Mon | Dec 17, 2018

Isratech adds retail store in MoBay expansion

Published:Sunday | December 2, 2018 | 12:00 AMHuntley Medley
A section of the Isaretech Jamaica main complex in Manchester as seen in 2012. The company has expanded to Montego Bay and is weighing expansion in Kingston.

It appears after all, that all was not lost at Spring Plains - the ill-fated winter vegetables project of the 1980s - and Isratech Jamaica Limited has lived to tell the tale 33 years later, of the durability of the Israeli technology, which drove that project.

Shalom Hodara worked with the Israeli firm contracted to provide irrigation technology for Spring Plains, located on 6,000 acres of land on the banks of the Milk River near the Clarendon-Manchester border in south central Jamaica.

As the project wound down, Hodara started Isratech in 1985, offering the proven Israeli irrigation technology to boost yields on private farms.

Since then, Isratech has grown in the local market place adding project implementation services, water and waste water systems equipment, supply and maintenance as well an alternative energy division focused on solar PV power systems and solar water heaters. Isratech has also launched in a big way, into the export market, selling its products to some 11 other Caribbean countries including the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

The high-tech winter vegetables project was shuttered in 1986 after reportedly racking up close to US$10 million in losses and millions more in debt. Its undoing was said to be the soil type being unsuitable for winter vegetables.

Isratech, meanwhile, is still growing.

Still based in Williamsfield in Manchester, on the outskirts of the town of Mandeville, where it started in 1985, Isratech recently opened its western Jamaica facility located off the Bogue main road in Montego Bay.

While declining to disclose the financial investment in the facility, the company's vice president for sales and marketing, Benjamin Hodara, said the facility includes a sales office, engineering building, warehousing for all three divisions and a super retail store.

The decision to spend "a significant sum" to set up shop in Montego Bay was driven by the "significant growth we have seen in the tourism industry, particularly the development of new hotels. With this boom in construction our products fit right in," Hodara said.

The company now has three divisions, Jamaica Drip Irrigation, Isratech Energy Solutions and its newest Isratech Waterworks.

Jamaica Drip Irrigation manufactures drip technology from Israel in an ISO-certified plant with its line of product being the company's main export.

"We do all forms of irrigation:design of irrigation, we do the maintenance of the system, we manufacture, assemble, supply, we retail it, we wholesale it. We are now doing soil fertilisers and green houses," says Benjamin Hodara, the company's vice president for sales and marketing.

 

BRANCHED OUT

 

Isratech energy solutions builds and installs PV solar systems and are distributors for the Chromagen brand of solar water heaters. Although still a small part of the operation, it has now branched out into producing and selling generators. In this area of the business, the company has also recently been promoting its soon to be available compact solar street lamps.

Isratech Waterworks is the new revenue driver for Isratech. It markets water treatment, waste water treatment services; water systems design, construction and maintenance; and supply of water infrastructure product such as valves, meters, fittings and high-density polyethylene pipes.

Kingston, where a small outlet is located on Red Hills Road, could be the next location for a major investment, the Isratech VP said, but that is a decision to be finalised.

In the meantime, staff numbers continue to rise, reaching more than 120 full time employees now, compared with the 10 workers it started out with in 1985.

"One of the reasons we see this growth is because we are always bringing new technology and new products to the market," Hodara said.

"We just opened in MoBay. We hope to recoup some investment in Montego Bay then probably look at pushing on to Kingston sometime next year," he said.

huntley.medley@gleanerjm.com