Monday, December 28, 2015

Israel Amends Its Animal Welfare Law

Donkeys in Israel
Toughening enforcement policies against animal rights abusers, the Knesset unanimously approved an amendment to the Animal Welfare Law in a second and third reading.

Among the major changes to the law are increasing maximum prison sentences for abusers from three to four years and enabling fines of up to NIS 226,000.

Other provisions of the amendment include the expansion of an existing ban on live tissue cutting for cosmetic purposes, as well as for tattooing and other harmful practices. The bill also imposes a ban on killing animals in non-euthanasia circumstances.

Municipal dog shelters are now required to spay and neuter their animals prior to giving them away for adoption.

With regard to the abandonment of animals, the law will be applied not only to the owners of the animal in question but also to any person who is holding that animal regardless of ownership. The bill also enables authorities to confiscate an animal that they suspect will likely become the victim of abuse.

The bill also singles out the responsibility of the senior executives in a corporation – such as a slaughterhouse – that handles animals, by obliging these individuals to do everything in their power to prevent abuse. If such executives failed to prove beyond doubt that they took all possible measures to stop the abuse, they could be fined doubly.

Although the bill was passed in its final form, legislators agreed that additional regulations currently in dispute would eventually be enacted.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Turning Waste Into Value

Green leaves
Israeli company, HomeBiogas, presented its own technological solutions at the recent Paris climate change conference and is getting ready to expand into the markets of developing countries. The company’s innovation consists of a home system that converts kitchen waste and animal manure into cooking gas and liquid fertilizer.

HomeBiogas is the only company offering a system certified in the European community to meet the required safety standards.

For many reasons, composters are not truly suitable for kitchen leftovers like meat, fish, oil and fats. HomeBiogas is complementary to the composter since it digests the remains that the composter cannot process.

Every liter of food waste produces about 200 liters  of gas, the amount needed to cooking over a high flame for one hour. On average, HomeBiogas produces 2-3 hours of cooking gas each day - the perfect amount for three meals.

HomeBiogas can provide between 5-10 liters of top quality natural fertilizer each day.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Magic Solution: Chicken Meat without Slaughter

Cultured meat
Dutch tissue engineer Mark Post made international news last year when he cooked up a beef burger made from lab-cultured cow muscle tissue.

The Modern Agriculture Foundation (MAF) in Ramat Gan, Israel, joined the quest to mass-produce cultured meat, launching the only such project to concentrate on chicken — the second most popular meat on the planet, next to pork.

The all-volunteer nonprofit organization was founded in March of 2014, and by January launched the world’s first feasibility study to determine the cost, timetable and resources to create commercial cultured chicken breast. That privately funded study, headed by Prof. Amit Gefen at Tel Aviv University, is to be completed by January 2016.

Compared to current meat-producing industry, cultured meat production would require between 7 and 45 percent less energy, 90% less fresh water and 99% less land, and would result in 80 to 90% less greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere.

Cultured meat is not “Frankenfood” and involves no genetic engineering. It is not a meat substitute, but 100% meat.

If the process becomes economically feasible, the ecological and ethical considerations would make cultured meat irresistible.

Source: Israel21c

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Where Do You Find World's Best Vegetarian Food?

Vegan dishTel Aviv has been crowned home to the best vegetarian food in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, a luxury and lifestyle travel magazine that has won twenty-five National Magazine Awards.

Israel's biggest city owes this honor to the abundance of raw produce and to its variety of gastronomic influences—Russian, Polish, Arabic, Moroccan, Bulgarian, Iraqi, and others.

No-meat, no-dairy restaurants are essentially kosher by default, appealing to the young, fresh-food-focused Israeli population.

The following vegan and vegetarian-friendly options (for those dining with dedicated carnivores), were noted among Tel Aviv's finest:


  • Café Anastasia, the first all-vegan cafe in the country with a fantastic sunny balcony. Serving breakfast, appetizers, entrees, desserts and more. You can also find gluten-free and raw dishes on the menu.
  • Cafe Kaymak, a vegan coffee shop that specializes in ethnic cooking. At first glance, it may not seem promising, but it's a gem. Over the years, this small coffee shop became a popular spot among the young and trendy of Tel Aviv. With all produce and ingredients coming from the nearby Levinsky Market, Cafe Kaymak is well known for its breakfast dishes and its Friday mornings specials. On Saturday nights, the coffee shop hosts live music sets.
  • Nanuchka Restaurant-Bar, quite possibly the first vegan Georgian restaurant in the world. Any fear that a menu devoted to vegan Georgian food would be limited is put to rest at one of the most well-liked places in Tel Aviv. Nanuchka's original menu makes carnivores forget about meat.
  • Tenat, Ethiopian vegan gluten-free restaurant serving traditional dishes. Its lovely atmosphere is created by the ethnic decor and exotic Ethiopian music and jazz.


