Environment News – NoCamels – Israeli Innovation News http://nocamels.com NoCamels.com is the leading news website on Israeli innovations. We cover all the latest innovation in the fields of technology, health, environment and lifestyle. Tue, 06 Dec 2016 15:46:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rare Clay Figurine Found In Israel Is Bronze Age Ancestor Of Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’ http://nocamels.com/2016/11/figurine-bronze-age-rodin-thinker/ http://nocamels.com/2016/11/figurine-bronze-age-rodin-thinker/#respond Thu, 24 Nov 2016 10:56:15 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=49502

This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

He sits pensively, his hand on his chin, like a Middle Bronze Age predecessor to Rodin’s famous sculpture “The Thinker.” His eyes stare blankly as he sits atop a pot that was shattered sometime after it was buried some 3,800 years ago.

The unique clay statuette, mounted atop a ceramic vessel, was found in the central Israel town of Yehud by a team of Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists, who paired up with high school students in October. News of the discovery was reported by the IAA on Wednesday.

SEE ALSO: Living It Up In Downtown Tel Aviv: 5,000-Year-Old Egyptian Beer Mugs Discovered In Israel

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The clay figurine before restoration

Gilad Itach, the archaeologist heading the dig, said that on the last day of excavations, just before construction of a building commenced on site, they found the 18-centimeter (seven-inch) tall figurine, along with an assortment of other items.

“It seems they first prepared a pot characteristic of the period, and afterwards they added the unique statue, the likes of which have never before been discovered in previous research,” he said. “The level of precision and attention to detail in creating this almost 4,000-year-old sculpture is extremely impressive. The neck of the jug served as a base for forming the upper portion of the figure, after which the arms, legs and a face were added to the sculpture.”

SEE ALSO: 12,000-Year-Old Village Discovered Near The Sea Of Galilee

Archaeologists also found other vessels, daggers and arrowheads, as well as the bones of sheep and what may be butt bones. Itach suggested the items were funerary objects for a prominent member of the Canaanite community.

“It was customary in antiquity to believe that the objects that were interred alongside the individual continued with him into the next world,” he said in a statement. “To the best of my knowledge such a rich funerary assemblage that also includes such a unique pottery vessel has never before been discovered in the country.”

“One can see that the face of the figure seems to be resting on its hand as if in a state of reflection,” Itach added, “It is unclear if the figure was made by the potter who prepared the jug or by another craftsman.”

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The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin

To read the full article, click here

Photos: Andrew Horne, Israel Antiquities Authority/Clara Amit

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Not Chickening Out: Israel’s Novatrans Could Save 7 Billion Male Chicks From Unnecessary Slaughter http://nocamels.com/2016/11/novatrans-saves-chicks-deaths-culling/ http://nocamels.com/2016/11/novatrans-saves-chicks-deaths-culling/#respond Wed, 23 Nov 2016 12:39:24 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=48678 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.

SEE ALSO: Eating A Steak Could Cost Us Our Planet, Researchers Find

chicks

TeraEgg: putting an end to male chick culling

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

Novatrans, the Israeli startup providing the technology behind the initiative, was founded in 2003 by Oren Sadiv and raised $50 million from investors in 2010.

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.

In other words, TeraEgg detects gender and fertility in the chicken embryo development process, allowing hatcheries to remove male and infertile eggs before they enter incubation, so they can be re-purposed for human consumption rather than destroyed post-incubation.

SEE ALSO: Vegetarian Meat Eaters: Israeli Startup SuperMeat Grows Chicken Meat In A Lab

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 demand for cage-free eggs is growing

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. As the worldwide demand for cage-free eggs continues to grow, so does the demand for hens. Every increase in egg demand means a two-fold increase in hatched chicks, since half those chicks will be male.

Building a product “solely to destroy half of it before it ever ships” makes little sense

“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,” Ovabrite’s President, Paul Knepper, said in a statement. “We estimate the value of wasted eggs – male and infertile – to be at least $440 million annually, with an additional $70-plus million in labor and energy to incubate and sex those eggs. I can’t think of another industry where you build out a product solely to destroy half of it before it ever ships. 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.

According to Matt O’Hayer, Founder and CEO of Vital Farms, “TeraEgg has the potential to be one of the greatest advancements in the recent history of animal welfare.”

chick

Photos and video: Vital Farms

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Shower Power: SmarTap Taps Into Smart Home Market With Voice-Controlled Shower http://nocamels.com/2016/11/smartap-smart-shower-bath-amazon-alexa/ http://nocamels.com/2016/11/smartap-smart-shower-bath-amazon-alexa/#respond Sun, 20 Nov 2016 10:56:19 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=49262 Ancient Greek scientist Archimedes had his famous ‘Eureka!’ moment when he stepped into the bathtub. Israeli entrepreneur Asaf Shaltiel had his own ‘Eureka’ moment when he saw his sister bathing her twin babies and was astonished by how difficult it was to get the water temperature just right for them.

It was then that Shaltiel, the CEO of Israeli startup SmarTap, realized just how old-fashioned the shower is. “This is a zero-tech industry that hasn’t evolved for centuries,” he tells NoCamels. “Take a look at your shower. What you’re buying is actually a beautifully designed sculpture with a label.”

Spurred by the vision of a new generation of showers, the former Intel engineer founded SmarTap in 2009. The eight-employee company has developed a Wi-Fi-equipped smart-shower system that integrates multiple features, which can be tailored to businesses and individual customers. One such feature is the users’ ability to set the maximum shower temperature, flow rate and even time period, thus allowing them to save water and electricity. Businesses with showers, such as hotels and gyms, can monitor and control water usage and temperature for an entire cluster of showers using a web interface.

Individual consumers can easily adjust these settings for their personal showers using a mobile app (a partnership with shower designer Tissino), which is currently available on Google Play and will be available on Apple’s App Store next month. Users can activate their showers remotely, which means that the bathtub can be filled with rejuvenating warm water while you drive home from work.

SmarTap is also integrated with Amazon Echo, the speaker equipped with Amazon’s voice-controlled robot Alexa.

SEE ALSO: In Face Of Global Shortage, World Leaders Praise Israel’s Water Technologies At WATEC Conference

In addition to monitoring water usage, the app allows users to program pre-set showers like “My Morning Shower” and “My Fun Shower” with varying temperatures, flow rates and time settings. Users can even receive notifications via the app about leaks in the pipes, which are detected by the SmarTap sensors.

The system is available in the UK (through Tissino) for 1,700 pounds, and in Israel for 5,500 shekels. In the coming months, SmarTap will be available for $1,500-$2,000 in the US. According to the company, these costs can be recuperated within two to three years, thanks to SmarTap’s water-saving technology.

SEE ALSO: Indian Minister Applauds Israeli Water Technologies: “Israel Is My Guru”

The startup began its journey by installing its system in the Sheraton Hotel in Tel Aviv. It then expanded into the smart-home industry by riding on the Internet of Things (IoT) wave. “To think that we can penetrate the market as a standalone device is a mistake,” Shaltiel says. “We have to be a part of the ecosystem.”

In line with this new strategy, SmarTap has integrated its system with Amazon Echo, the voice-controlled speaker equipped with Amazon’s artificially intelligent personal assistant Alexa. Alexa is already able to control smart lights and smart televisions – and now, it can control SmarTap, too.

Weather-based showers 

The company has also applied machine-learning algorithms into the SmarTap system. “Our philosophy is that if you introduce smart devices, those devices need to learn,” Shaltiel says. “They cannot be dumb devices with Wi-Fi.”

For example, the system can now read the weather forecast in order to adjust the shower temperature accordingly. Its pattern-recognition technology also allows it to understand the user’s habits, which means that it can prepare a hot shower five minutes before the phone alarm rings.

