Food and Water Security for the World
More than two billion people live in deserts and drylands, which cover approximately 40% of the earth. As these numbers continue to rise, so does the urgency of developing technologies to ensure food and water security.
With one of the world’s leading DeserTech ecosystems, Israel is among the tiny number only countries in the world to reverse desertification by developing innovative solutions enabling sustainable living in an arid climate. As a result, Israel attracts leading scientists, environmentalists, and solar energy enthusiasts seeking to learn from and replicate its success.
Over 300 Israeli start-up companies are developing technologies either specifically geared to, or potentially adaptable for, desert environments, and have raised over USD 350 million in investments.
The Negev is the Heart and Future of DeserTech
A major enabler and contributor to the initiation and operation of DeserTech startups was (and continues to be) the Negev Desert. For decades, it has been a living laboratory for developing solutions that will enable sustainable living in an arid climate. Even in the days of David Ben-Gurion, the Negev was declared to be the place where the people of Israel would be examined, and he dreamed that a Hebrew Oxford would be built there – a space of spiritual creation and advanced science. Today, Israeli DeserTech is concentrated in the Negev region, part of the world’s desert belt and a living laboratory of science and technology.
Institutions in the Negev region are at the forefront of research addressing climate change in a range of sectors. Building on existing technological and policy research and leveraging growing private sector activity, Israeli DeserTech is promoting sustainable agriculture, energy, water, and infrastructure while addressing desertification challenges as part of its core business.
The DeserTech startup ecosystem includes dozens of basic and applied research institutions and many incubators and accelerators established in recent years. In addition, the ‘Innovation District’ is currently being developed in Be’er Sheva to connect academia, advanced industry, research hospitals, and more. These developments will accelerate the development and commercialization of desert technologies and transform the Negev into an international hub to combat desertification.
4 Global Challenges and How DeserTech Can Help
1. Extreme weather events
Dust storms, droughts, heat waves, and flash floods are all intensifying environmental threats for desert inhabitants. As desertification increases, agricultural productivity, and income decrease. According to the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land, extreme weather events have the highest potential to increase poverty over the coming decades in dryland areas, urgently necessitating innovative solutions to ensure food security and alleviate poverty.
Heat and dust-resilient renewable energy sources, green desert construction, adapted agricultural crops, sustainable land management practices, and prediction systems for extreme weather events are just a few of the solutions needed.
2. Water Scarcity
Prolonged droughts and soil degradation will continue to aggravate existing water scarcities rendering life in the desert even more difficult for its inhabitants. Climate change will exacerbate water shortages, negatively impacting regional agricultural systems. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience “absolute water stress,” threatening water security worldwide, especially in arid regions.
Desalination-solar hybrid system treatment, reuse, and treatment of wastewater, water-saving precision irrigation, generation of water from air humidity, and advanced systems for drought forecasting are just a few of the solutions needed.
3. Remote and Marginal Living
The lack of food and water security, reliable clean energy, and access to basic healthcare all test the survival of communities living in remote arid environments. The desperation of people living in these drylands is likely to drive them to emigrate leading to additional challenges for the global community. As desertification expands, marginal communities in arid regions will only be able to thrive with the use of new technologies. As of 2019, more than 785 million people in the world did not have access to basic water services.
Off-grid water and sanitation services, non-wire clean energy sources, and innovative self-sustaining food production technologies are just a few of the technologies needed.
4. Land Degradation
Land degradation is primarily the result of human-related activities and climate variations. When land degradation occurs in drylands it is considered desertification. Unsustainable land management practices and increased pressure on the land to produce combine to drive degradation. Every year, 75 billion tons of fertile soil is lost to land degradation, thus increasing soil vulnerability to water and wind erosion, salination, and flash floods.
Land management techniques using runoff water, soil restoration, agro-voltaic systems, and smart irrigation are just a few of the solutions needed to achieve land degradation neutrality.
Israel DeserTech Landscape Map
In terms of technologies designed to adapt to desertifying environments, Israel is no stranger to the problem as it had faced these challenges since its establishment with its settlements in arid and semi-arid zones which required appropriate solutions. Solutions that focus mainly on water, agriculture, and energy have formed the basis for the establishment of technology startups that operate in these fields.
Start-Up Nation Central, in partnership with DeserTech Community, mapped the Israeli startup ecosystem to deliver a comprehensive overview of companies developing relevant DeserTech-related technologies. Originally published in summer of 2022, this initiative provides insight and access to an industry with the potential to improve the lives of millions.
Partners for Progress
DeserTech is an Innovation Community that promotes the development, adaptation and
commercialization of technologies that enable sustainable living in arid climates, while
simultaneously, turning Be’er Sheva and the Negev region into a global entrepreneurial hub
for these technologies.
Start-Up Nation Central is a non-profit organization that connects Israeli innovation to the world to help international entities solve global challenges. Focusing on the Israeli technology ecosystem, we provide a platform that nurtures business growth and generates partnerships with key countries, multinational companies, and organizations to strengthen Israel’s economy and society.