  • Bindella, a posh Italian restaurant located in an upscale neighborhood of Bauhaus landmarks near central Rothschild Boulevard. It is the first restaurant in the history of Bindella that opens its doors beyond the borders of Switzerland, where Bindella runs 40 restaurants.
  • Dallal, a sprawling restaurant sitting next to the Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance and Theater is a quiet refuge, complete with leafy inner courtyard. It connects the past, present and future and celebrates the richness of cloture architecture and culinary development accumulated in Israel throughout history.
  • The Herbert Samuel Restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton Herzliya, one of the most elegant kosher restaurants in Herzliya. It inspires diners with spectacular views of the marina and Mediterranean Sea, along with masterfully prepared gourmet cuisine and a rich selection of boutique wines.

Source: Condé Nast Traveler

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Israel Holds The Solution To The World's Water Crisis

Clean water

Despite being in the middle of the desert, with a growing population and minimal rainfall, Israel, unlike her thirsty neighbors, boasts a surplus of water. In addition to sharing water with Jordan and Palestinians, Israel also exports water technologies to the tune of 2.2 billion and rising.

Israel's groundbreaking water technologies include: drip irrigation, dual flush toilets, advanced waste water treatment and reuse, free-market pricing of water, drought resistant seeds, cutting edge metering and leak-detection systems, conservation education, and precision agriculture.

More than 150 countries have already been assisted by Israel in addressing their water problems. Israel provides training in water management and irrigation to its Palestinian and Jordanian neighbors and to more than 100 developing countries, 29 of them in Africa.

In the United States, there is currently a looming water crisis in 40 states, especially California and Texas. California is already in close contact with Israeli water experts and agricultural experts, who are currently building a desalination plant in California that will be the largest in the Western hemisphere, providing 50 million gallons of water per day.

Read more about it here.

Off to water my garden, till next time!


Thursday, October 15, 2015

3D Laser Printing for Cheaper Solar Energy

Solar power is rapidly gaining momentum as the world’s alternative source of energy. According to reports issued by the International Energy Agency, the sun could become the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050, ahead of fossil fuels, wind, hydro and nuclear.

However, current technologies are reaching their efficiency limits and therefore, the key to unlocking the potential of solar power to produce at such a scale lies in the advances in the photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing.

Striving towards a brighter future, Israeli startup Utilight has developed an innovative disruptive technology applicable for high-volume manufacturing of solar PV cells.

Utilight’s revolutionary 3D printing method called “Pattern Transfer Printing” (PTP). PTP is done by a laser through a disposable low-cost tape that has trenches. Those trenches are filled during printing with a standard high viscosity silver paste. The trench compresses the paste into a straight line that is then released onto the silicone wafer. Eight cameras record the process to ensure absolute accuracy. It is capable of single and multiple prints that require no downtime between prints for drying.

The process is expected to save traditional manufacturers up to $500,000 by providing 70%  savings in silver paste and an additional $500,000 in annual efficiency for a standard voltage manufacturing line. While the cost of solar cells has been steadily declining, it still remains one of the main barriers for wider adoption. Utilight’s printing technology can provide significant reduction in manufacturing costs.The good news for manufacturers is that this new technology simply requires one extra module at the plant, as Utilight‘s systems can be installed not only in new, but also in existing manufacturing lines.

In 2012, after completing a successful feasibility study made possible through funding from angel investors and research and development grants from the Israeli Office of the Chief Scientist, the team at Utilight secured a $4.5 million funding round from Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH, I2BF Global Ventures, and Waarde Capital.

Sources:, Utilight

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Taxiing Robot for Greener Airports

Aircraft taxiing at the airports consumes large amounts of fuel, emit tons of CO2, and creates excessive noise. The aviation industry demands alternative means to tow airplanes from gate to take-off with engines stopped (dispatch towing). All previous attempts at Dispatch Towing were unsuccessful due to two main reasons:
  • Increased fatigue loads that shorten the aircraft Nose Landing Gear (NLG) life cycle, which is unacceptable for safety and economic reasons
  • Aircraft not having a Pilot in Control (PIC) when towed by a normal tractor, which is unacceptable for safety, accountability, and regulatory reasons
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has developed an innovative new towbar-less towing solution – the TaxiBot (Taxiing Robot). 