It can even identify deviations from those habits, which could be useful in eldercare. “If you have a grandfather who lives alone, you would like to know that he is keeping his hygiene patterns regularly,” Shaltiel explains.

Asaf Shaltiel

Asaf Shaltiel

Turning a knob? Not anymore 

By 2013, SmarTap raised $1.2 million; it recently received an undisclosed amount from Israeli clean-tech venture capital firm Terra Venture Partners. It also won the 2013 Eco Innovations Award and presented at the 2015 Microsoft Think Next Exhibition.

Over the years, competing water technologies, such as EvaDrop and the Hydrao Smart Shower, have emerged. But according to Shaltiel, these products don’t have the same breadth of capabilities as SmarTap, which he claims is the world’s first “connected shower.” Moreover, new capabilities can be embedded wirelessly into the SmarTap system through software updates, just like with smartphones.

“There is a good chance that our grandchildren will consume water in an entirely different way,” Shaltiel says. “One day, our grandchildren will ask us, ‘Did you really have to turn a knob to get water?’ And when that happens, we want to lead that market.”

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Photos and video: SmarTap, Tissino, Medialo Consulting

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Swimmers Brave Salty Dead Sea Waters For Seven Hours To Raise Awareness For Its Dire State http://nocamels.com/2016/11/save-dead-sea-swim-environment/ http://nocamels.com/2016/11/save-dead-sea-swim-environment/#respond Thu, 17 Nov 2016 12:04:03 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=49238 In an effort to draw attention to the environmental deterioration of the Dead Sea, on Tuesday a multinational group of 25 swimmers swam seven hours through the thick, salty, soupy waters of  Israel’s legendary lake in the first-ever international Dead Sea Swim Challenge.

SEE ALSO: International Photographer Spencer Tunick Undresses Israel To Save Dead Sea

As the lowest point on earth, 423 meters (1,388 feet) below sea level, and the deepest hyper-saline lake in the world, the Dead Sea is a natural and historical wonder. Tourists flock to the Dead Sea to float on the water thanks to the lake’s high salt concentration. It also attracts people from around the world who believe the water’s high mineral content is beneficial for skin conditions.

Tragically, however, the Dead Sea is disappearing before our very eyes. Over the last 30 years, the Dead Sea’s water level has dropped by more than 25 meters (80 feet). Environmentalists blame this phenomenon on unsustainable water management and over-exploitation of the lake’s minerals. Due to heavy industrialization, the Dead Sea’s southern basin, disconnected from the shrinking northern side, has seen flooding in recent years.

In the early morning hours of Tuesday, the 25 swimmers boarded boats and sailed from Israel’s Ein Gedi to Jordan’s Wadi Mujib, which was the swim’s starting point. Then, wearing special protective masks and snorkels to shield them from the briny water, which is painful to the eyes and can be deadly to ingest, the swimmers swam for seven hours through the salty waters in a 17-kilometer (11-mile) swim from Jordan to Israel.

Although floating on the Dead Sea is common, swimming in it is both unusual and potentially dangerous. The swimmers were therefore accompanied by support vessels with medical equipment and food. Despite the very difficult conditions, only three swimmers failed to finish — two who suffered from dehydration and another who complained of chills. Four swimmers took breaks on the medical boat, including Yussuf Matari, a 61 year-old lifeguard, who was treated with an IV on the medical boat before resuming his swim.

The group included local swimmers from Israel and others who came from as far away as New Zealand, South Africa and Denmark. “This is really important because it’s disappearing fast,” British long-distance swimmer Jackie Cobell told the AP, calling the Dead Sea swim “historic and iconic.”

Those who reached the shore first patiently waited, so all the swimmers could finish the race together while loudspeakers blared the iconic hit by British rock band Queen, “We are the Champions.”

Raising awareness for a historic, but shrinking, body of water

“We’re here for the first ever Dead Sea swim challenge with 25 swimmers who come from all over the world to send out a clear message to save the Dead Sea, which is shrinking today at an alarming rate,” Mira Edelstein, a spokesperson for the environmental group EcoPeace, one of the swim’s organizers, told the AP. Jean Craven, the founder of Madswimmer, a South African charity that participates in open-water swims around the world to raise money for children’s causes added: “This was a challenge, not a race.”

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Pictures and Video: DeadSeaSwim.com

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Dog Poop? It’s In The Bag! Israeli Invention ‘Piqapoo’ Collects Dog Droppings, With No Mess http://nocamels.com/2016/11/dog-poop-israeli-piqapoo-poo/ http://nocamels.com/2016/11/dog-poop-israeli-piqapoo-poo/#respond Sun, 06 Nov 2016 13:05:20 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=48825 Having a dog can be wonderful, except when it comes to cleaning up their poop. Most dog owners just use their hands and a plastic bag to clean up after their dogs when on walks. Sadly, many dog owners don’t clean up after their dogs at all, because it’s simply too disgusting. On top of all that, sometimes the dog’s droppings aren’t as solid as they should be, making cleaning up the mess virtually impossible.

Dog poop isn’t just a harmless nuisance, left alone it can have a significant environmental impact. Studies have shown that 20% of water pollution is caused by pet waste not picked up by the pets’ owners. Additionally, fines for leaving your dog’s poop on the ground can be hundreds of dollars in the US and up to 1000 pounds in the UK.

Eliminating the “ick” factor from your dog walks

Seeking a better, more sanitary, solution, a group of Israeli dog owners developed Piqapoo, a simple hands-free device for collecting dog poop. Piqapoo consists of a soft clip with a durable collection bag beneath it that comfortably attaches to a dog’s tail. When your dog does its business, all the poop falls directly into the bag with no mess or leakage. With just a press of a button, dog owners can release the bag directly into the trash, making cleanup quick, easy, and sanitary.

Designed with the dog’s well-being as the top priority, the team spent three years refining its design and searching for the best materials that are both durable and provide maximum comfort for their pets.

SEE ALSO: New ‘Pooper-Scooper’ Turns Dog Droppings Into Ash

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Piqapoo clip and bag

$15,000 raised in two hours

Piqapoo is run by CEO Gideon Hazan and Co-Founders Re’em Hazan, Erez Barr, and Eli Dotan. Piqapoo launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter last week and quickly surpassed their goal of $15,00 in just two hours. For just $29, contributors can purchase one Piqapoo clip with 60 collection bags.

SEE ALSO: The High-Tech Dog-Walking Service That’s Taking Manhattan By Storm

Piqapoo comes in a variety of sizes to fit most dogs. The device itself is made from cushioned lightweight silicone. Piqapoo has already been tested on over 100 dogs and the makers claim it has been proven to be effective (NoCamels wasn’t able to ask the dogs what they thought). According to the company, your dog can walk and run as normal while wearing Piqapoo, and won’t even notice it’s there.

“We love our dogs,” Gideon Hazan, CEO of Piqapoo said in a statement. “The only thing we didn’t like was using our hands to pick up our dogs’ poop. The reason we’re so passionate about Piqapoo is that we all use it! It works, and it has made dog walking a way more enjoyable part of our day.”

piqapoo-dog Also works for dogs of the visually impaired

Additionally, Hazan says Piqapoo is a great solution for individuals with disabilities. “People who are visually impaired can easily feel where to attach the Piqapoo to their dogs. For others who have a hard time bending down to clean up after their dogs, they can now simply detach the device from their dogs tail and throw out the disposable waste bag,” he says.

No more pooper scoopers

Other dog waste collection devices currently on the market are riddled with problems. Scoopers are big and clunky, and don’t work for the runny kind of poop. Fitted devices are often uncomfortable for the dogs, and can be extremely time-consuming for the owners to put on their dogs. Although there are modified bags on the market, they are quite expensive and can leave traces of poop on the ground.

