Miftah Projects is owned by Yiftah and Merav Haspel. It was established in 2003 by Yiftah who has a background in engineering and began developing net houses, a concept that was new to Israel at the time. Soon it gained popularity as the quality of produce grown in net houses surpassed open field crops and retailers began demanding fruits that were grown in net houses. Miftach are responsible for what can arguably be called a small agricultural revolution in Israel and they continue to develop new net houses for a great variety of crops.
They prepare a customized kit for each of their clients, depending on the type of crop they wish to grow.
They have created net houses for Bananas, apples, Kiwi, Tabacco, pears, berries and more.
A net house is an iron structure with cables and stretched sheets made of varying materials. Unlike a greenhouse, the net house is not completely sealed. It provides the right amount of sunlight and shade needed for the specific crop, protecting it on the one hand from frost bite on cold nights (one of the greatest hazards in bananas for example) and shades them from excessive sunlight on the other. During the summer the net will cover in dust and offer greater protection from the sun, while in the winter, the dust will be washed away allowing more sunlight in. It also allows for crops such as bananas that cannot be grown in greenhouses.
Different kinds of nets are used for different crops. Some cherries for example require sealed nets to prevent hail from damaging them in the winter, while Pink Lady apples for example, require nets that are easy to open and close, as they must have access to sunlight at a certain point of their growth, to provide them with the pinkish hue buyers expect them to have. Net houses are also cheaper than greenhouses making them a cheap and flexible solution for farmers and something that is very useful to the Agrostudies students who are interning on their farm.
Today the farm also grows its own produce. They are experimenting with berries and take on between 10-14 students each year, mostly from the Philippines, who help them on the farm and are fortunate to have the opportunity to learn about net houses and take back priceless experience.
The farm is a family business and that is the same attitude they take towards the students who truly become part of the family, who join in on family events, befriend their children and participate in Holidays, such as toasting Passover, just recently.
The students who intern on the farm live on the Kibbutz in apartments near the youth section, where the Tzabar Program members also reside. Recently they began experiments of their own next to their living quarters. They decided to experiment with berries so they constructed several small wooden structures and a cover. In each one they are planting berries and testing their response to different types of water (fresh, renewed, desalinated etc.). This is for their final project and they are receiving a lot of interest in their study. So much in fact, that Merav asked them for an info sheet which she then published in the Kibbutz’s paper, which led to quite a bit of excitement amongst the students, who were proud of their work and the interest it draws.
Of course, the best thing about it is the experience they are acquiring and the fact that many of these methods can be replicated in their home country relatively easily. The work they do at Miftah is not simple, in fact, its quite complicated. It requires a lot of knowledge and a deep understanding of the materials involved and the different plants, which requires experience. Luckily, that is exactly what the students are acquiring on the farm, doing by learning every single day.
This technology has caught on in Israel very swiftly, so that today, few farmers still grow in the open fields when net houses are possible, and hopefully it will also catch on in the students home country, the Philippines and lead them to the same success.