TaxiBot is a semi-autonomous 800-hp strong hybrid-electric aircraft tractor that enables airplane taxiing between the gate and the runway with the aircraft’s engines turned off.

A proprietary TaxiBot-aircraft NLG interface mechanism provides pilot steering capability, using the airplane's existing controls in the cockpit. Taxiing speed is controlled by the pilot using the A/C brakes.

The TaxiBot system provides the pilot with the same handling characteristics as if taxiing with engines.

Studies have demonstrated very impressive benefits of the TaxiBot:
  • Reduction in fuel consumption – 85%
  • Reduction in annual fuel costs from $8 billion to just over $1 billion
  • Emissions reduction CO2 & other noxious gasses from – 85%
  • Noise reduction – 50%
  • Reduced opportunity for Foreign Object Damage (FOD) – 50%
  • Improved safety –better grip on contaminated taxiway 
  • Improvement in gates congestion & throughput – significant reduction of time wasted at cul-de-sacs
  • No need for extra fuel for Taxi that is taken to flight
  • Fast & easy implementation:
    • No modification to airplane systems 
    • Computer-based pilot training eliminates the need for simulator 
    • No extra weight & no impact on cargo space 
    • Minimal or no modifications to airports infrastructure 
    • No reduction in airport efficiency and throughput
    • Minimal adaptations to existing procedures 

Following approval by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) after extensive testing, Lufthansa has commenced real flight TaxiBot operations at Frankfurt Airport.

Other European airports have expressed interest, including Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport and London’s Heathrow.

Seeking market opportunities further afield, particularly in Asia and North America, IAI is currently working towards approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Israeli 'Bionic Organs-on-a-Chip' to End Animal Testing

A collaboration of scientists from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a German research institute will soon put an end to cruel experiments on animals.

In addition to the horrific nature of animal testing, its results are often inconclusive with respect to how any of these experiments would impact humans. As a result, a need to find an alternative was necessitated.

Hebrew University recently announced that its joint venture with the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology in Germany has yielded results and the two are seeking a patent together.

The device in question is a "liver on a chip" which mimics human physiology, both obviating the need for animal experimentation and circumventing the limitations of testing on human cells that can only survive a short time outside the body. In essence, what has been accomplished is the building of an organ on a chip.

To illustrate the benefits of this advance, it was already used to discover the dangers of acetaminophen on the human body is much greater and takes effect in much smaller doses than was previously believed based on animal model studies.

Read more about it here.

Off to hug my own animals and throw out my Tylenol, Shana Tova, everyone, till next time!


Friday, August 14, 2015

Hanging Garden Over Israel’s Busiest Highway

Ayalon Highway today
Tel Aviv’s urban planning committee approved a complex master plan that will cover the Ayalon Highway – which dissects the metropolis from north to south – into a beautiful “green lung” covered with lawns, trees, shrubbery and walking trails, in what the city dubs “Israel’s largest municipal project.”

The multi-year project, which may take another year before it is fully approved, will overhaul Tel Aviv’s central business district, connecting its eastern side to its center.  It is an environmentally friendly project because it will be built on top of existing infrastructure and maximize the use of existing land.

Being an environmental and architectural milestone for Tel Aviv, this project will likely grab international attention because it will be built over the Middle East’s busiest infrastructure strip, which includes roads, railroads, train stations, sewage, electricity and communication lines.

The Ayalon Highway is the most congested highway in the country and one of the busiest in the Middle East, with 750,000 crossing every day.

Source: NoCamels

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Israeli Company Cuts Down Oil Spill Response Time To 20 Minutes

Sea otter in oil spill
Tragic oil spills destroy entire marine ecosystems, often spreading hundreds of miles within the first 24 hours.

Just last May, a ruptured pipeline in California leaked over 100,000 gallons of crude oil along the coast of Santa Barbara.

According to the US Environmental Protection agency, tens of thousands of oil spills occur every year, and the prevention technology to deal with their aftermath has not changed in over three decades. Recovery rates continue to hover just below 15 percent, a figure that has not improved much over the years either.

The existing containment booms are considered bulky, sometimes weighing up to 10 kg per meter. Teams typically take at least 10 hours to respond to a crisis, a time frame too long to be efficient.

Israeli startup company HARBO Technologies aims to tackle this devastating environmental problem using an easy-to-use “floatie” it has developed, which can contain an oil spill in less than one hour. It simply circles the spill and “encapsulates” it; then, the oil “stain” is lifted and disposed of – away from the water.