Piqapoo is hoping its solution will be the one that sticks – literally.  In other words, it could cut out the crap of picking up poop.

Photos and video: Piqapoo

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Change Is In The Air: Israeli Startup BreezoMeter Fights Paris Pollution http://nocamels.com/2016/11/air-polluion-breezometer-paris-clean-air/ http://nocamels.com/2016/11/air-polluion-breezometer-paris-clean-air/#respond Wed, 02 Nov 2016 12:21:49 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=48259 Air pollution is a global problem, but in France it is especially troubling. According to a study published in June by France’s health agency Santé Publique France, air pollution kills 48,000 people a year in France and 34,000 of those deaths are avoidable. In fact, air pollution is France’s third biggest killer, after smoking (78,000 deaths) and alcohol consumption (49,000 deaths).

Given these grave statistics, it’s no wonder that Israeli app BreezoMeter, which tracks pollutants and can determine air quality in nearly every corner of the world, has now set its sights on the city of light, Paris.

Air pollution is seen as a key public health issue in Paris and to tackle the problem the city recently launched an ambitious campaign called ‘Reinventons nos places’, ‘Let’s reinvent our squares.’ Its goal is to improve quality of life, enhance public spaces and promote new uses for seven Parisian squares that have strong historic and symbolic value.

Bastille

Bastille

Pilot in Paris

In Place de la Nation square, a large scale pilot, led by Cisco, will collect noise, air pollution and usage data. The results are shared with citizens using touch screens in the square as well as with open data online. BreezoMeter, , which CNBC recently called one of the “world’s hottest apps” and which the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website recommended as a Smart City Air Challenge case study, is implementing the air quality monitoring aspects of the pilot. The Israeli company beat out several French companies for the project, becoming the first non-local company to ever be awarded such a tender.

BreezoMeter defined the number, locations and type of air quality sensors needed, and analyzed the data to provide real-time pollutant concentrations, alerts and insights about what may be affecting pollution levels. Other smart and sustainable cities can use this air quality command and control platform for urban redesign and daily operations. The data can also be used to develop sustainable transport modes.

SEE ALSO: Exposure To Pollution In Womb Raises Risk Of Autism

Air Pollution is a killer

“Air pollution has  killed 8 million people around the world and 2,500 in Israel alone last year,” BreezoMeter’s co-founder and CMO Ziv Lautman recently told NoCamels. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths and in most countries, the mortality rate from heart and lung diseases caused by air pollution is much higher than that from traffic accidents.

BreezoMeter’s big-data analytics platform uses local air-monitoring sensors to gather real-time pollution data. The information is collected by the startup from monitoring stations around the world and is then compiled and packaged to provide up-to-date information about air quality. The startup claims its localized pollution reading is 99 percent accurate.

BreezoMeter

Partnering with Current, powered by GE

BreezoMeter’s technology is also being used by Current, powered by GE, an energy company, where hardware and software technology meet. Combining GE’s LED, Solar, Energy Storage and Electric Vehicle capabilities with Current’s Predix platform, Current provides a 21st-century energy ecosystem to customers. Current’s goal is to make energy sustainable, resilient and reliable by creating a new world of possibilities for intelligent environments.

SEE ALSO: What’s In The Air You Breathe?

BreezoMeter’s software platform has been paired with traffic insights from the LED infrastructure from Current, powered by GE. This ground-level approach to diagnoses and analytics can inform cities on the overlapping traffic trends and patterns affecting the environment most. With sensors in intelligent LEDs, there are now more data points than ever before—creating more opportunities to deliver the most accurate air quality data possible. Thanks to this technology, cities change the way they monitor air quality, and citizens can breathe easy knowing their city has a plan in place. The embedded sensors inside Current, powered by GE, are intelligent fixtures which provide environmental and traffic data to the BreezoMeter Air Quality Management Platform. This enables city officials to receive data to help identify the sources of air pollution, pinpoint the areas of concern and plan a course of action to help mitigate it.

The Waze for air pollution

BreezoMeter was founded in 2014 by Emil Fisher, Ran Korber and Ziv Lautman. To date the startup has raised $1.8 million in private financing rounds. Its app is available for both Android and iPhone users.

Although pollutants are still a fact of life, the app does give consumers better knowledge of their surroundings, in hopes that they can then act on that knowledge. “We empower citizens to better plan their daily activities and to minimize their personal exposure to pollution,” Lautman said in a statement.

“Daniel Elkabetz, BreezoMeter’s Business Development Director, echoed that sentiment when he told NoCamels, “We see ourselves as the Weather Channel, or better yet, the Waze for air pollution.”

BreezoMeter

Photos and video: BreezoMeter

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Trick-or-Treating In The Lab: For TAU Researchers, It’s Halloween Every Day http://nocamels.com/2016/10/halloween-in-the-lab-tau/ http://nocamels.com/2016/10/halloween-in-the-lab-tau/#respond Mon, 31 Oct 2016 11:48:25 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=48713 Halloween is upon us, which means it’s time to pick out a costume and make sure the house has candy for when the neighborhood children arrive. In the spirit of of the holiday, researchers at Tel Aviv University explain how they’ve turned trickery and disguise into a science.

Dr. Gal Ribak of the Department of Zoology at the The George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, studies the biomechanics of animal movement. He uses models and simulations to try and understand how animals develop their unique style of movement, while referencing physiology, ecology and animal evolution.

Dr. Ribak says trickery is part of the job. “We use trickery all the time. One of the studies in my lab deals with the interception mechanism of damselfies – a type of dragonfly – who chase their prey while airborne. The damselfly detects moving prey visually and can calculate a flight path to intercept the prey at its future position. This allows the damselfly to capture its prey with great efficiency, while it and its prey are moving through the air.

Using artificial prey in his lab, Ribak tricks the damselflies

To understand how damselflies do this, we ‘trick’ them into chasing artificial targets in my lab, which are moved through electro-mechanical means. By controlling the motion of the target and analyzing the movement of the damselfly with special cameras, we can learn about its strategies of attack. This helps us understand the neurobiological mechanisms of controlled movement in animals, and could have implications for how we control movement in robots and drones.”

dragon fly

The lab of Prof. Arnon Lotem of the Department of Zoology also uses trickery and deception in the name of science. Prof. Lotem and his students study the evolution of behavioral mechanisms and social learning in animals, specifically in house sparrows.

“Behavior and leaning in animals are complex processes and understanding of these processes requires experimentation, not just observation. The problem is that in order to perform controlled experiments you have to control the behavior of certain individuals in the group and see how other individuals react to it.

SEE ALSO: No Bat About It: Bats Eavesdrop To Help Friends Find Food

Fake sparrow teaches chicks

In studying the house sparrow, we use stuffed sparrows that are operated like a puppet on a string at a puppet show. My students specializing in this are Edit Katsnelson, Amos Belmaker and Noa Truskanov. For example, by stationing “fake,” stuffed sparrows near sources of food, the researchers managed to gradually turn hardworking sparrows, who look for food on their own, into ones that tended to follow other individuals in the flock.

In a different experiment, sparrow chicks were raised to follow a stuffed sparrow as though it was their biological mother. This allowed us to learn a lot about the way young sparrows learn from their mothers, especially about the relationship between cues in their environment and the presence of food. It turns out that when the mother only hints at the location of sustenance and allows her chicks to find the food on their own, they learn the food-related cues better than if the mother reveals the food for them.”

stuffed-sparrow-arnon-lotem

A young house sparrow tracks an artificial mother (a stuffed sparrow connected to a stick controlled by the researcher) and learns from it how to search for food, at Prof. Arnon Lotem’s lab.

No one hesitates to use trickery to learn about the secret lives of bats in the lab of Tel Aviv University’s “bat man”, Dr. Yossi Yovel of the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences and Sagol School of Neuroscience.

