's Central Valley, the orchard was in Arizona’s desert, and there was rarely a sea breeze. Farmers, however, are a unique breed wherever they are, and yet again I made many friends. American coffee, however, can learn a lesson or two from its Israeli or Greek counterpart…
Today, as CSO, I’m proud to watch our remarkable achievements, helping farmers across the world grow more with less, while directly contributing to a more water- and food-secure world. The challenge, however, still remains, as does our commitment to advance mass adoption of drip irrigation, and take an active role in the fight against scarcity of water, land and food.