How can it be that while the global water crisis is a concern that has been around for several years, water security is still among the top global risks in terms of impact on the environment, agriculture, and every day life?
After all, water security isn’t just about showers and drinking – water security also guarantees food security. With no water, there are no crops.
The growing population and changes in global economies have placed pressures on water supplies far greater than anything in the past. In fact, estimates show that if current water consumption persists, the world will face a 40% shortfall between demand and available water by 2030.
The global water crisis is a huge issue on its own, but it also has and continues to damage the agriculture industry significantly. In fact, in order to bolster enough agriculture for the world’s population, we will need to somehow acquire 11% more water globally. The implications this has on natural food creation includes affects on the way, amount, and types of food that is being created.
Putting the Global Water Crisis in Perspective
Reading through news headlines, it’s clear enough that we’re in the midst of a global water crisis. However, it’s important to dig deeper and fully understand the context of this crisis. Consider these statistics
- Farming accounts for 70% of global water usage
- To feed 9 billion people by 2050, we will need 60% greater agricultural production and a 15% increase in water withdrawals
- Farming livestock is up to 10 times more intensive than farming crops—protein-focused diets are increasingly impacting water supplies
Farming practices account for the vast majority of global water usage. As food demands and farming pressures continue to increase, the water crisis will only worsen.
The relative inefficiency of agricultural infrastructures, antiquated irrigation technologies, and the general underpricing of water resources have made overcoming the effects that the global water crisis has on the agricultural industry a significant challenge. Taking advantage of groundwater pumping sufficed for production increases in semi-arid regions for a while, but have now taken a toll on water tables as we’ve depleted aquifers beyond natural recharge.
Now, we must turn to technology and innovation to positively impact global agricultural in the face of water scarcity.
Agricultural Technology Is Making a Difference
In the wake of global climate change, drought conditions are becoming increasingly difficult to predict, making irrigation more of a necessity—even for the 80% of cultivated land that is generally rain-fed. By contrast, only 20% of cultivated land obtains water through irrigation systems—but this land accounts for 40% of global crop production
To improve the current state of irrigation systems, many innovative companies are turning to technology solutions such as drip irrigation, drought tolerance, precision agriculture, and more, to fight food and water scarcity. Agritech companies in semi-arid Israeli regions are making strides in these areas to both enhance crops and conserve water in an effort to mitigate the global water and agriculture crisis.
The Israeli Contribution to Global Agricultural Security
In Israel, agriculture has always been a major part of the country’s vision for a self-supporting economy. Shortage of natural resources has led to the development of innovative methods and technologies for “growing more with less” under tough conditions, long before the global water crisis.
Due to the nation’s arid conditions, the Israeli irrigation industry developed world-leading companies such as Netafim, which invented drip irrigation and currently holds 30% of the global drip irrigation market. Globally only 5% of irrigated crops are drip irrigated, compared to 75% in Israel, and most irrigation (80%) is still done by flooding.
The philosophy of drip irrigation is simple: water the plant, not the soil. This optimizes moisture and aeration conditions, and ensures that precise quantities of water and nutrients are delivered directly to the root zone. This reduces the release of gases into the atmosphere due to imprecise fertilizer usage, increases yields, and enhances productivity per unit of soil and water.
Three prime examples of innovative start-ups helping to overcome the global water crisis include:
- Evogene: As a plant genomics company, Evogene develops improved seed traits in relation to yield, and a-biotic stress (such as tolerence to drought and resistance to disease and nematodes), in key crops such as corn, soybean, wheat and rice.
- Netafim: A long-standing pioneer in water management, this company is implementing drip irrigation systems to save between 30% and 70% of water used with typical sprinkler systems.
- CropX: An agro-analytics company, CropX developed an adaptive irrigation service for optimizing irrigation, saving up to 25% of water and energy used for irrigating large fields.
As the agritech space matures, we’ll start to see big data become increasingly integrated in water management techniques. Specifically, precision agriculture remains a bright spot in the fight against the global water crisis as innovators use GPS-assisted, machine-to-machine solutions that combine the power of IoT data-collection sensors with automated crop management.
The rich technology culture, combined with the semi-arid land that demands more innovative irrigation solutions, allows Israel to serve as a beta site for advancements against the global water crisis.
To learn about start-ups focusing on agritech innovations, explore our Finder.