Monday, October 9, 2017

Pretty In Violet

Violet tomatoes
Announcing their success in color, the researchers at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science managed to produce potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants with red-violet flesh and skin. This pretty color is due to the presence of betalains, the highly nutritious red-violet and yellow pigments made by beets.

Betalains are made by cactus fruit, flowers such as bougainvillea, and certain edible plants – most notably, beets. They are relatively rare in nature, compared to the other major groups of plant pigments, and until recently, their synthesis in plants was poorly understood.

Israeli scientists used two betalain-producing plants – red beet and four o’clock flowers – to identify a previously unknown gene involved in betalain synthesis and reveal which biochemical reactions plants use to produce betalains.

To test their findings, the researchers reproduced betalain synthesis in edible plants that do not normally make these pigments. They created red-violet potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants. They also managed to control the exact location of betalain synthesis by, for example, causing the pigment to be made only in the fruit of the tomato plant but not in the leaves or stem.

Using the same approach, the scientists caused white petunias to produce pale violet flowers, and tobacco plants to flower in hues varying from yellow to orange pink. They were able to achieve the desired hue by causing the relevant genes to be expressed in different combinations during the course of betalain synthesis.

These findings may also be used to create ornamental plants with colors that can be altered on demand.

But the change in color was not the only outcome. Healthy antioxidant activity was 60 percent higher in betalain-producing tomatoes than in average ones, paving the road to fortification of a wide variety of crops with betalains in order to increase their nutritional value.

The Weizmann Institute of Science team also discovered that betalains protect plants against gray mold, which annually causes losses of agricultural crops worth billions of dollars. The study showed that resistance to gray mold rose by a whopping 90 percent in plants engineered to make betalains.

The scientists produced versions of betalain that do not exist in nature. Some of these new pigments may potentially prove more stable than the naturally occurring betalains. This can be of major significance in the food industry, which makes extensive use of betalains as natural food dyes, for example, in strawberry yogurts.

Furthermore, the findings of the study may be used by the pharmaceutical industry. According to the researchers, the chemical process by which plants produce betalains could serve as a starting material in the manufacturing of drugs, particularly opiates such as morphine.

Source: NoCamels.com

Monday, September 18, 2017

China/Israel Trade Deal Is a Win for Animals and the Environment

Cultured meat in a petri dish
China signed a $300 million trade deal this month to import Israel’s slaughter-free meat technologies.

There is tremendous interest in Israel to produce economically feasible lab-grown meat. Several organizations (SuperMeat, The Modern Agriculture Foundation, and others) are actively pursuing the goal of bringing cultured meat to the market.

Growing cultured meat is a process in which a tiny amount of animal tissue is used in a laboratory setting to create real meat without slaughtering animals.

Lab-grown meat is often called "clean meat" because of its low environmental impact and because it doesn’t involve the use of GMOs, pesticides, antibiotics or hormones. Beyond these environmental and health benefits, animal welfare advocates praise lab-grown meat for its potential to save the lives of billions of animals.

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.

Currently, China is responsible for producing 30% of carbon dioxide emissions in the world. It consumes 28% of the world’s meat supply, yet its arable land is shrinking. The new deal with Israel fits perfectly into the country's drive towards cleaner, more sustainable agriculture. It also has the potential of steering billions of dollars in Chinese investments into the cultured meat technology.

Source: VegNews

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Greywater for Desert

Running water in the kitchen sink
With over one billion people across a hundred countries thirsting for a solution to desertification, the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research set out to find a solution for optimal living conditions in arid environments.

Research into greywater reuse for agricultural irrigation to date was primarily focused on health risks of using greywater for human consumption. These concerns were put to rest by Zuckerberg Institute researchers in 2015. Their finding enabled scientists to delve into the next stage of greywater research: how it affects environmental outcomes, particularly on soil properties in different ecosystems.

A new study conducted by Prof. Amit Gross of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research has revealed that biofiltration treatment of greywater is more efficient for irrigation in arid, sandy soils.

