Latest Plan to Make Negev Bloom: Fish Farms

Demand far outstrips supply of fish, around the world and in Israel; farm to focus on sea bream and grouper.

Making the Negev Desert bloom has long been a dream for the Land of Israel. Now one company has an idea how to make that happen in at least one corner of the arid space. Aquatec Fisheries is building an industrial fish farm in Ramat Hanegev at a total envisioned investment of nearly NIS 100 million, helped by an NIS 20 million grant from state.

Demand has outstripped the supply of fish worldwide, which has been reduced by overfishing of the seas, says Yossi De Levie, owner of Microdel, which envisioned the desert-bound farm.

The 50-dunam project, which will breed sea bream and grouper in artificial ponds, is slated for completion this year. On the same site a plant will be going up to process the fish.

When receiving a state grant, the investors committed to employing 250 people at the fish farm.

The project’s founders expect to start with 2,000 tons of fish, and plan to reach a capacity of 14,000 tons. Seventy-five percent of the product is intended for export.

Additional partners include Keren Hagshama, Jordache, which is owned by the Nakash Brothers, and AquaMaof Aquaculture Businesses. There is experience here: Microdel has invested in fisheries in the United States as well. AquaMaof recently completed a similar project in Poland.

Keren Hagshama was established in 2010, when it raised NIS 250 million. It invests in real-estate and hi-tech companies in Israel and abroad, and has assets worth about NIS 1 billion. Keren Hagshama led the recruitment of investors for the fishery. Jordache has also invested in olive orchards in the Negev. Jordache plans to reuse the water from the fishery for the olive orchards.

Thirty-two percent of fish species throughout the world suffer from overfishing and could be extinct within a decade. Average annual per capita consumption of fish throughout the world is 17.2 kilograms. In Israel, consumption per capita is 7.7 kilograms.

Roy Berkovich
AP