HARBO says its solution is less bulky, easier to operate, and requires minimal training for on-site personnel, This, in comparison to traditional oil booms, would be able to cut response time down from hours to just about 20 minutes. The size of a lifeboat, HARBO’s oil containment technology is optimized for any type of wind, current, or wave conditions.

HARBO’s 100-foot prototype “boom” (floating barrier) contains up to two tons of crude oil overnight, without leaking, according to the company. In the future, each location will have 6,000 feet of boom, which can contain 800,000 gallons of oil (25,000 tons). This new tech is an alternative to the traditional technology used to respond to oil spills in the ocean.

In order to prove its concept, HARBO’s team put their solution to the test in late 2014 in the Ohmsett testing facility in New Jersey, which is operated by officials from the US Department of the Interior to test oil spill solutions and response methods. After that initial test proved successful, HARBO is now approved to provide oil spill solutions in several US areas.

HARBO has passed the initial phases of patenting its technology, with patents pending in 30 countries – including the US, Canada, China, and most of Europe. The first patents are expected to be granted within the next 12 months.

By the end of 2016, HARBO expects to have its technology commercially available, at which point a price will be set. There are over 50,000 potential installations for HARBO technology – including oil rigs, tankers, large ships, and coast guard response teams, which means a huge potential to save our oceans.

Source: NoCamels

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Israeli Facility To Turn Plastic Waste Into Fuel

Plastic Waste
Environmental Services Company Ltd., an Israeli government company established in 1990 to handle hazardous waste, will soon begin operating a unique facility designed to recycle plastic and turn it into fuel.

According to the company’s assessments, the facility will be able to derive 1,320 pounds of oil-like substance from every ton of plastic waste it treats. This facility will be the first of its kind in Israel.

Every day, Israelis dispose of some 1,500 metric tons of plastic waste. Most of it, 75.7 percent, is buried in landfills. Most of the plastic waste comes from homes, agriculture, and industry. In addition, Environmental Services Company receives about 3,000 metric tons of plastic waste from packaging per year.

The recycling process involves melting and depolymerizing plastic until fuel resembling oil is derived. The end product is an oil substitute that, when refined, can obviate the need to purchase oil.

Source: Jewish Business News

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Superfood That "Checks All the Boxes"

A new plant-protein source is coming to market from Israel, and it is grown using a closed-system technique that ensures purity and the absence of pesticides and contaminants. Tel Aviv-based company Hinoman will unveil the new plant protein, called mankhai, at next month’s Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo.

Mankhai is part of the Lemnaceae (duckweed) vegetable family, a wetland plant found floating on water surfaces. Hinoman will produce mankhai using hydroponic technology that uses water, not soil, to grow. This patent-pending process not only eliminates contamination from pesticides and other residues, but it also enables continuous, year-round growing in controlled conditions, with minimal water, arable land, and energy use, the company says.

Since Mankhai does not sprout from seeds, it grows quickly and there is no germination-failure risk. Hinoman’s proprietary, eco-friendly cultivation system utilizes closed-environment, yet economically competitive, advanced hydroponics technology to completely control and optimize the plants’ growth.

The whole-leaf vegetable protein has a superior nutritional profile to superfoods like kale, spinach, and spirulina, including all nine essential amino acids, iron and zinc, fatty acids, and vitamins A, B12, and E. The plant contains over 45% of protein on a dry-weight basis. Plus, the company points out, it has a neutral taste - unlike algae - that facilitates much easier inclusion of mankhai in whole-food supplements or foods like protein shakes, sports nutrition products, and nutrition bars.

The eco-friendly cultivation process can be scaled to industrial levels. The technology can also be used to grow other vegetable ingredients.

Upon being harvested, 100% of the leaf is used, which eliminates waste. Labor costs are also kept to a minimum with the automated state-of-the-art agrotechnology.

The company says mankhai “checks all the boxes” for important attributes:
  • good taste
  • health benefits
  • scalable volume
  • continuity of supply
  • price stability
  • food safety
  • sustainability

It holds the potential of addressing global malnutrition challenges as well as promoting a healthy lifestyle.

Source: Nutritional Outlook magazine

Monday, June 15, 2015

Nuclear-neutered Flies Head to the Balkans

Fruit fly
Millions of sterile flies are leaving Israel to head to battle in the Balkans, taking on the Mediterranean fruit fly, a pest that has been destroying citrus groves in Balkan countries.

Israeli company BioBee from Sde Eliyahu in the Jordan Valley specializes in creating natural and eco-friendly pesticides. BioBee recently won a tender by the International Atomic Energy Agency to supply 400 million sterile bees, following on the heels of a similar successful project the previous year.

