DAMMERON VALLEY, Utah — The deserts of southwestern Utah make a good place to grow wine-making grapes.

"We're lucky to have a good source of moisture. A good water source, a good aquifer to draw from," said John Delaney, one of the owners of Bold & Delaney Winery. "Good ground. A volcanic soil to draw from."

On Wednesday, Delaney's winery in Dammeron Valley hosted visitors as part of an agri-tech event at Utah Tech University. They included some experts on best practices to grow crops in some of the world's harshest conditions.

"We're here in these beautiful settings that Utah provided, with amazing startups from all over the world, that came here with innovative ideas and technologies that are aiming to improve on how we make food and make the deserts bloom," said Or Haviv of Arieli Capital, an Israel-based firm that funds some technological innovations related to agriculture.

Arieli Capital is partnering with Utah Tech on innovations in agriculture, including ways to grow crops with less water. There are also startup companies that are pitching ideas for funding.

"What this is going to generate is incredible deals, incredible implementation of technology such as robotics and technologies that will increase yield technologies that will allow entire regions that are experiencing water scarcity to use brackish water that increases food security and future," Haviv said.

As part of the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, FOX 13 News accompanied a state delegation to Israel last year as they sought to learn best practices for water conservation, including technological innovations to grow crops in harsh desert conditions. At the Ramat-Negev Desert Agro-Research Center, state water and agriculture officials saw vertical gardens and new drip irrigation technologies that use up to 80% less water than a traditional pivot sprinkler system.

Dr. Yuval Kaye, who welcomed the state delegation to Israel's Negev Desert and showed off how they grow strawberries in harsh climate conditions, was in southern Utah this week to collaborate.

"We came here to Utah in order to see what’s being done here and to interact with academia, and the industry in order to make partnerships," he said.

Dr. Kaye said there are things he has observed that can be done better to grow crops with less water.

"Here in the wineries? I think more science needs to be implemented. So we have very similar project in Israel that we characterize the best varieties for wine for the desert," he told FOX 13 News.

Agriculture is Utah's top water user. The Utah State Legislature has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to help get farmers to switch to newer, water-saving technologies. The goal is to save water statewide, but particularly in the Great Salt Lake Basin — where the lake dropped to a historic low and threatens public health, the environment and economy.

But switching to these new technologies is expensive. Utah's Department of Agriculture & Food is rolling out grants to help cover the costs.

Delaney said advances in agri-tech has helped grow better wine grapes that help his business.

"Putting sensors in the ground that you can model real-time and see what the moisture what the content is and say the ground is telling me the plants need more water," he said. "We put more water on the plants. That’s something you can directly see happening. More technology being involved."

The collaboration between Utah and Israel has also led to business opportunities. Arieli Capital now has offices in the state, which is growing in tech influence.

"Arieli has found an amazing home here, opened offices here, hired people and invested in several Utah-based technologies," he said.

Fox 13 Reporter
Ben Winslow is FOX 13's reporter on Capitol Hill covering a wide variety of topics including politics, polygamy, vice and courts. He has been in the news business in Utah for more than 20 years now, working in radio, newspaper, television and digital news. Winslow has received numerous honors for his reporting, including a national Edward R. Murrow award; the Religion Newswriters Association Local TV News Report of the Year; the Utah Broadcaster's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Readers of Salt Lake City Weekly and Q Salt Lake have named him their "Best TV news reporter" for many years now. He co-hosts "Utah Booze News: An Alcohol Policy Podcast," covering the state's often confusing and quirky liquor laws. Winslow is also known for his very active Twitter account keeping Utahns up-to-date on important news.

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