The tour and visits took place on Monday, May 9, 2022 by a tourist grade mini-bus.
Participating members: Zeev Miller; Yoki Lotan; Yafa Ben-Ami; Tal Grad; Yona Chen; Avner Hermoni; Doron Weiss; and Eli Lachmani.
Zohar Farm in the Desert
A farm owned and operated by an individual family of entrepreneurs who own about 400 dunams near Kibbutz Revivim. The operation is supported by about 15 employees, including an agronomist and other professionals. The focal point of their agricultural activity is the growing Marula trees and its developing uses as a superfood and cosmetic applications of the fruits and their internal large kernel (stone). The family focuses on: 1. the agronomic tree-growing practices, their water annual requirement, their high resistance to salinity, genetic selection of varieties with potentially high yield; 2. product and market development; 3. industrial processing of the fruits, the oil extraction procedures and its utilization in the cosmetics industry; 4. developing and building an industrial style processing facility; and 5. developing a unique business plan, while having ICA as a partner and contracting farmers for plantation development, ensuring them a ten-year yield-buying plan with a pre-secured minimum price.
Their products will be: cosmetic grade oi and freeze-dried fruit to be sold as superfood. Residues will be used for the production of active-carbon that has a large market as a high specific surface area product with large absorption capacity of contaminants.
ICA board members were highly impressed by this family and their abilities as entrepreneurs.
Ramat Negev High School (located near the Ramat Negev Regional Council Campus)
The school has been in operation for only three years, teaching classes from grade 9-12. The 12th class will start operation in the next school year. The number of pupils per class is small, ranging from 40-60, totaling about 220. Their highly qualified teachers and staff have an outstanding level of dedication.
The emphasis of the school is on humanities, but do not ignore studies of mathematics, physics and chemistry. The style and procedures of teaching emphasize teacher-pupil personal interaction.
The school encourages their pupils to conduct their studies with a broad course selection, possibility far larger than those open to pupils in many other schools nationwide.
At present, the school lacks facilities needed for properly teaching the physical studies. Support for this school in establishing a fully equipped lab for studies of physics and chemistry seems to be an attractive option. In spite of this lack, learners presented entrepreneurial impressive work such as: 1. a robot- stamping eggs with essential information; 2. drone construction carrying a camera, connected to the nearby police station and identifies thieves who break through their kibbutz fences to steal expensive equipment; and 3. installing sensors in greenhouses that can detect stress in crop plants, alarming the farmer and drawing his attention to plant stress status.
The school managers expressed their desire to obtain support from ICA that will assist them in building an advanced greenhouse for studies on plant growth and agricultural production. Zeev informed the board members that nearby (across the fence) a well-equipped greenhouse is in operation. In our opinion, cooperation between the school and the relevant farm operators seems to be desirable.
Nitzan – Troubled Youth Recovery Farm
A very small group of youth, male and female alike who have society and law conflicts and are under probation, are inhabitants of this farm-based operation. Impressive young people, either professional employees or professional volunteers, are treating these troubled youth by a very intensive yet friendly attitude, aiming to achieve rehabilitation and dramatic change of life style and attitude to society. Loaded with an idealistic approach yet a very sincere attitude, the workers involved aim to achieve dramatic and highly meaningful changes. The approach to these youngsters in highly innovative, although the ability to achieve the desired goals needs further observation to secure success.
The needs of the Farm, expressed by the very humble farm manager who seemed to be reasonable, were to establish a safe local in-house network of electric power. The Israeli ICA board members were inclined to support such a request based on the needs and high quality of the staff members of Nitzan.
Yeruham Science Center (serving the town’s high school pupils studying science)
A visit to the center was led by the Director. The facility is being supported by ICA and is well-equipped with a number of science labs and classes. It is in regular, intensive use by pupils who study mathematics, computer sciences, physics and chemistry. We also visited the radio station room, also supported by ICA and operated by 9th and 10th grade pupils who demonstrated their technical and computer skills in operating the radio station (see attached photo) – very impressive indeed.
An innovative project, supported by ICA, and led by two former IL pilots is the assembly of a small plane (to carry two) from parts and equipment, prefabricated in Wisconsin, USA. The pupils work with the professional guidance of the pilots and others. They learn to read and follow complicated assembly drawings, thereby studying the physics and aerodynamics of flight. We saw the assembled body and rear wings and now they are working on the pilot’s cabin that will contain all necessary equipment.
The teachers plan to finalize the project by September 2023 and hope to partake (with the plane) in the annual flight-related exhibition held annually in Oshkosh, WI, USA. We were impressed by the skills, interest and capabilities of the pupils who participated in demonstrating the relevant activity.
Yeruham Mindset Center (for teacher-training in all fields)
We were welcomed by Avi, the general director of Mindset, and his assistant. Avi provided an extensive presentation of the Center where teachers from Negev schools gather in working groups, and develop teaching programs to be activated in their schools and beyond. The Center also hosts teachers and scholars for presentations and program discussions, developed on site and in other locations.
Avi and his deputy guided us through this modern and impressive facility that encompasses various size discussion rooms, as well as larger conference rooms. The construction of this building was financed by the late Mort Mandel and relatives, as well as a philanthropic fund that he established.
All of us were impressed by both the extensive activity and also by this impressive building that bonds so well with its surrounding.
KaNegev Innovation Center
Located in the immediate vicinity of Mindset, it is this innovation center that focuses on the following major steps required when conducting extensive entrepreneurial activities. The Center is financed by the governmental Authority for Innovation, which is a major player in achieving the concept of a Startup Nation that made Israel a major global player in this arena. It physically consists of work space for a significant number of startup companies, as well as lecture halls, meeting rooms and a very well- equipped and spacious laboratory. One of the principles applied in accepting a company to be hosted onsite is the understanding to focus their activities in Yeruham. The steps of R&D applied in KaNegev and elsewhere are: 1. accelerator stage – up to one year; 2. extensive research and development; and 3. startup stage with extensive financial support by private and governmental resources.
At the present time nine companies, involving various investors, are active in KaNegev. The directors of the organization expressed their great desire to include ICA in their activities, mostly due to ICA’s fame and reputation of its expertise and managerial skills. This involvement would entail, according to the directors, about 100,000 USD under conditions to be discussed in the near future.
Four groups of entrepreneurs gave short presentations, all related to Cannabis products processed from plant material grown in the vicinity of Yeruham. One of the products, already financed as a startup company by the Israeli Authority for Innovation, includes an advanced inhaler developed by this company, far better than inhalers available for administering various powder-based medication to human lungs. Another company presented pills of coated cannabis products that act as a slow-release medication, which can attach to the internal side of the mouth and release the active material.