The sterile flies will be released over the course of several months on the border of Croatia and Bosnia, where they will push the harmful flies away from the groves, allowing European farmers to finish a successful season.

The fly larvae were raised in BioBee labs and subsequently underwent special sterilization using radioactive technologies.

The IAEA supports the project as part of its plan to encourage use of nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes. The project has been successfully implemented in Israel.

Read more about it here.

Off to enjoy my own chemical-free garden, till next time!


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Mandatory Prison Time for Convicted Animal Abusers

Stop Animal Abuse
Over two-thirds of the Knesset members from across the political spectrum have expressed support for a bill to imprison people convicted of animal abuse.

Animal abuse is already illegal in Israel. Under the current law, an individual convicted of animal abuse, torture or cruelty can face up to three years in prison or a maximum fine of NIS 226,000 (about $60,000).

The bill would mean jail time for anyone convicted of animal abuse, removing the option of paying a fine, and increasing the maximum sentence for such an offense from three to five years.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Injured Israeli Swift Gets Feather Transplant

Swifts are peculiarly beloved birds. What is interesting about them is that they never stop flying. They eat, mate and even sleep on the wing, only landing to nest. Swifts that can't fly, die.

So the young adult swift a bemused Tel Aviv couple found flapping around squeaking in their bathroom would have been doomed, but they brought it to the Wildlife Hospital of the Nature and Parks Protection Authority and Safari Gardens. The hospital diagnosed broken flight feathers, and consulted with the Director of the Frankfurt Swifts Clinic, Dr. Christiane Haupt, a world expert in treating and rehabilitating swifts.

As luck would have it, biologist Tina Steigerwald was about to come to Israel to volunteer at the animal hospital. She harvested feathers from a dead German swift, and prepared them with strong but light carbon fibers. She then flew to Israel with the feathers and equipment needed for surgery, and in a two-hour operation, transplanted them to the Israeli bird, a process called "imping" that was originally developed for falconry.

The Israeli swift turned out to need six new feathers in its left wing and one in the right.

One can't just take turkey feathers and glue them to the swift. Because of its airborne lifestyle, the feather match had to be exact so the bird could survive in the wild afterwards. Feather lengths had to be accurate to a tenth of a millimeter, and the attachment angle was also crucial.

In preparation for living aloft, the baby swifts spend over 40 days in the nest, which is very long for such a small bird. They have only one chance to get out of the nest. Once a swift gets out and flies, he keeps flying for about two or three years.

When nesting in Israel, the birds leave the nest in the spring, and within the space of a few weeks, migrate to Africa. They spend the winter there and come back as young swifts. That migratory cycle continues until the swift finds a mate and start nesting. The parents take turns sitting on the eggs, then feeding the chicks.

Adults weigh about 45 grams, and for such a tiny bird, they do live long. Other birds that size usually live four to six years, ten at the most. The oldest known adult swift found in nature was 21.

Caring for a caged swift is some trick, since they're high-strung and only eat on the fly, literally. Put on a pile of bugs, a swift wouldn't know what to do. When swifts are in therapy, they need to be fed six or seven times a day, during daylight hours, by gently opening their beaks and pushing in bugs. They're very smart and emotional. If you're not nice to them, they become agitated and don't make it.

Our swift recovered from the anesthetic after a couple of hours, was kept warm and once himself again, was fed on lovely insects and vitamin supplements. He also underwent daily training to improve his wing use. Once he had put on weight and reached 42 grams, he was released on the zoo grounds and headed straight for Tel Aviv.

Source; Haaretz

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Let It Rain!

Ramla biofilter integrated as part of the street
Two hundred million cubic meters of rainwater go to waste in Israel every year. They flow through the city streets, pick up a variety of toxic substances and continue to the coast, where they pollute the beaches and the sea and harm marine life.

The innovative bio-filter technology developed in Australia and promoted in Israel by KKL-JNF is designed to allow this rainwater to be utilized in order to avoid pollution and maintain sustainable groundwater levels. It transforms a nuisance into a valuable resource.

Two new bio-filter facilities established by KKL-JNF in Ramla and Bat Yam demonstrated their efficiency during Israel’s recent rainstorms. They are designed to collect surface runoff water, purify it via environmentally friendly physical and biological methods, and then channel it into the aquifers as clean water. These new bio-filters join an older one that has been operating successfully in Kfar Sava for a number of years.

The monitoring systems installed in the three bio-filters show that the technology is operating extremely well: the polluted runoff water that enters the facility leaves it purified almost to the point of being fit for drinking. This treated water can then be injected into the groundwater or else used to irrigate gardens and crops of all types. The data show that 99.99% of the pollutants are removed from the water by the bio-filter treatment.