Hitting a wall

“Bats use sonar – they emit sound pulses and analyze the echoes with their brain to ‘see’ the world. In one of our experiments bats fly in complete darkness through a corridor that’s blocked halfway through by a plastic wall. The bats approach the wall and use sonar to sense it. They get strong echoes from the wall and try to land on it, but sometimes the barrier is only ‘pretending’ to be a wall. When the wall turns from hard plastic into soft sponge, it reflects fewer echoes and bats fly at it as if it there were no barrier there at all.

bat with apple

That’s despite the fact that in nature bats can hunt mosquitoes, which generate even weaker echoes! Our conclusion is that the different aspects of an object have to match up in order for us to perceive the objects correctly. A large wall must generate strong echoes, otherwise it’s not a wall. A mosquito is tiny and must generate very weak echoes, otherwise it’s not a mosquito. For us humans, an apple must be both round and red (or green) to be an apple. Each characteristic separately is not enough.”

An integral part of the work these researchers involves to simulating and imitating conditions in the field in order to study behavior in laboratory conditions. This requires a lot of creativity and imagination. In a sense, in many labs across Tel Aviv University – every day is Halloween.

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Israel’s FieldIn Helps Farmers Track Crops, Cut Costs http://nocamels.com/2016/10/fieldin-helps-farmers-track-crops-cut-costs/ http://nocamels.com/2016/10/fieldin-helps-farmers-track-crops-cut-costs/#respond Tue, 18 Oct 2016 19:43:59 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=48397 This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Growing trees in Israel, Italy and California has become easier thanks to an innovative solution that takes care of all aspects of pest management for high-value crops, using less pesticide.

“We provide an end-to-end solution to special crop growers that follows our clients in all the process, allowing our customers to use pesticides in a smarter and more efficient way, reducing waste and spray mistakes. They also save money with us,” said Eyal Amit, VP business development at FieldIn.

SEE ALSO: Revolutionary Rooftop Farm Grows Organic Veggies Sans Soil In The Heart of Tel Aviv

orange grove orchard fieldin

The company manages substantial acreage for large enterprise growers who grow citrus, wine grapes, apples, almonds, avocados, and pomegranates, among others. The lead investor is Terra Venture Partners, an Israeli venture capital fund.

SEE ALSO: EdenShield Invents Product That Makes Crops ‘Invisible’ To Pests

FieldIn won the second prize in a startup competition at the International AgriVest Conference held at the Weizmann Institute of Science last week, for technology that increases the efficiency of growing crops.

The conference is an initiative of Trendlines Agtech, an incubator of The Trendlines Group, Invest in Israel, the investment promotion center at the Israeli Ministry of Economy & Industry and GreenSoil Investments, an Israeli VC focused on agro & food tech investments.

“Thanks to our apps and sensors, we can follow the whole process, we can check the weather, which kind of pesticides are used, how they are used, where they are used, their quantity, their pace and if tractors cover every single hectare of the crop,” said Amit. 

pomegranate butterfly orchard fieldin

The company’s “field scout” uses a monitoring app to check the health of the crops and sends feedback to “executives,” the people in charge, using insights based on the big data the FieldIn technology provides.

To read the full article, click here.

Photos: FieldIn

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Fueling The Future: Israeli Researchers Mass-Produce Energy From Algae http://nocamels.com/2016/10/algae-clean-energy-biofuel-study/ http://nocamels.com/2016/10/algae-clean-energy-biofuel-study/#respond Sun, 09 Oct 2016 12:07:45 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=48328 In search of environmentally friendly alternatives to fossil fuel, corn, soybeans and palm oil have been converted into biofuels to power vehicles and factories. Clean sources of energy such as algae are thought to help the world wean itself off polluting fuels, but for years, the big lingering question was whether we could actually mass produce biofuels from these sources.

Now, Israeli researchers are using genetic engineering to mass-produce hydrogen-based fuels from microscopic algae. Tel Aviv University scientists were recently able to produce five times more hydrogen from these microalgae.

Claiming their method could one day meet all of our energy needs, they say the potential of algae as a source of clean energy is therefore much more promising than previously thought.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Researchers Use Spinach Leaves To Generate Clean Fuel

seaweed

The appeal of algae is quite simple: The green layer that covers ponds and sea rocks can be converted into biofuel faster than conventional crops, such as corn and soy — without competing with food production. According to the US Department of Energy, the genetic diversity from the many varieties of algae presents researchers with “an incredible number of unique properties that can be harnessed to develop promising algal biofuel technologies.”

SEE ALSO: Researchers In Israel Announce A Revolutionary Alternative To Fuel

The TAU study, which was recently published in the scientific journals Plant Physiology and Biotechnology for Biofuels, reveals that clean energy can be produced from algae throughout the day and not just in a specific time in the morning. It was previously thought that these microalgae emit hydrogen only during sunrise, and thus only a small amount of hydrogen can be generated from them.

The research team used highly sensitive technology to discover that algae produce hydrogen from photosynthesis all day long. Armed with this discovery, the team harnessed genetic engineering to significantly increase algae’s production of this clean energy source.

“A huge underutilized potential”

Laboratory tests revealed that algae create hydrogen with the assistance of the enzyme hydrogenase, which breaks down when oxygen is present. The researchers discovered effective mechanisms to remove the oxygen, so hydrogenase can keep producing hydrogen.

“The discovery of the mechanisms makes it clear that algae have a huge underutilized potential for the production of hydrogen fuel,” said TAU’s Dr. Iftach Yacoby, who led the research. “The next question is how to beef up production for industrial purposes — to get the algae to overproduce the enzyme.”

Yacoby is now researching synthetic enzymes capable of increasing hydrogen production from microalgae to industrial levels.

Dr. Iftach Yacoby in his lab

Dr. Iftach Yacoby in his lab

“Since the beginning of time, we have been using agriculture to make our own food, but when it comes to energy, we are still hunter-gatherers,” Yacoby says. “Cultivating energy from agriculture is the next revolution. There may be other ways to produce hydrogen, but this is the greenest and the only agricultural one.”

Almost all of the hydrogen produced in the US comes from natural gas. But the methods used to draw hydrogen from natural gas are toxic and wasteful, according to the researchers. And, astonishingly enough, the world burns in just one year energy it took the earth over a million years to produce. That’s why Yacoby believes “we must stop being hunters and gatherers of energy. We must start producing clean energy — for our children and for our children’s children.”

Photos: Courtesy

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Israeli Researchers Use Spinach Leaves To Generate Clean Fuel http://nocamels.com/2016/09/clean-fuel-electricity-spinach/ http://nocamels.com/2016/09/clean-fuel-electricity-spinach/#respond Thu, 29 Sep 2016 09:49:59 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=48219 Popeye, the famous cartoon character, sang “I’m strong to the finish ’cause I eats me spinach, I’m Popeye the sailor man.”

Spinach, which contains iron, is indeed known for its nutritional value; but who knew it can also generate electricity? Well, a group of Israeli researchers has come up with a cell that uses sunlight to generate power from spinach leaves extract.

SEE ALSO: Green Energy: Algae-Based Biofuel Could Power Cars, Airplanes

researchers-at-the-technion-hydrogen-lab-

Researchers at the Technion’s hydrogen lab

Using a simple membrane extract from spinach leaves, researchers from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed a bio-photo-electro-chemical (BPEC) cell that produces electricity and hydrogen from water using sunlight.

A source of renewable energy

The raw material of the device is water, and its products are electric current, hydrogen and oxygen. “The unique combination of a man-made BPEC cell and plant membranes, which absorb sunlight and convert it into a flow of electrons highly efficiently, paves the way for the development of new technologies for the creation of clean fuels from renewable sources: water and solar energy,” according to a Technion statement.

