Israeli Winery Conserves Water (CJN October 2011)

This "Sustainable Jew" article appeared inthe Canadian Jewish News on October 6, 2011

I recently had the opportunity to spend a few hours with Alex Haruni, the owner of the Dalton Winery. While in Toronto, Alex was promoting the sales of the kosher wines Dalton produces in the Upper Galilee. While we were talking, Alex was monitoring the progress of his grape harvest back in Israel.

What I found interesting is how the Dalton Winery produces its million bottles of wine in a sustainable manner.

One of the important factors required to reduce the amount of energy consumed in wine production is the proximity of the production facility to its main ingredient, the grape. The vineyards are located on a volcanic plateau, 800 to 900 meters above sea level, and combine unique soil conditions, high altitude and a unique climate all within a few minutes of its production facility.

The grapes do not have to travel far from the vineyard to the production facility, thereby reducing the amount of energy consumed in transport. As well the grape growers connected with the Dalton Winery have been using more environmentally friendly methods to deal with pest related challenges, normally handled by pesticides detrimental to the environment.

Water conservation plays an important role in the way the grapes are produced. Irrigation methods used in the Dalton Winery vineyards, include drip irrigation, and use of the normalized difference vegetation index method, which enable precision agriculture, directing water to specific areas of the vineyard where it is most required. By utilizing these methods vineyard grape yields tend to be more homogenous and end up consuming about 60% less water than fruit trees such as apples.

In Israel, just as in Ontario, there has been a government sponsored program known as the Feed-in tariff, which allows a company to sell the solar energy produced at four times the price of what they pay to consume it. In Ontario, the same ratio is ten to one. The Dalton winery took advantage of the economics, to install two photo-voltaic arrays capable of generating about 600 kilowatts per day. “This is enough energy to allow our factory to operate totally on what we generate” according to Haruni.

You cannot directly consume what you produce with solar energy in either country as solar energy output is fed directly into the electrical grid. The power consumed by the Dalton Winery is a mix from all of the sources Israel uses to generate electricity.

As we move through the High Holiday season, and begin to prepare for Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret it is important to realize how each of us, in our own way can support a more sustainable approach to the growing and transportation of the food that we consume, as exemplified by the Dalton Winery.

“Water and rain are deeply tied to these holidays” says Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, the newly arrived Rabbi of the Beth Avraham Yoseph Congregation of Toronto. “We pray that Hashem bring beneficial rain at the appropriate time to nourish crops and fill reservoirs”.

Although the rain clouds can block the energy producing sun, the balance is needed to ensure we live in harmony within our environment.

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