Prof. Gross and his research team found that greywater does not infiltrate through the soil as easily as freshwater and is slower to reach plant roots, causing a condition known as greywater-induced hydrophobicity. Instead of infiltrating into the ground as freshwater does, the water collects on the surface of the soil, leading to possible erosion.

Greywater-induced hydrophobicity disappears quickly following rainwater or freshwater irrigation events, but it is a more significant concern in arid lands with negligible rainfall.

In the study, the researchers examined how greywater induces soil hydrophobicity, as well as its degree and persistence. They created three greywater models using raw (untreated), treated, and highly treated greywater to irrigate fine-grained sand compared to a freshwater control. The result was that only the raw greywater irrigated soil showed hydrophobicity, which could be mitigated with both moderately and highly treated solutions. Biofiltration treatment was demonstrated to degrade the hydrophobic organic compounds thus eliminating the hydrophobicity problem.

Onsite reuse of greywater for irrigation is perceived as a low risk and economical way of reducing freshwater use and, as such, it is gaining in popularity in both developing and developed countries. As many government authorities are establishing new guidelines, the results of this study reinforce the recommendations to treat greywater before reusing for irrigation, particularly in arid regions.

Source: JerusalemOnline.com

Monday, May 22, 2017

Waze to Save Wildlife

Turtle crossing the road
A new venture that aims at reducing the number of wild animals that are run over on Israel’s roads has been officially launched by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) and Waze, the world's largest community-based traffic and navigation app founded in 2008 by three Israelis and acquired by Google in June 2013.

The new SPNI campaign calls on Israeli drivers to use Waze to report sightings of wild animals that were run over in open spaces and outside urban areas.

The reports will be used to map the roads that are most dangerous to wild animals and provide the data required for creating safe passages for wildlife, preventing further damage and reducing the number of animals killed.

Israel’s transportation infrastructure continues to expand rapidly, providing thousands of kilometers of roads that allow humans to travel conveniently from place to place, but these same roads are putting wildlife in danger. For gazelles, porcupines, badgers, turtles, hyenas, otters and many other species, crossing the road often results in death. Additionally, fragmented habitats disconnect animal populations from one another, causing demographic and genetic problems to many species, impairing their long-term survival.

With increasing awareness of the risks that roads pose to wild animals, Israeli planners have started to build special passages for animals when constructing new roads or expanding and upgrading old roads.

An eco-bridge was recently constructed as part of Israel’s rerouting of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway for this very purpose.

However, dozens of existing roads across the country lack similar solutions. This is why SPNI and Waze teamed up for this initiative, soft-launched in November 2016.

Over a four-month testing phase, Israeli Waze users embraced the app’s new function eagerly. In January alone, they logged 1,416 roadkill reports.


Using the accumulated data, SPNI experts will create a Wildlife Red Roads Atlas and examine which animal species are run over most and why, and what can be done to reduce the number of animal deaths and human injuries.

Source: Israel21c

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Tel Aviv: Trash to Treasure

Just a short drive from Tel Aviv, Israel’s newest waste collection plant has begun operation.  It is the largest and most advanced refuse-derived fuel (RDF) producing plant in the world.

The terminal handles about 1,500 tons of trash a day, or approximately half the trash produced by 1.5 million residents of Tel Aviv and its suburbs.

Recyclables like paper and metals are separated out and the rest is mostly turned into small bits of dry, high energy RDF that is sent to Israel's main cement factory, where it is burned instead of a less environment-friendly fossil fuel, petroleum coke.

The $110 million waste-to-fuel terminal was built by a consortium that includes Israel's largest cement maker Nesher owned by Clal Industries, as well as Veridis Environment and the region's recycling authority.


More RDF-producing facilities are planned in the region as a step toward sustainability and environmental protection.



Source: Reuters

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Israeli Start-up Offers A Better Way To Grow Food






Karin Kloosterman, ecology journalist, and founder of Flux and the eco-blog Green Prophet has spent much of her adult life studying and seeking solutions to environmental problems. She decided to participate in one of those solutions by founding Flux, an advanced system of growing food hydroponically. Flux offers solutions that may make food insecurity a thing of the past.