SEE ALSO: Eco Wave Power Turns Seawater Into Energy At New Gibraltar Plant

The BPEC cell developed by the researchers is based on the naturally occurring process of photosynthesis in plants, in which light drives electrons that produce storable chemical energetic molecules, which are the fuels of all cells in the animal and plant worlds.

In order to utilize photosynthesis for producing electric current, the researchers added an iron-based compound to the solution. This compound mediates the transfer of electrons from the biological membranes to the electrical circuit, enabling the creation of an electric current in the cell.

“A closed cycle that begins with water and ends with water”

The electrical current can also be channeled to form hydrogen gas through the addition of electric power from a small photovoltaic cell that absorbs the excess light. This makes possible the conversion of solar energy into chemical energy that is stored as hydrogen gas formed inside the BPEC cell. This energy can be converted when necessary into heat and electricity by burning the hydrogen, in the same way hydrocarbon fuels are used.

However, unlike the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels – which emit greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere and pollute the environment – the product of hydrogen combustion is clean water. Therefore, “this is a closed cycle that begins with water and ends with water, allowing the conversion and storage of solar energy in hydrogen gas, which could be a clean and sustainable substitute for hydrocarbon fuel,” according to the researchers.

Popeye-eating-spinach

The study was conducted by doctoral students Roy Pinhassi, Dan Kallmann and Gadiel Saper, under the guidance of Prof. Noam Adir, Prof. Gadi Schuster and Prof. Avner Rothschild. It was recently published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Photos: Technion, jean pierre gallot

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Israel’s BioBee Ships 160 Million Predatory Wasps To South Africa http://nocamels.com/2016/09/biobee-natural-pesticides-wasps-south-africa/ http://nocamels.com/2016/09/biobee-natural-pesticides-wasps-south-africa/#respond Wed, 21 Sep 2016 09:48:51 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=48024 You’d think that one country unleashing millions of predatory bugs on another country would be akin to an act of war. Not so.

South Africa went so far as to pay Israeli company BioBee $24 million for 160 million killer wasps to help its farmers get rid of pests – the natural way.

The wasps are being deployed in vineyards and orchards across South Africa, significantly reducing the need to use harmful pesticides. The wasps will primarily combat mealybugs, tiny insects that can ravage crops.

A company spokesperson tells NoCamels that the cost of 1,000 wasps is $150, which means South Africa poured $24 million on the critters.

SEE ALSO: EdenShield Invents Product That Makes Crops ‘Invisible’ To Pests

stellenbosch south africa

A vineyard in Stellenbosch, South Africa

By employing predatory bugs that attack and kill harmful insects, BioBee Biological Systems has developed a technique free of chemicals. Already, the company’s solutions can be found on farms across 50 countries, including Russia and Colombia, where BioBee recently shipped a total of 1.1 billion ‘predatory’ spider mites.

The natural enemies of harmful pests 

Founded in 1984 in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, BioBee’s facility mass-produces the natural enemies of harmful pests by harvesting spiders, flies, wasps and bees for various purposes.

How does the system work? BioBee ships the wasps when they are still at the pupa stage. The larva evolves into a wasp inside the cocoon, which was previously mixed with mealybugs by BioBee. In the process of becoming an adult wasp, the critter eats the insides of the mealybug, whose body protects the maggot.

Simply put, the wasps’ larvae live inside the mealybug as parasites, but they eventually kill their hosts. After the farmer places the cocoons on the plants, and as the wasps emerge, they continue to feed on the mealybugs and their offspring go on to combat these pests as well.

Mealybugs on a flower stem

Mealybugs on a flower stem

“The subsequent established generations of the wasps will effectively control the mealybugs in the longer run,” BioBee said in a statement. “The parasitic wasp is highly valuable as a mealybug control agent in South Africa, reducing infestation levels of both the citrus mealybug and vine mealybug. It also increases the percentage of marketable yields of both citrus fruits and grapes.”

Combating super-bugs 

According to BioBee, its solution is a good investment for farmers, who may otherwise be limited in exporting crops that were sprayed with chemical pesticides, which are restricted by international laws.

Experts have long advocated for a decrease in the use of aggressive chemical pesticides, to benefit public health. In addition, pesticides damage the environment, pollute the water and air in their surroundings, as they are easily carried by the wind.

Another reason to reduce the use of pesticides is that, with time, pests develop resistance to pesticides. This encourages farmers to use more and more pesticides, while generations of powerful super-bugs proliferate.

SEE ALSO: Replacing Chemical Pesticides With Natural Anti-Pest Vegetable Oils

The alternative provided by BioBee is inspired by what is called in the scientific literature “the biological control phenomenon,” which is the natural balance of the “good bugs” eating the “bad bugs.”

The impact of this method has been measured on crops in Israel, yielding impressive results, according to BioBee: On sweet pepper crops, it reduced the use of pesticides by 75 percent; and on strawberry crops, they were reduced by 80 percent.

wasp

Every other tomato is Israeli

The current shipment of wasps is a joint venture with another Israeli company, Hishtil, which has been operating several nurseries in South Africa for nearly a decade. According to the company, 50 percent of the tomatoes sold in South Africa were grown by Israeli enterprises.

With the 160 million Israeli wasps naturally protecting these tomatoes (and other crops), local produce is bound to become much healthier and contribute to a cleaner environment.

Photos: Iryna KuchmaCrisco 1942

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Reports: Scientists From Israel, Iran And Pakistan Develop New Particle Accelerator In The Middle East http://nocamels.com/2016/09/israel-iran-pakistan-middle-east-particle-accelerator/ http://nocamels.com/2016/09/israel-iran-pakistan-middle-east-particle-accelerator/#respond Tue, 06 Sep 2016 08:21:06 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=47680 This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Israeli scientists are reportedly participating with colleagues from Pakistan, Iran, Egypt and Jordan on a $100 million project to develop the Middle East’s new particle accelerator — the Synchrotron-Light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, or SESAME.

Construction of the site, which is due to be formally inaugurated next spring in the hillside town of al-Balqa, northwest of Amman, is underway and the first experiments are expected to take place this autumn, The Guardian reported.

SEE ALSO: Israel, Iran, Jordan And Turkey In Joint Science Project

SESAME’s members are Iran, Pakistan, Israel, Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Bahrain — a group among which diplomatic discomfort is rife: Iran and Pakistan don’t recognize Israel, for example, nor does Turkey recognize Cyprus.

Sesame particle accelerator

SESAME particle accelerator

Iran’s participation continued even after two of its scientists, who were involved in the project, quantum physicist Masoud Alimohammadi and nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari, were assassinated in operations blamed on Israel’s Mossad, The Guardian said.

“We’re cooperating very well together,” Giorgio Paolucci, the scientific director of SESAME told The Guardian. “That’s the dream.”

“I don’t know how many places there are where all these governments have representatives who have the opportunity to come and talk to each other,” he added.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Startup Invents Laser Beam To Monitor Tiniest Particles In Water And Oil

Progress on the accelerator is made through government officials meetings, discussing technicalities and coming to agreements, unaffected by the enmity they may feel outside the conference halls, the report said.

The aim of SESAME is to “foster scientific and technological excellence in the Middle East and neighboring countries” and prevent or reverse regional brain drain “by enabling world-class scientific research in subjects ranging from biology, archaeology and medical sciences through basic properties of materials science, physics, chemistry, and life sciences,” SESAME says on its website.

It also aims to build “scientific and cultural bridges among diverse societies, and contribute to a culture of peace through international cooperation in science.”