The bio-filter installation contains a number of layers of sand and vegetation. The top layer is covered with special plants that help to purify the water. The lower layers, which are not aerated, provide a habitat for a colony of bacteria that flourish in an oxygen-poor environment and have a large appetite for pollutants, including heavy metals, organic matter and oils. These bacteria encourage processes that purify the water.

Each bio-filter has a capacity of around 100 cubic meters. During the last rainfall episode, which continued for several days, each of the facilities filled up and emptied three times, purifying a total of around 300 cubic meters of water. Over the course of a single year, this could amount to thousands of cubic meters, depending on the quantity of precipitation.

In the dry season, when there is no rain, water can be pumped from contaminated wells, purified, and, once clean, either restored to the same well or added to the groundwater. This process has been described as dialysis of the aquifer.

There are a few fringe benefits provided by the bio-filter project.

Bio-filters significantly reduce flooding during heavy rainfalls and relieve the strain on the municipal drainage system.

It also creates attractive green neighborhood gardens that the local people can enjoy. Visitors to the bio-filter who expect to be confronted with a dismal-looking purification plant are in for a pleasant surprise, as the facility consists of attractive plant-filled pools surrounded by footpaths and bicycle trails.

This innovative project is defined as an experimental pilot, and researchers are still investigating various aspects of its functioning: bio-filters of different sizes, different types of vegetation and the quality of the water after purification. This work is being carried out under the auspices of a center for research into water-sensitive cities in Israel, which was established jointly by KKL-JNF Israel, JNF Australia and four academic institutions: Technion (Haifa), the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ben Gurion University of the Negev (Beersheba) and Monash University of Melbourne, Australia.

Source: Jewish National Fund

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Solutions to the Planet's Food Security Needs

Negev Desert
There are mud huts to block out the heat, solar micro panels for cooking, biogas production from waste, and wet mattresses to grow vegetables and flowers in the desert. This is the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Yotvata, the most torrid and depopulated area in Israel's Negev desert, where a community of scientists and researchers are relentlessly seeking solutions to problems beseeching the inhabitants of the planet's poorest countries.

A three-hour drive from Tel Aviv, this is a scientific frontier where Israel is using high-tech and human ingenuity to find solutions to the planet's food security needs amid severe environmental challenges. The Israeli pavilion at Expo Milano 2015 will be a window into this laboratory.

Not far from kibbutz of Ketura, a village of mud huts, looking just like many of those in the remote areas of Africa and Asia, was built to re-create the original environment that needs help and is not connected to electricity, water or telephone.

The mud huts are comprised of plastic bags containing fibers that can't be penetrated by excessive temperatures. An electric oven in the center of a hut is powered by a micro-solar panel outside. A little further on, a visitor sees that the village uses new techniques that have been developed for life in the desert: facilities for recycling organic waste into biological gases, the cultivation of seeds that are able to flower even in salty soil, development of desert grasses into materials for biofuel production.

In the kibbutz of Lotan, the Center for Creative Biology grapples with the construction of similar huts and technologies. Just to the north is the Hatzeva research station where more than 40% of Israel's agricultural exports are produced in the greenhouses. As far as the eye can see, there are fields of fruit, vegetables, and flowers, where even the most diverse plants can grow thanks to the human ability to invent solutions. With the wet mattresses strategically placed in several directions, fans that take advantage of the desert air circulate the temperate air.

It's not surprising that halfway between Hatzeva and Yotvata is the Keren Kayemet Le-Israel — the Jewish National Fund that has taken care of the development of nature in Israel since the birth of the state — where there is an agricultural school that has welcomed hundreds of students from the Third World. The national flags hang outside the doors to indicate the students' countries of origin, including those that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

The aim of the Arava Institute is to transform agriculture into a high-tech bridge to the Third World, just like the successful recent project of Furrows in the Desert, which introduced agriculture to the village of north Turkana, Kenya.

Source: Worldcrunch

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Long Live Petunias!

PetuniasA pot of pretty petunias will practically sell itself, but petunias don’t retain their beauty for long. A joint Israeli-American “precise breeding” project is now working toward extending the life of these popular flowers.

The three-year collaboration brings together a patented plant-breeding technology called MemoGene, developed by Israel’s Danziger Innovations and the Hebrew University’s Yissum tech-transfer company, with a DNA editing platform developed by Precision Biosciences in North Carolina.

The platform’s biological “scissors” will be tailored to cut open the flower’s genome at exactly the right spot for MemoGene to deliver the life-extending trait.

