Project Success Stories

George V. and Janet Voinovich at the Business CenterIn a long-term effort to conquer the challenges of the desert, The Negev Foundation secured funding for permanent research facilities and a unique, regional business center. The foundation reached a great milestone when it inaugurated a $2.5 million combined research and business center, on time and on budget, on December 26, 2007. The George V. and Janet Voinovich Business Center is named for the U.S. senator and his wife as a tribute to their work and lasting friendship with Israel. The construction of the center would not have been possible without the help of many generous benefactors to which The Negev Foundation is grateful.

The 13,000 square-foot complex is unlike any other in Israel. The three main goals of the new center are to:

  • Continue advancing world leading applied research and the development of desert agrotechnology through the center’s state of the art science facilities
  • Develop the region’s economic sustainability through the center’s unique business incubator designed to foster the growth of Negev based agrobusinesses
  • Promote tourism to the region through the center’s tourism department featuring The Negev Experience

The center represents the altruistic labor of bringing David Ben-Gurion’s vision for Israel to life. As Israel’s first Prime Minister said, “It is in the Negev that the creativity and pioneer vigor of Israel shall be tested.” His vision inspired the establishment of a ground-breaking business incubator at the center. Developed to promote the center’s agriculture products and innovative technologies, it embodies Israel’s creativity and pioneering vigor.

The incubator assists start-up agrobusinesses with their business plan development, marketing efforts and search for investment resources.

For their roles in establishing this center, The Negev Foundation recognizes the work of its board members: specifically Joe Shafran who oversaw the physical construction of the new center, Richard Bogomolny, Jack Mandel, Albert Ratner, S. Lee Kohrman, and Robert (Bobby) Goldberg.

It is critical for the Ramat Negev AgroResearch Center (RNDARC) to expand small-scale experiments to the order of magnitude necessary to foster viable desert-grown commodities. Such research involves painstaking comparison of environmental conditions, salinity, soil media, temperature, and crop variety. In the past, it was The Negev Foundation-funded research that enabled brackish and saline water irrigation to evolve from the experimental to the commercial stage, techniques now being utilized by farmers throughout the Negev.

For example, the foundation provided grants to develop other varieties of Desert Sweet™ tomatoes to enable year-round production potential, as well as two highly successful research areas.

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  • Desert Sweet Technologies
  • Desert Sweet Technologies

One of The Negev Foundation's prime objectives is the promotion of Israel's Negev through the encouragement of commercial enterprises, both in terms of foreign investment in the Negev itself, as well as the export of Israeli technology and products. Desert Sweet Technologies, Inc. (DST) was created to serve as the business arm for the foundation's activities in this sphere, the purpose of which is to generate a for-profit flow of income to the private entrepreneur and to the Negev as a whole. DST is a registered corporation in the state of Ohio.

In a nutshell, DST cultivates opportunities. It has the wherewithal, experience and professional personnel to effectively take an idea from provisional sketch to operative enterprise within the context of promoting Israeli desert agrisciences.

Current DST undertakings include exploration of new solar energy desalination opportunities, with the intent to produce much-needed water from abundant brackish (salty) water sources in the Negev, at a fraction of the cost of conventional desalination processes. The potential value of the project is self-evident.

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  • Hot House Fruits
  • Hot House Fruits

When the Negev Foundation began funding Research and Development projects in the Negev, there were just 25 acres of greenhouses in the region. Over the last ten years, greenhouse agriculture and production has increased 100 times over. With Negev Foundation funding, RNDARC initiated trials with melons and strawberries to examine their hothouse year-round growing potential, providing an advantage over European and North American markets. Today, there are nearly 300 acres of greenhouses producing a variety of hothouse fruits and vegetables. Products include: 6 varieties of melons, 8 varieties of tomatoes, 5 varieties of peppers, berries, herbs and spices, and other exotic and sought after products. 75% of these products are exported into Europe, the Far East, and North and South America.

Award Winning WinesRNDARC launched a long-term experiment aimed at the production of high quality grapes. The work includes analysis of the growth and development of grapes under different salinity regimes, and the effect of salinity on the taste and aroma of the fruit for wine production. In fact, the Abarbanel Portfolio Wines took top honors at the World Wine Championships’ Kosher Wine Tasting.

In 2000, the boutique Kadesh Barnea Winery was born, specializing in rich, full-bodied wines, showcasing the distinctive taste of Nevev grapes.  The wines from Kadesh Barnea include “Gilad,” a meritage blend of Petite Verdot, Merlot and Shiraz aged in American barrels. The result is a big fruity wine. Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is deep, full-bodied and robust. The Reserve Merlot is a very hearty, yet smooth, Merlot with a very ripe fruit. Everything at Kadesh Barnea is estate grown and bottled, non-mevushal and O-U certified. The wines continue to draw tourism to the region.


Hopi ProjectThe Negev Foundation met with the Hopi Indian Nation in Arizona in 1998 to investigate methods for applying desert farming techniques developed at RNDARC. The foundation facilitated meetings among the Hopi leadership, the University of Arizona Faculty of Agriculture and representatives of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Today, over ten years later, the Hopi farmers continue to implement new desert agricultural techniques and work directly with extension service professionals trained in desert/arid lands agricultural methods from the University of Arizona in Tucson. For more information about this unique and dynamic project, please contact us. 

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  • Olive Orchards
  • Olive Orchards

The largest olive orchard in the Middle East is a direct result of the work of The Negev Foundation!

Beginning in 1986, The Negev Foundation provided funds for research that would discover the best “recipe” for growing orchard crops in the Negev Desert, a region with abundant brackish (salty) water combined with limited reserves of sweet water. Since olive orchards require minimal irrigation, they are an appropriate crop for extensive cultivation in the Negev.

As a result of the research funded by the Negev Foundation in the 1980’s, advanced irrigation technology has been developed. This technology has enabled olive oil company, Halutza™ to succeed in stimulating the economy of the region and becoming an international company. Halutza produces extra virgin oil made exclusively from olives grown and picked from trees maturing on Kibbutz Revivim in the Negev and irrigated with brackish water.

Halutza, originally created for the Israeli market, can currently be found in specialty markets throughout Israel, and has been awarded the “# 1 Olive Oil in Israel” prize twice by the Israeli Olive Board. Halutza has also been awarded with a number of international titles and can be found in American grocery and specialty stores and online. The Negev Foundation promotes Halutza to the Midwest market as a part of the Foundation’s Ohio-Israel Agricultural Initiative.

“Rich with natural minerals, this brackish water is irrigated to nourish Halutza orchards using the latest in irrigation technology. Halutza’s distinct award winning flavor is derived from the ideal combination of the hot desert sun, cool evenings, pollution-free air, and the salty brackish water.  This natural ecosystem, along with around-the-clock care, produces larger, juicier and tastier fruit.”

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