Sesame_Members-new

To read the full article, click here

Photos: SESAMEDon Richards

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Will The Explosion Of AMOS-6 Satellite Halt Israel’s Space Program? http://nocamels.com/2016/09/explosion-amos-6-satellite-israel-space-program/ http://nocamels.com/2016/09/explosion-amos-6-satellite-israel-space-program/#respond Sun, 04 Sep 2016 11:37:29 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=47614 Following the explosion of Facebook’s Israeli-built satellite AMOS-6 last week during a test launch by Elon Musk’s company SpaceX in Florida, all eyes are on the future of Israel’s space industry.

SEE ALSO: NASA And Israel Ink Deal On Space Cooperation

SpaceX, which designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft, was set to launch Israeli communication satellite AMOS-6 last Thursday, when an explosion destroyed both.

AMOS-6 was touted as Israel’s most advanced satellite, the latest in a series of six which are mostly operated by Israeli company Spacecom and developed by its partner, Israel Aerospace Industries.

The biggest promise: Free internet access in Africa 

Its goal had been to beam free internet across sub-Saharan Africa for Facebook, which in October 2015 had announced it would launch AMOS-6. Currently, only 17 percent of the population in the region has access to the internet.

AMOS-6 satellite

AMOS-6 satellite

The project was part of Facebook’s Internet.org, a non-profit initiative that brings together technology leaders, nonprofit organizations and local communities to provide Internet access to the most remote regions of the world.

But the deal with Facebook – which aimed to connect millions of Africans to the internet – has now been canceled due to the surprise explosion, Spacecom said on Saturday.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his page on Thursday: “I am deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent.” However, he stressed that Facebook remains “committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided.”

The cancellation of the project is a blow to Israel’s Spacecom, since Facebook was expected to pay $100 million for the use of AMOS-6 in the years 2016-2032. Spacecom was in the midst of being acquired by Chinese company Xinwei for $285 million, a deal which now might not come to fruition, since one of the conditions was a successful launch of AMOS-6.

Meanwhile, future customers of AMOS-6 (such as television companies) are being diverted to the already orbiting AMOS-2 and AMOS-3 satellites, according to Spacecom.

Today, the company said in a report to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) that it expects a $173 million insurance refund for AMOS-6, which the company developed for the Israeli Airspace Industries (IAI), a government-controlled corporation. In addition, SpaceX – the launcher – is expected to reimburse Spacecom for $50 million for failing to launch the Israeli satellite.

SEE ALSO: Life on Mars? Israelis Design 3D-Printed Space Home For NASA

In its report to TASE, IAI confirmed today it has insurance funds to cover the loss of the satellite. IAI and Spacecom are waiting to learn more about the explosion from SpaceX, which is investigating the accident and is expected to provide a report.

More opportunities for the Israeli space industry 

Founded 23 years ago in Israel, Spacecom operates an AMOS satellite fleet; it’s traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, with a market cap of $201 million, down sharply from last year’s $253 million.

But beyond the loss of AMOS-6, and the damages to Spacecom and its customers, questions are now being asked about what this means for the Israeli space industry, which has collaborated with NASA on several projects, including a future 3D-printed space home for its astronauts.

SpaceX rocket that carried AMOS-6 exploded Sept. 1

The SpaceX rocket that carried AMOS-6 exploded Sept. 1

The prestigious magazine Defense News estimates that the explosion and the potential cancellation of Spacecom’s sale to China could turn out to be good news for the Israeli space industry.

With the Chinese deal clouded by uncertainty, the magazine posits that “IAI may have greater chances of snagging an Amos-6 replacement order, as well as follow-on contracts, that may have gone to non-Israeli firms once the sale was complete.”

Photos: USLuanchReport, Facebook, Brian Solis

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Out Of Thin Air: Israeli Scientists Harvest Drinking Water From Air http://nocamels.com/2016/09/drinking-water-from-air/ http://nocamels.com/2016/09/drinking-water-from-air/#respond Thu, 01 Sep 2016 08:00:28 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=47534 Water shortage is a pressing issue worldwide: According to the UN, 1.2 billion people (almost one-fifth of the world’s population) live in areas where water is scarce, and another 500 million people are nearing this situation. It’s no wonder, then, that the world is seeking to produce and conserve water – both for drinking and for agriculture – especially during droughts.

If only we could only find a way to produce water out of thin air.  Fortunately, Israeli researchers say we can.

Scientists at The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, have proposed an innovative system for harvesting safe drinking water from air.

Energy-saving method, higher quality water

Atmosphere contains water vapor in amounts comparable to all the surface and underground water on the planet. But current machines that collect water from the atmospheric reservoir have major limitations. They use electrical refrigeration to cool the air and condense the vapor and that consumes a lot of energy.

SEE ALSO: TaKaDu’s Water-Saving Technology Saves Australia Millions Of Dollars

Capturing atmospheric moisture is not a new invention in itself because atmospheric water generators for commercial and domestic use already exist. However, the new device designed by Israeli scientists requires less energy to produce high-quality water from air compared to existing systems, according to the report in American Chemical Society’s journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The new Israeli system uses a liquid desiccant, a substance that promotes drying, to first separate the water vapor from air and then cool only the vapor. Their calculations show that this approach would result in 20 to 65 per cent energy savings over the standard system.

“The liquid desiccant separation (LDS) stage that is integrated into atmospheric moisture harvesting (AMH) systems can work under a wide range of environmental conditions using low grade or solar heating as a supplementary energy source, and that the performance of the combined system is superior,” the report says.

Better than desalination

Desalination of seawater, removal of salt (sodium chloride) and other minerals from the sea water to make it suitable for human consumption and/or industrial use, by reverse osmosis, a water purification technology that uses a semipermeable membrane to remove ions, molecules, and larger particles from drinking water, is also a potential source of fresh water, but it is not applicable in countries that do not have access to the sea. Besides, desalination requires large capital investments in piping and pumping infrastructure and in its operation and maintenance. Fortunately for the Israeli system, atmospheric moisture is accessible essentially everywhere.

SEE ALSO: Could Groundwater Desalination Solve California’s Water Crisis?

How it works

The atmosphere contains about 13,000 cubic kilometers of freshwater, 98 percent of it in the form of water vapor, says the report. The vapor must be condensed to liquid water. The existing atmospheric moisture harvesting (AMH) systems, where standard electrical compression-expansion refrigeration unit is used, can save significant energy by first separating the vapor from the air before it enters the condenser, such that only the vapor is cooled rather than the entire air bulk.

In the new design, separation of water vapor from the air is achieved by using a liquid desiccant. The water vapor absorbed by the desiccant can be freed using low-grade or solar heat.

The liquid-desiccant vapor separation (LDS) subsystem was designed to operate continuously in a closed-cycle, says the report. “The product of this subsystem is pure water vapor, which is then condensed by a standard refrigeration system without the burden of cooling the air.”

In general, the combined LDS-AMH system is expected to save up to 65 percent of the energy expenses of water production relative to off-the-shelf direct-cooling AMH systems, the scientists claim. “Scaling up the LDS system to produce larger amounts of freshwater is possible simply by installing additional absorbing units around a single desorber-condenser core.”

Bacteria-free

Another important advantage, according to the report, is that the water coming out of the LDS-AMH system will be free of airborne bacteria since “the coil of the condenser does not come into contact with the ambient air but only with pure vapor that has been liberated from the desiccant solution.”

So, the next time you get thirsty, consider that it really is possible to produce water out of thin air.

drinking-water

Photos: Technion, Pixabay

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Smart Plant Drugs Birds Into Forgetting Their Bitter Taste http://nocamels.com/2016/08/bitter-nectar-attracts-pollinating-birds/ http://nocamels.com/2016/08/bitter-nectar-attracts-pollinating-birds/#respond Sun, 28 Aug 2016 07:59:40 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=47111 What can a plant whose nectar is bitter do to make pollinators return to visit its flowers and ensure its continued propagation? It can make them forget the taste of its nectar, according to a new Israeli study.

