Yair Station is a site of experimental greenhouses and myriad agricultural innovations, in the agricultural community—or moshav—of Hatzeva. Director Alon Gadiel explains that Yair Station is the central agricultural hub of the region, keeping its eye on hundreds of farms in this community. The faith in the potential of the desert is high among Israelis: in the coming years, Alon says, the population is expected to grow to 750 farming families in the region.
Yair Station does scientific research and development that helps everyone’s agricultural efforts. “We are working to solve problems that occur during the growing season. If there is suddenly a new pest or disease, or there is some phenomenon that has to be treated—that’s the sort of thing we take care of. We develop new technologies, new methods.” Alon told us that about 15 percent of what they are growing is organic—mostly vegetables, but also date trees, herbs, grapes, olives, and pomegranates. They cultivate flowers, too, nearly all of which are exported.
Sliced peppers—green, yellow, red—sampled at the station are surprisingly sweet, because they are irrigated with water that is partly brackish. Not only does the salt bring out the peppers’ sweetness, Alon explains, their nutritional benefits are boosted as well—particularly the levels of antioxidants.
In the contained heat of greenhouses, pepper plants climb high out of the sand, each with a feeding tube at the base of the stalk, infusing precise amounts of water and nutrients to the soil. Luscious, large melons grow here, and suspended from the ceiling are rows of troughs made of PVC, from which beautiful strawberries peek out. An expanse of gladiolas grow straight and proud; they will soon be shipped all over the world. The cultivation of exotic fish is also a thriving business here—while water is scarce, the temperature is just right (and solar heating is plentiful, of course): clownfish and their aquatic pals are exported all over the world.