I had the pleasure of interviewing Ran Maidan, the president and CEO of Netafim. Ran joined Netafim in 2014, following 15 years of senior managerial experience in areas such as finance, operations, M&As, marketing and sales. Most recently he served as CEO of Asia-Pacific, Africa & Middle East at Makhteshim Agan Industries (now Adama Agricultural Solutions). In this capacity, he developed business opportunities and new markets, established long-term infrastructure, and generated significant growth. Before that, Ran served as CFO of the Makhteshim Agan group from 2006–2010. Ran holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Economics and an MBA specializing in Finance from Bar-Ilan University, and is a CPA in Israel.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Prior to joining Netafim, I was working as CEO of Asia-Pacific, Africa & Middle East for ADAMA, located in Asia pacific. After living for four years in Singapore with my wife and three boys, we decided it was time for us to go back to Israel.
Thinking about my next challenge, I was looking for a position at global company, which is a leader in its space, innovative, and one with a purpose and values that I can connect with. Coming from the Ag inputs industry, when the opportunity at Netafim came — it was a perfect match.
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
Netafim, with its core purpose of ‘Helping the World to Grow More with Less,’ is tackling one of the most acute challenges the world is facing — the need to feed the growing population in a more sustainable way.
Drip irrigation, which was introduced to the world by Netafim, enables farmers to produce higher and better yields, while saving a significant amount of water and other inputs.
Today Netafim, which is part of Mexichem, is the world largest irrigation company, supporting millions of farmers around the world doing just that — Grow More with Less.
Can you tell us about the initiatives that your company is taking to tackle climate change? Can you give an example for each?
The essence of our business is fighting water scarcity, reducing food production dependency on weather and enabling it in areas where there is little water available.
I will give you an example — we implemented in Karnataka State in India, together with the local government, the largest drip irrigation project in the world, covering approximately 7,000 small farmers.
These farmers used to depend solely on the rain, which enabled them to have one cycle of crop a year with high dependency on the monsoons. Today, having drip irrigation, all fully controlled by advanced digital farming systems, they can assure several crop cycles a year, producing much more yield in each one of them. We completed this project in 2017, and following its success we are in the process of implementing three more similar projects in Southern India.
What was the most difficult thing you faced when you first started your company/organization? Can you share how you overcame that? This might give insight to founders who face a similar situation.
Netafim is a unique company that was established more than 50 years ago in kibbutz Hatzerim at the Negev desert of Israel, out of a real necessity to develop agriculture in tough conditions. Drip irrigation was the solution. Back then, we had no clue about the huge global potential of that solution and the company had to establish its operations and business in Israel before it could go sell outside. It took us almost 20 years till we opened our first subsidiary out of Israel in the U.S. These days the world is much more global, and the pace is much faster. I believe that if someone has a good solution, it can grow globally much faster; but still, the same basic rules will apply. You must develop a solution that answers a real need and you must prove that you can deliver value to your customers in order to succeed.
Do you think entrepreneurs/businesses can do a better job than governments to solve the climate change and global warming issues? Please explain why or why not.
No, I believe that each has an important role in this mission. Entrepreneurs and private business are typically more innovative and fast moving; therefore, most technologies are developed by the private sector. But governments have an important role too and need to set the right policies and allocate funds, that will create the conditions to drive and accelerate the use of sustainable technologies — whether it’s in agriculture, energy, industrial production, or any other sector.
What are some practical things that both people and governments can do help you address the climate change and global warming problem?
Governments should set policies that support those causes — for example by limiting the waste of water, moving to cleaner energy, reducing pollution, etc. In addition, they should support, mainly at early stage, businesses which are purpose driven, either directly or by enabling them to have the right conditions to succeed.
People as customers, on the other hand, must understand that our natural resources are not infinite, and that we must use them more sustainably. We cannot think about this as individuals or ‘what’s in it for me.’ We should do so as a collective — thinking about the greater good. The good news — I believe that there are winds of change in this respect.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I do not want to point to a particular person. I believe that I was driven and inspired by all those who have challenged the way of doing things, which enabled them to create a real leap in technology or to create a significant change in our thinking.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to the world, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would call it “Stop the flood!” Today, 70% of the world’s fresh water withdrawal is going to agriculture, and almost 80% of this water is being used to irrigate by flooding the fields. This is an absurd waste of our most important resource on earth.
Moving from flood irrigation to more advanced methods such as micro or drip irrigation will enable us to save more than 50% of the water and to produce much more food. Take Israel for example, since we are very limited of water, we had no choice and today we are using advanced irrigation in 100% of our agriculture land. There is no other option for the world, but to move in that direction too.
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?
This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!