The nectar of nicotiana glauca – a species of wild tobacco known as ‘tree tobacco’ – is composed of a particularly bitter combination of nicotine and other substances, and yet sunbirds never stop visiting the plant. A study conducted at the University of Haifa points to the reason why: The mixture of chemicals in the nectar impairs the sunbird’s memory!

SEE ALSO: Wildlife Photographer Ofer Levy Wins International Acclaim With Awe-Inspiring Images Of Birds

tree tobaco

Nicotiana glauca, also known as tree tobacco

Conducted by Dr. Shai Markman, the study reveals that even though its nectar’s bitter taste is likely to repel rather than attract pollinators, “in practice, the sunbird – the main pollinator of tree tobacco – never stops visiting the plant,” Markman said.

Does survival depend on sweetness?

The survival of some plants depends on their ability to attract pollinators drawn to the sweet nectar of their flowers. But some plants also need protection from grazing animals, which is achieved by the presence of bitter and toxic substances, like nicotine or caffeine, in their leaves. This mechanism is a double-edged sword, because the same substance that protects the plant’s leaves is also found in the nectar of its flowers, giving it a bitter taste – which may repel some of its pollinators.

sunbird

Sunbird

Tree tobacco suffers from the same problem: its leaves are protected not only by nicotine but by anabasine, a substance more bitter and toxic than nicotine, and the two substances also trickle into the nectar of its flowers.

“An incentive to sample more and more flowers”

Despite the fact that consumption of low concentrations of nicotine for short periods of time is known to help focus attention and improve learning, this study shows that when it’s combined with anabasine, learning ability actually decreases, meaning the sunbirds forget they didn’t like the nectar.

Even better, the researchers estimate that it takes about half an hour for the mixture of nicotine and anabasine to influence the sunbirds. In other words, during the first half hour the birds can still learn that the nectar is bitter and avoid it, which means that they won’t consume enough of the mixture to impair their memory long-term.

“The sunbird is curious by nature, and it samples a large number of flowers in its vicinity,” Markman said. “The tree tobacco plant produces mixtures containing different proportions of anabasine and nicotine in each of the flowers in its clusters, so that in some of them the bitterness is much less pronounced, so much so that in some flowers the nectar may even be very sweet. In this way, the sunbird has an incentive to sample more and more flowers. It is also a mechanism that promotes pollination, not only increased consumption of the nectar mixture.”

red flowers poppies field

According to Markman, the plant might not have undergone “a distinct process of evolutionary selection to produce bitter nectar, but because this ‘mistake’ may be advantageous to its reproduction – it results in the nectar remaining bitter, at least for now.”

SEE ALSO: The Truth About Bees And Their Love For Sweets

His research could have implications for future studies of crops, whose nectar contains substances which may affect the performance of pollinators and thereby affect crop yields.

yellow tulips

Photos: Miwasatoshi, MDFMelissa Askewcorina ardeleanu

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Mini-Amphitheaters Clean Up Noise Pollution, Give Street Bands A Stage http://nocamels.com/2016/08/mini-amphitheatres-noise-pollution/ http://nocamels.com/2016/08/mini-amphitheatres-noise-pollution/#respond Thu, 25 Aug 2016 08:00:15 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=47319 Life in the city can be wonderfully exciting – unless you happen to have an aversion to noise. Construction, honking cars stuck in traffic and airplanes flying overhead are just some of the contributors to the noise pollution which significantly harms the quality of life in otherwise beautiful urban landscapes.

SEE ALSO: Street Philharmonic Puts Street Musicians On Stage

Added to the mix are the sounds of street performers—musicians, actors, artists—all trying to ply their trade in the midst of the hustle and bustle of major cities worldwide.

To combat this problem, Aviv Even, a student at Israel’s Shenkar School of Engineering and Design , came up with an innovative solution called a “mini-amphitheater”. The structures are aesthetically pleasing, sidewalk-size-appropriate amphitheaters, which can be used not only to block out unpleasant street noises, but also to provide a venue for street musicians to perform, thereby enhancing the cultural landscape of a city.

NoisePollution3

Mini-amphitheater

A Tel Aviv native, Even had enough of the irritating sounds which accompany life in a big city. Seeking to make a positive impact by both reducing noise pollution and improving the quality of life for the city’s residents, she came up with the idea of mini-amphitheaters.

SEE ALSO: Stunning Hanging Garden Will Cover Israel’s Busiest Highway

NoisePollution

Sound map of Ben Gurion Blvd. in Tel Aviv. The blue represents sources of noise pollution.

“I sought to determine which sounds were more pleasant for people and which were more grating—what caused people to want to be in an area, and what caused them to want to leave. Something that I discovered is that noise pollution is just as effective at deterring people from being in an area as is physical pollution,” she told Ynet News.

Mapping city sounds

Aviv stood on the corner of a major downtown intersection in Tel Aviv and used a decibel reader to determine where the loudest sounds on the street were coming from and what was causing them. She mapped those areas out and used her maps to determine the best way to reduce the sounds.

The mini-amphitheater is able to direct the sounds of the people who are performing in it—whether they be street musicians performing musical instruments or street actors giving a performance—to an audience without disturbing the other people living or walking in the surrounding area.

“Sound naturally goes up, so by performing inside of these mini-amphitheaters, the sound is able to be directed towards an audience more fully. This also eliminates the need for speakers, as the sound is naturally amplified,” she explained.

To design the structure, Even spoke to street performers to determine their needs, thereby creating the ideal size and depth of the shell so that it would be not only comfortable for the street musicians to perform in, but also disrupt the surrounding foot traffic as little as possible.

Even has already sold one of her portable mini-amphitheaters, but she hopes that in the near future the city of Tel Aviv and other cities around the world will use her design not only to beautify their cities visually, but also provide a way to mitigate noise pollution and increase their good vibrations.

Tel Aviv: Skyline (night)

Tel Aviv night skyline

Photos: Aviv Even

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Bug Grub: Israeli Startup Flying Spark Breeds Protein-Rich Edible Insects To End World Hunger http://nocamels.com/2016/08/flying-spark-fruit-fly-larvae-protein/ http://nocamels.com/2016/08/flying-spark-fruit-fly-larvae-protein/#respond Sun, 14 Aug 2016 06:20:25 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=47320 It’s hard enough to get your kids to eat their vegetables, try convincing them to eat insects. Although it may sound a bit nauseating, fruit fly larvae is about to be consumed by humans.

With the global food shortage on the mind of Israeli startup Flying Spark – whose motto is to “fill 9 billion bowls by 2040” – the company is developing protein powder made of fruit fly larvae, claimed to be more sustainable, nutritious, and eco-friendly.

As the world’s population grows far beyond the 7 billion mark, food is becoming scarce in several parts of the world: 795 million people around the globe do not have enough food to lead a healthy life, according to the World Food Programme. And that’s why Flying Spark is developing new sources of protein for human consumption.

SEE ALSO: These Israeli Companies Fight World Hunger With Innovative Technologies

FlyingSpArk products

Flying Spark products

Founded in 2014 by serial entrepreneur Eran Gronich and insect specialist Dr. Yoram Yerushalmi, the company has so far raised 1$ million, and is on track to mass producing its insect-based powder in about a year.

Gronich decided to produce protein from insects after attending a TED talk, which focused on the upcoming food crisis and the challenges of feeding nine billion people by 2040. The speaker suggested that the world needs to invest in insect consumption, and Gronich was fascinated. “The population of the world is growing, oceans are being over-fished and the prices of meat and chicken are soaring,” he tells NoCamels. “Still, the demand for protein is rising.”

SEE ALSO: Essential Protein May Be Key In Slowing Down Biological Clock

There are many advantages to making the switch from meat to insect protein: The fruit fly larvae are rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, and protein. In addition, the company doesn’t use hormones or antibiotics, as opposed to many cattle ranches. The benefits to the environment are that these insects don’t consume as much food, water and land as cows, thus minimizing greenhouse gas pollution.

