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Shine Wax Farm: Arava desert, Israel

The challenge and beauty of growing wax flowers in the desert

Growing flowers in the desert. It sounds challenging and it is. Last year, Israeli farmers Ori Duek and Alon Gibori started to grow wax flowers and Asclepias tuberosa in the Arava desert in Israel. They had experience in the cultivation of peppers and tomatoes, but were new in the flower industry. It has been a tough year, but they are still in business. "We are constantly learning how to work with the crop and the climate. The flowers that we harvest are well in demand and we are trying hard to fulfill this demand. We have good hopes that it can become a profitable business", says Duek of Shine Wax Farm, the 5ha flower farm in the Arava desert.

Ori and Alon at the field.

Reason for growing flowers
Originally, Duek and Gibori are vegetable growers. For several years, they have been - and are still - growing bell peppers (on 14ha) and tomatoes (on 2ha) in the Arava desert. For their bell peppers, their main market was Russia, but as the market for bell peppers collapsed due to the crisis in Russia. "We found it too risky to continue to lean on our bell pepper production so we decided that we need another leg to stand on. We met the team of Aviv Harmonie, a major Israeli supplier of wax flower and they embraced us and explained the flower business and how it could be something for us. Then, we fell in love with this industry."

Weather is a major challenge
In 2016, these two young farmers started planting six wax flower (2 solid and 4 experimental) varieties on 2ha of land. The constant heat and sun is their main challenge. "In the summer months, it gets around 45 degrees without any clouds and this can kill our young plants. Fortunately, by adjusting the wax growing protocol, the irrigation frequency, and fertilization together with Aviv, they survived the Arava extreme summer conditions." But afterwards, when the bushes got bigger, several still died. "We thought that they could handle the sun better when they are bigger, but they could not. So, it is really a learning process and learning from the mistakes and do it better next season."

Upper: Chrystal Pear, bottom: Adi.

Surprising quality
And they were eager to continue another season with the two solid varieties, Adi and Chrystal Pearl, of which the quality surprised them." The desert conditions, the abundance of sun light and a fairly warm winter, contributed to a product with large buds, big flowers and high stem weight." And Duek was pleased with the sales as well. "They were sold for nice prices at the Dutch auction and also through direct sales by Aviv Harmonie." Chrystal Pearl is one of their main varieties and for the 2018 season, they expanded the acreage of this variety.

Asclepias tuberosa

Asclepias tuberosa
The other main variety that they are growing is Asclepias tuberosa. Next to wax flowers Duek and Gibori are also eager to become a large supplier of this crop. "We believe that it can do well in our region. Like the wax flowers, we are cultivating it for about a year now and the cultivation of this crop is also a learning process. The goal is to become a major supplier of this crop from October to July understanding that our summer is too hot for this product."

Rey in the field.

Expanding range
Over the last year, the flower cultivation acreage at Shine wax farm increased. Starting with 2ha in 2017, they are currently growing flowers on 5ha and they are expanding the range. "From the four experimental varieties of last year, we kept only "Rey". It is a new Chamelaucium-Verticordia hybrid that we believe in, and we are willing to take the time to learn more about how to grow this new hybrid and bring it to the market." Besides they added another wax flower, namely Majestic White and they are planning to put it on the market this Christmas. "First as white large buds and later as pure white big flowers."

Still challenging but positive outlook
According to Duek, it is still challenging, but he has good hopes for the future. "We are very passionate and everything is different than the vegetable market, but we see a good demand and good prices for the product. At the moment, we are still investing a lot and when we make a mistake, we can only have another change the next season. In two years from now, we hope to have established a profitable business and till then we keep on investing to cultivating a healthy, high quality product."

For more information
Shine Wax Farm
Ori Duak

Aviv Flowers
Emek Hefer P.O.B 85
Hadera 38100
Tel 972 -4-6126000
Fax 972-4-6335370

Publication date: 2/2/2018
Author: Elita Vellekoop



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