The partnership is supported by a BIRD (Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development) Foundation grant awarded in December of 2014.

 “Domesticating” plants for the market by selecting genes to enhance yield and seed quality causes some desirable traits to be lost along with undesirable ones. Reinserting the lost “good” trait is a cumbersome, lengthy process that can be shortened by using genetic modification – a technique that is highly regulated because it raises questions of safety in food crops.

MemoGene technology is as specific as genetic modification, but it is deregulated because it does not  add any new genes that are not already present in nature. This advantage hastens commercialization and avoids consumer concerns.

Though the technology can be applied to just about any crop – and probably will be in the future – petunias were a good place to start. The pink-to-purple flower is a favorite; 300 million to 350 million cuttings are supplied to growers around the world every year. And the flower is well understood on a molecular level due to numerous scientific studies.

Another reason to start with petunias is Danziger’s expertise and market share in petunia varieties. The family-owned Danziger Innovations, founded in 2008, is the R&D spin-off of the 62-year-old Danziger - "Dan" Flower Farm, one of the world’s top five providers of petunia cuttings.

Danziger - "Dan" Flower Farm’s petunias are propagated by cuttings, not by seeds, and exported from Israel to growers and nurseries all over the world.

Located in Mishmar HaShiv’a near Ben-Gurion International Airport, Danziger - "Dan" Flower Farm is one of the biggest floriculture breeders and exporters in Israel, supplying not only petunia cuttings but also propagating material for many ornamental plants and flowers to customers in 60 countries.

The innovative petunias coming from the new joint project are to be tested and implemented in Israel as well as in Danziger-owned flower farms in Guatemala and Kenya, where land and water are more plentiful than in Israel.

These farms - and potentially many more - stand to benefit from the new precision-breeding research now underway.

Non-GMO breeding has the potential to help solve the world’s looming food crisis. A decade ago, the ambitious and well-meaning Golden Rice project of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology sought to provide vitamin A enriched rice to parts of Southeast Asia where many people were vitamin-deficient. But the project failed because of widespread rejection of genetically modified crops. Millions are suffering and dying just because Golden Rice was labeled GMO and nobody wanted to consume it.

Once the proof of concept for the Danziger Innovations-Precision Biosciences technology in petunias is completed, it can be offered as a tool to produce better food crops in the future.

Source: Israel21c

Monday, March 30, 2015

Leading the World in Water Recycling

Water Recycling
Israel continues to be a world leader in the successful exploitation of treated wastewater, and over the past decade it nearly doubled the area in which this water can be used for crop irrigation, according to a comprehensive survey conducted by the state Water Authority.

The survey, which was carried out by employees of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority on behalf of the Water Authority’s water quality division, was a comprehensive, nationwide study of 1,400 households, industrial and agricultural producers of wastewater. The survey is carried out every other year; the most recent figures are from 2012.

According to the most recent survey, untreated wastewater is no longer released into the Mediterranean Sea from Israel. Israel produces 500 million cubic meters of wastewater every year, more than 90 percent of which reaches the various treatment plants.

In the territory administered by the Palestinian Authority, in the West Bank – which was included in the survey – the situation is very different. Only one-quarter of the wastewater produced by Palestinian communities in the West Bank is connected to a sewage collection system, and only one-tenth reaches treatment plants.

Of all the wastewater from all of the areas that reaches the treatment plants, 85.6 percent is reused – a worldwide high.

The total area of land under cultivation that is approved for irrigation with treated wastewater is 325,000 acres, nearly double the approved acreage a decade ago. Some 50 million cubic meters of treated wastewater are discharged into the environment; one-fifth of that amount is released into the Yarkon River, keeping the river flowing year-round.

According to the latest survey, the majority of the treated wastewater still cannot be used without restrictions on all crops. Low to moderate levels of sodium were found in more than half of the wastewater storage reservoirs that were tested, but a clear decrease in salinity levels was found as a result of the growing use of desalinated water in the national water supply system. As a result, the amount of salt in wastewater declined by nearly nine percent in two years.

It should be noted that a few Israeli experts argue that treated wastewater should be desalinated before being used for irrigation, in order to prevent the damage caused by salinity.

A few months ago the results of a study on the effects of irrigation on banana crops conducted by a team from Galilee Technology Center were published. The researchers concluded that irrigation with desalinated water led to increased crop yield and obviated the need to add additional water in order to reduce soil salinity.

Source: Haaretz

Friday, February 27, 2015

Stopping The Elephant Slaughter

It's the classic good guys vs. bad guys -- on the one side are the poachers, animal kidnappers, and earth destroyers. And on the other side are the park rangers who risk their lives to protect Africa's animals and natural resources.

Hoping to give the good guys the advantage is an Israeli called Nir Kalron. Owner of Maisha Consulting, Kalron is an expert on anti-poaching and anti-trafficking intelligence and investigations. Kalron spends his time installing security cameras and training rangers to more effectively combat criminal activity.

Maisha's team uses intelligence and krav maga hand to hand combat to arrest suspects and stop vehicles.

Different threats in different countries require training modification for specific techniques.

At least 35,000 African elephants are poached yearly. In addition, rhinos are killed for their horns, while tigers, leopards, and pangolins are poached for their skins. Exotic birds and apes are trapped and smuggled for buyers. Destruction of habitat is crucial for poachers to be able to successfully hunt animals.

While Maisha is the only private Israeli company devoted to environmental security, Israelis have been involved in anti-poaching initiatives.

To learn more, read about it here.

Off to watch a National Geographic program on elephants, till next time!


Monday, February 2, 2015

Israeli solar power technology to light up Ethiopia

AORA’s Tulip System
Ethiopia is aiming to enhance access to affordable and environmentally-friendly renewable energy for its population, with the country’s Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy announcing that it had signed an agreement with an Israeli solar-hybrid power company to further this goal. The leading Israeli developer of solar-biogas hybrid power technology, AORA, will be the first to provide solar-biogas hybrid power solutions for rural communities in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia often suffers from blackouts due to its lack of power and two-thirds of the country’s citizens have no electricity.

Affordable access to power will have significant social and economic impact on off-grid communities, helping to provide power to schools and medical facilities, refrigeration for food processing and post-harvest storage, groundwater pumping and much more.

AORA’s technology runs not only on solar radiation, but also on almost any gaseous or liquid fuel, including biogas, biodiesel and natural gas. This enables a variety of operational modes – from solar-only mode, where electricity is supplied from ample sunlight, to hybrid-mode when fuel helps generate full power during the periods of insufficient sunlight. At night time or during days of heavy overcast, the fuel-only mode goes into operation. This guarantees an uninterrupted and stable power supply 24 hours a day in all weather conditions.

The AORA tulip-shaped solar power plant, whose technology was developed by the Weizmann Institute, requires less land to generate usable power and heat than other systems as well as less water. Each Tulip station is small and modular, and adaptable to topography.

Construction of the first pilot plant in Ethiopia is expected to begin by mid-2015. Following the trial, the Ethiopian government intends to expand deployment of AORA installations for rural economic development to off-grid communities in selected areas of the country.

Source: Ynetnews

Friday, January 30, 2015

Aluminum-Air Battery System: Israel’s Phinergy Tests 1,100-Mile Range Electric Car

Phinergy Car
Israeli start-up Phinergy Ltd. is road testing a 1,100-mile range electric car based on a hybrid lithium-ion and aluminum-air battery system based on technology originating at Bar Ilan University and produced in Canada in collaboration with Alcoa Canada.

Phinergy’s prototype uses the lithium-ion battery for short trips and the aluminum-air battery for longer hauls.

The aluminum-air technology uses oxygen naturally occurring in the air to fill its cathode. Aluminum-air batteries discharge turns the metal into aluminum hydroxide, which can then be recycled to make new batteries. This makes it far lighter than liquid filled lithium-ion batteries to give the car a far greater range.

The aluminum battery has to be replaced every few months, but its components are recyclable. Alcoa Canada partnered with Phinergy to produce the batteries.

Phinergy has already successfully road-tested the prototype in Canada. The car is expected to hit the market in 2017.

Source: Globes

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Israeli Army to Start Serving Vegan Food in All Mess Halls

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has announced that plant-based food options, as well as non-leather boots and wool-free berets will be provided to vegan soldiers in order to accommodate the surge of veganism in Israel.

A protest last October led to this move, as vegan service members made it clear that their needs were not being met under the current policy system. Previously, vegan soldiers had to assert in the presence of a lawyer that they are vegan and were given a monthly allowance that was not sufficient to cover a full day of vegan meals.

The popularity of veganism in Israel is leading to policy changes that reflect the country's interest in plant-based, cruelty-free food and lifestyle options. As a simple comparison, 3% of Israel's population of approximately 8 million are vegan as compared to .5% of the US population of 300 million. This has led to Domino's Pizza offering its first ever vegan pizza in Israel, along with a vegan congress and vegan festival that took place in Israel that attracted over 15,000 attendees.

Read more about it here.

Off to enjoy a decadent vegan dessert, till next time!