From Agriculture To High-Tech: Meet Five Kibbutzim That Became Global Powerhouses
A kibbutz, by definition, is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. But a century after the establishment of the first kibbutz, farming is no longer the main economic branch at some of Israel’s 200 kibbutzim (the plural form of kibbutz). In fact, some kibbutzim have come up with such successful technologies and products, that their members – once socialist farmers – have become quite wealthy.
NoCamels rounded up five of the most successful companies founded on the kibbutz in the fields of technology and manufacturing:
Kibbutz Sdot Yam’s Caesarstone
In 2014, Kibbutz Sdot Yam sold the majority stake of its Caesarstone’s shares to the public for $260 million, a hefty amount for its 400 members, who are now wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.
Founded in 1987 by the kibbutz, Caesarstone designs, engineers and manufactures stone surfaces. In recent years, it has become successful in the US luxury residential market, making Sdot Yam one of the richest kibbutzim in Israel.
This Cinderella story – which started with Sdot Yam’s dire, debt-ridden situation back in the 80s – is an example of phenomenal business success achieved by a small community that was initially based on fishery, and is now worth over $1 billion.
Last year, the company opened its first US plant in Georgia. This new factory is the third production facility for Caesarstone, which operates two plants in Israel.
Caesarstone pioneered the quartz surfaces, which consist of up to 93 percent quartz (a mineral found in nature). According to the company, this type of surface retains “the cool tactile qualities of nature’s strong stones while offering freedom of design with enormous application possibilities, including kitchen countertops, bathroom vanities, flooring, wall paneling, furniture and more.”
While Caesarstone’s products are highly functional, their stunning designs have become widely popular among upscale interior designers around the world.
Kibbutz Shamir’s Shamir Optical
Founded in 1944, the pastoral Kibbutz Shamir, located in the Galilee, has traditionally relied on agriculture, like most kibbutzim. But in 1972 the Kibbutz founded Shamir Optical, which manufactures lenses for eyeglasses. It’s now one of the world’s only manufacturers of multifocal lenses, a multi-billion-dollar industry, thanks to its groundbreaking technology.
In 2010, French optics giant Essilor acquired half of Shamir optics for $130 million.
Kibbutz Hazerim’s Netafim
Netafim is synonymous with the famous Israeli invention of drip irrigation, which is now helping countries around the world to conserve water and save money by supplying plants with just the right amount of water.
The drip irrigation technique was developed back in the 60s by Israeli engineer and inventor Simcha Blass, along with Kibbutz Hazerim, which later started manufacturing the original drip irrigation systems on site.
Since then, Netafim – which currently employs 4,000 employees around the world – opened two additional plants in Israeli kibbutzim Magal and Yiftah, as well as 13 international manufacturing facilities in 11 countries, with representative offices in 110 countries.
In 2011, the majority stake in Netafim was sold to German investment group Permira, a deal that valued the drip irrigation giant at almost $1 billion.
Givat Oz’s Aromor
Aromor Flavors and Fragrances, a successful factory founded by members of Kibbutz Givat Oz, along with former executives of Israeli chemical giant Makhteshim, was founded in 1982 and is based in the small kibbutz Givat Oz, in Northern Israel. This advanced chemical plant manufactures chemicals for the food, cosmetics and perfume industries.
It was sold in 2014 to International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), a $9 billion New York-based company operating in the same sector, for $88 million.
Kibbutz Yizre’el’s Maytronics
Everyone knows the robots that clean swimming pools, but not everyone knows that a third of them come from Kibbutz Yizre’el, a rural collective community in Northern Israel.
Back in the 70s, Yizre’el’s Maytronics started manufacturing these automated pool cleaners, which can be seen in thousands of swimming pools around the world.
Now worth over $1 billion, Maytronics is set to invest about $5 million in a second manufacturing facility in Israel.
With Israeli kibbutzim designing and manufacturing everything from multifocal lenses to innovative robots, their 107-year-old legacy is clearly here to stay.