Kloosterman determined that conventional farming is destroying our planet. Applying pesticides to plants leads insects to outsmart the pesticide, then leading to stronger pesticides that seep into the earth and wreak havoc on ecosystems. The soil then dies and we apply fertilizers that end up in our drinking water, leading to a buildup of these substances in our bodies, causing soaring cancer rates. Aside from being able to bypass this disastrous cycle, hydroponics is a very efficient way of growing food. And it allows far more control over the conditions in which the food is grown.

Plants don't thrive in plain water, they require nutrients that are easily added in the hydroponic system. Furthermore, since hydroponic food is grown in greenhouses, it's easy to naturally eliminate pests, which thereby obviates the need for pesticides. And food can be grown all year around, in any climate.

The Flux system, complete with an app, simplifies the hydroponic food growing process, enabling the grower to get the exact chemistry right for every different kind of crop, so there's no waste and no guess-work.

Flux's mission is to allow anyone to grow food, even in the most dire and hungry parts of the world. Read more about it here: http://www.jpost.com/Metro/Hope-for-a-hungry-planet-476268

Off to water my own plants, till next time!

J

Friday, January 13, 2017

Israel Could Save 7 Billion Male Chicks a Year

A Chick
Every year, the poultry industry kills up to 7 billion male chicks simply because they do not produce enough meat (or eggs) to justify raising them to adulthood.

While the female chicks are spared for egg laying, the male chicks are eliminated and disposed of by hatcheries through suffocation, maceration – a process that involves a conveyor belt and a giant blender – or other methods in a procedure known as male chick culling. The male chicks are generally killed soon after they hatch and shortly after their gender has been determined.

Now, a technology called TeraEgg developed in Israel by Novatrans can determine whether the egg will hatch into a male or female chick before incubation, preventing the hatching of eggs containing male chicks.

Vital Farms, a leading American brand dedicated to bringing ethically produced food to the table, raises healthy egg-laying hens on fresh pastures where they can be outside year-round and where conditions are regularly inspected and approved as humane. Vital Farms’ new subsidiary, Ovabrite, in partnership with Israeli startup Novatrans, recently introduced TeraEgg, a new non-invasive technology designed to end the culling of male chicks.

TeraEgg, which recently completed its early testing phase, analyzes organic compounds to identify the gender and fertility of eggs before incubation through a non-invasive process that uses terahertz spectroscopy (electromagnetic waves). This technology is able to determine whether it is male, female, or infertile through the detection of gasses that leak from the pores of the egg within seconds, rather than allowing the chicken to hatch – a process that otherwise takes around three weeks. Male and infertile eggs are removed before they enter incubation so they can be re-purposed for human consumption rather than destroyed post-incubation.

By eliminating the egg industry’s practice of chick culling, TeraEgg hopes to reduce energy costs and labor without disrupting hatchery operations, as well as to create new revenue streams for egg hatcheries.

The worldwide demand for cage-free eggs is growing, and so does the demand for hens. According to the USDA, in order to meet current and future demand for cage-free eggs, farmers will need 175 million cage-free hens in the coming years, but there are currently only 18 million. Every increase in egg demand means a two-fold increase in hatched chicks since half those chicks will be male.

Animal welfare groups have long decried chick culling, but it makes a lot of sense to end the practice from a hatchery’s perspective, too. The value of wasted eggs – male and infertile – is estimated to be at least $440 million annually, with an additional $70-plus million in labor and energy to incubate and sex those eggs. Building out a product solely to destroy half of it before it ever ships makes little business sense. TeraEgg is giving these hatcheries a way to eliminate all that waste and produce additional revenue off of all their eggs, instead of just half.

Successful completion of the early testing phase represents a major milestone for TeraEgg. Ovabrite is expected to begin commercial product development in late 2017. TeraEgg has the potential to be one of the greatest advancements in the recent history of animal welfare.

Source: NoCamels