Thursday, August 25, 2016

Meet New Baby Boy Rhino

The Zoological Center of Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan is celebrating the birth of a new baby white rhino. Tanda, a 23-year-old mare, gave birth to the healthy baby boy this week. It’s her fourth rare white rhino calf since arriving at the Israeli zoo 13 years ago.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mushroom Master

Mushroom Master
Mushroom farmers and marketers from across the world were introduced to a unique Israeli irrigation technology called Mushroom Master during Mushroom Days 2016, the 34th annual international tradeshow for the mushroom industry, in the Netherlands.

Mushroom Master, the world’s first system for the drip irrigation of mushrooms, comes from Israel-based multinational company Netafim, pioneer of smart irrigation solutions used in about 110 countries.

The sustainable system was developed over six years in partnership with the MIGAL-Galilee Research Institute, Champignon Farm at Moshav Zarit, and Bar Agricultural Works to offer several revolutionary advantages for growers of the edible fungus.

Portobello and champignon mushrooms – which account for 70 percent of the mushroom market – are grown on shelves filled with compost and casing soil. After germination, “flushes” of mushrooms emerge once a week for the next three weeks.

It is challenging to produce market-quality mushrooms from the final (third) flush because sprinkle irrigation during the week between the second and third flushes turns the mushrooms brown from bacterial blotch. They can be chemically bleached or put under an energy-intensive dryer after irrigation, or alternatively, extra casing soil can keep the third flush wet from underneath. Many farmers cannot afford any of these expensive measures.

The problem is most acute in countries where mushroom farmers must import expensive heavy peat casing soil to hold the large amounts of water from traditional sprinkler irrigation. One of the benefits of Mushroom Master is that it radically reduces the amount of casing soil needed.

Comprised of Netafim’s low-flow compensated non-leakage (CNL) drippers, a controller that uses proprietary software to monitor irrigation conditions, and a mechanical deployment system, Mushroom Master releases small, precise amounts of water in quick pulses. The mushroom beds are thus irrigated throughout the entire growing cycle without wetting the caps.

As a result, yields are increased at least 10%, casing soil usage is reduced by up to 30%, energy and water costs are reduced by 20%, and farmers can harvest A-quality mushrooms from the third flush.

Netafim has gotten inquiries from potential customers in countries such as the United States, Mexico, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, Poland, Ukraine and South Africa, including Monterey Mushrooms, a large grower with sites in the US and Mexico.

After installation, Netafim will provide training on site. Customers may purchase a controller through which the Israeli team can remotely monitor the mushroom farm and offer advice long distance. Each system is customized to account for the environmental differences.

All the components of Mushroom Master are designed and manufactured in Israel, including the multi-use drip lines that are washed and disinfected by machine after each growing cycle to cut down on labor and materials costs.

Though the system is specific to mushrooms grown on shelves, other types of mushrooms may soon benefit from Mushroom Master as well. In the year ahead, initial sales are expected to increase from $3 million to $5 million.

Source: Israel21c

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Israel's first eco-friendly road

Road 85The Israel National Roads Company has paved Israel's first eco-friendly road. Just over half a mile of road was paved with an experimental blend of asphalt and rubber pellets from 1,900 ground-up used tires.

The paved section, deemed "experimental," is located on a section of Road 85 in the Galilee, and runs between Acre in the west and Amiad in the east.

The cost of the raw material and the paving of the section is estimated at about $85,000, which is about the cost of a regular road, but the rubber blend will increase the lifespan of the road by one-third.

The rubber-asphalt blend is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Environmental Protection, and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology.

The rubber accounts for three percent of the asphalt blend, but the quantity of rubber could be doubled in future, which would result in the utilization of almost 4,000 used tires per 0.6 miles of road.

National Roads Company R&D Branch Director Adrian Valentin Cotrus says that the road was paved using know-how and experience accumulated in the US and adapted to Israel's standards and climate.

According to the Ministry of Transport, three million tires are taken out of service in Israel each year, and millions of tires are scattered at various sites, constituting environmental hazards.

Source: Israel21c

Israeli Innovation: Helping to Solve Global Water Problems

Experimental desert oasis
Israel is an undisputed leader in providing desalination plants, equipment, novel technology and know-how for removing salt from water. However, there is still much to be done to make desalination technologies accessible for the world’s neediest citizens, especially in inland locations in the Middle East and Africa.

A very successful new model for desalinating water in poor regions like Africa has been developed by Israeli researchers from the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at the Ben-Gurion University and Central Arava R&D.

A full system unit uses solar energy, at a fraction of what’s used in other current models, to power the pumps of a desalination unit that can create clean water as well as wastewater for secondary crops (usually grown as a subsidiary food source for home consumption.

A desert oasis powered by the sun is now up and running at a quarter-acre test site in the Arava Valley of Israel, a basin that is very dry.

The new plant relies on special nanofiltration membranes that churn out high-value irrigation water and allow the individual farmer or plant manager to decide which minerals should stay in the water and which should be removed. Normally, non-specific desalination filters remove all minerals, which must then be replenished depending on the end need.

According to the researchers, the special membrane enables them to save energy in the pumping, while allowing the water to retain the right essential minerals to support irrigated crops.

Already producing water for crops -- and an abundance of excess brackish water that can be fed to salt-loving plants like beets or used in aquaculture for ornamental fish -- the pilot plant is ready to scale up. A 2.5-acre site has been selected to serve as a bigger pilot plant as well as a training center for the thousands of people from poor nations who travel to Israel to learn about successful agricultural methods.

Until now, desalination plants have been prohibitively expensive for less-developed nations. They take an enormous amount of electricity to run and need to be built near the grid -- usually far from where micro- farms (which make up a large proportion of the agriculture of developing nations) are located.

There have been some ambitious projects to run desalination plants using solar photovoltaic panels, mostly to test new clean technologies, but the cost of these panels is still too high for wide-spread use.

So far the experimental results have been extremely promising. The desalinated water enables farmers to use 25 percent less water and fertilizer than usual. In other tests, the treated water did not affect the growth rates and densities of the yield. The researchers report that sorghum and millet yields actually increased.

The researchers now seek an additional half-million-dollar investment to drive their new pilot plant. They aim to build custom-made plants based on the specific needs of populations facing food insecurity.

Source: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs