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Israeli agriculture experts visit variety of Ohio farms
By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
Ohio Correspondent

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Two Israeli agricultural experts visited Ohio recently for an agricultural tour. Their fields of interest included aquaculture and robotic milking.

Dr. Ilan Halachmi of the Agricultural Engineering Institution at the Agricul-tural Research Organization of the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture, and Yitzhak Simon, chief of the Extension Service, Aquaculture Division, at the Israel Minis-try of Agriculture and Rural Development, met with Ohio farmers and researchers.

The mission to Ohio was part of the Negev Foundation’s Ohio-Israel Agricultural Initiative. The goal was to identify joint agricultural opportunities and to strengthen economic ties between the two regions.

Halachmi has done research in designing a farm that encouraged a cow to come by itself to a milking robot.

“We do it by using specific feed in the robot so the cow will like to come to the robot to consume the feed,” Halachmi said. “When the cow comes into the stall the electronic identification system recognizes the specific number of the cow.

“If the cow is allowed to be milked, which means she was not in the milking robot stall for the last four to six hours, then the robotic arm will milk the cow,” he said. “There is no human involved in the process.”

The process continues night and day, around the clock, Halachmi said.

“The cow just arrives in the robot by itself,” he said. “It’s very good for animal welfare. We are using it in Israel.”

The goal is to design the entire farm in such a way that the cow will come to the robot. The whole farm must support this strategy of voluntary milking, Halachmi said. About 3,000 of these machines are in operation all over the world.

“They are here to stay,” Halachmi said. “Like the tractor replaced horses, it will take time for the milking robot to replace the mechanical milking that is done today. It might take 10 years. People don’t like to milk cows anymore.”

But the visit was not just about cows. In Israel, aquaculture accounts for 3 percent of total agriculture production.

“Our production is in open ponds,” Simon said. “Here it is an indoor system. (Ohio farmers) cannot grow tilapia outside because it is a tropical fish. We found that we both understand the subject. It is a big field of research and we can do something together in the research side.

“We brought with us a computer software simulation system which, after gathering information details from the farm, can determine production for the next year. Farmers here were very excited about it.”

Halachmi added, “This is something that is missing here. On the other hand there are many things to study from here, the technology, how to make things work in an efficient way, what we call sustainable agriculture, these are the things we learned from Ohio. /p>

To summarize - Ohio can gain a system engineering research that we did and we can gain the technology and the sustainable thinking that we are missing.”

Simon said he enjoyed visiting the aquaculture farms, but he also enjoyed seeing the Cincinnati Reds beat the St. Louis Cardinals. “It was the first baseball game that I’ve been to in my life,” Simon said. “It was a great game. Now I’m the baseball expert in the extension service.”

The delegates were hosted by Ohio farmers who had recently visited Israel. A few places they visited were: The ODA, the OARDC, and the Ohio Center for Aquaculture Development. Visits also included aquaculture farms across Ohio.

For more on the Negev Foundation, visit www.negev.org

This farm news was published in the August 23, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

8/23/2006