Overcoming the yuck factor

The process of creating the powder is relatively simple, and is done by a machine with two units – one to farm the larvae and the other to process the larvae into powder. “We take the larvae through a process that includes boiling, grounding and separating the fat and the protein, and then we dry the protein and turn it into powder,” Gronich explains.

Naturally, the company is facing a huge challenge trying to educate people to consume larvae. There’s a huge psychological barrier “because it is not natural for people to eat insects,” he says. However, “our idea is to take the insect and change its form into powder, put the powder in another food that people like, and that way, it will be much easier to overcome the yuck factor.”

The company plans to sell its protein powder directly to manufacturers in order for them to incorporate it in their products, ranging from breads and cereals to tofu. In cereals, for example, the powder can replace up to 40 percent of the flour, and enrich it with potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

Hamburger or larvae-burger?

The most shocking product the startup is about to offer is a burger made out of pure fruit fly larvae, achieved by grinding the larvae. “It’s 100 percent meat without killing any cow and without polluting the environment,” Gronich says. “We can control the taste by adding flavor.”

cows

Flying Spark is competing against other companies racing to develop the protein of the future, including Israeli startup Steak TzarTzar, which also grows insects such as grasshoppers for human consumption.

Currently, Flying Spark is still in its research and development phase and plans to go to market sometime in the next eight months. In the future, the company will not only sell the powder to food manufacturers and athletes, but will also produce its own line of powder-enriched food products.

Looking further into the future, Gronich sees an opportunity to work with the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and other NGOs in order to help “areas in the world that are suffering from hunger and provide them with high-quality protein.”

fruit flies

Photos: Courtesy

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Vegetarian Meat Eaters: Israeli Startup SuperMeat Grows Chicken Meat In A LabMeat Eaters: Israeli Startup SuperMeat Grows Chicken Meat In A Lab http://nocamels.com/2016/07/supermeat-breeds-chicken-lab-superfood/ http://nocamels.com/2016/07/supermeat-breeds-chicken-lab-superfood/#respond Mon, 25 Jul 2016 11:06:13 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=46788 Every day at NoCamels we write about Israeli innovations that can have global impact. But if startup SuperMeat has its way, it could resolve some of the world’s biggest problems; including hunger, pollution and animal cruelty.

SuperMeat is working on a machine that can grow a full chicken breast, using the stem cells of a real chicken. Yes, you got it right: This would be actual chicken meat, but not from an actual chicken.

SEE ALSO: Eating A Steak Could Cost Us Our Planet, Researchers Find

SuperMeat’s breeding method would use up 99 percent less land, release 96 percent less greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and use 96 percent less water than the traditional meat industry, which is one of the world’s largest polluters.

Co-founded by Koby Barak, a longtime vegan and animal rights activist, SuperMeat recently launched a crowdfunding campaign and already raised $117,000 for the building of its meat-making machine. Its technology is based on research by Hebrew University Prof. Yaakov Nahmias, who is an expert in chemical engineering, stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.

According to Nahmias, SuperMeat is made by isolating cells obtained from a small biopsy that does not hurt the chicken. These cells are then organized and placed in an environment that imitates the animal’s physiology, making them organically develop and grow into muscles just like they normally would inside a chicken’s body tissues.

fried chicken

The company stresses that SuperMeat is “real meat,” and shouldn’t be compared with substitutes such as tempeh (tofu) and other so-called “fake meats.” Not only is it real meat, it’s also enhanced with nutrients and vitamins, making it a superfood, according to the company.

In addition, Koby Barak says his chicken would be Kosher and be much cheaper, as it wouldn’t require pricey antibiotics that are usually given to chickens.

Fighting world hunger

Global food security is an ongoing concern: 795 million people around the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy life, according to the World Food Programme. With various Israeli startups trying to produce more food with less resources – such as Israeli startup Steak TzarTzar, which grows crickets for human consumption – SuperMeat is trying to provide more food while saving up on land and water, as well as reducing the use of antibiotics.

SEE ALSO: ‘3D Print’ Your Own Personalized Foods With ‘The Genie’!

Another segment of the population that SuperMeat might please are vegans and vegetarians. While the public has become more aware in recent years of the often disastrous treatment of animals grown for slaughter, giving up meat can prove to be quite challenging for those who rely on it as a source of protein. With SuperMeat, people could enjoy the best of both worlds: eating meat without hurting animals.

Two weeks ago, the SuperMeat team launched a campaign on Indiegogo, which has already raised $117,000, surpassing its initial $100,000 goal. With $500,000, SuperMeat says it would be able to fully fund its cultured-meat machine prototype.

roasted chicken

Rebeca Maia contributed to this report

Photos and video: SuperMeat, Brian Chan

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Feeding The World: Could Israeli AgTech Startups End World Hunger? http://nocamels.com/2016/07/israeli-agtech-startups-agriculture-technology/ http://nocamels.com/2016/07/israeli-agtech-startups-agriculture-technology/#respond Thu, 14 Jul 2016 08:00:40 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=46453 As the world’s population grows far beyond the 7 billion mark, food and potable water are becoming scarce in several parts of the world. 795 million people around the globe do not have enough food to lead a healthy life, according to the World Food Programme, and 1.1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water, according to the World Health Organization.

SEE ALSO: In Face Of Water Crisis, Indian Minister Praises Israeli Technologies: “Israel Is My Guru”

In face of global food and water shortages, several Israeli AgTech startups and companies are working to meet the ever-growing demand of the world’s expanding population, through agricultural technologies that enhance crops, conserve water and soil, and keep produce pest-free. NoCamels highlights nine of the most intriguing Israeli AgTech companies working to maximize the world’s natural resources.

vineyards,

Sensilize: Making the most out of soil

Sensilize strives to make the most out of a soil’s potential. Based in Haifa, the startup gathers information about a plot of land with unique sensors that provide intricate data, allowing farmers to tailor their crops to the soil’s conditions. This method allows farmers to adapt the quantities of seeding, fertilizers and water to the quantities required by the land, thus cutting costs and producing more crops, according to Sensilize.

Founded by Yoav Zur and Dr. Robi Stark in 2013, the company has so far raised $1.5 million.

BioBee: Turning mites into natural pesticides

By unleashing predatory mites onto farmlands all over the world, BioBee has helped farmers get rid of harmful insects without the use of chemicals since 1984. Located in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, BioBee breeds different kinds of spiders, bees and flies that prey on and eat harmful bugs. The technology helps farmers export their produce, since international regulations limit the commerce of crops that were sprayed with chemical pesticides.

The company has already exported its products to Colombia, Russia, South Africa, and India, among others.

spider by alex keda

miRobot: Robots can milk your cows!

miRobot has developed a multi-stall robotic milking system to make the milking of cows more efficient. Essentially, these automatic milking systems perform many of the duties usually executed by trained operators, such as cleaning, stimulating, and performing post-milking routines, among other tasks. By providing an alternative to human labor, miRobots cuts salary costs and increases milk production.

Founded in 2011 by Tal Bareket and David Rubin, the company has not disclosed its financial information.

cows

ROOTS Sustainable Agricultural Technologies: Temperature control that enhances crops

Israeli company ROOTS Sustainable Agricultural Technologies aims to yield more crops by keeping the soil at its ideal temperature. Its technology involves placing water-filled pipes in the soil, regulating its temperature to the optimal condition. In other words, if the soil is too warm, Roots can cool it; and if it’s too cold, Roots will make it warmer. This technology is said to yield better results for crops such as basil, strawberries and lettuce. The pipes can also dispense water, fertilizers and pesticides around the roots.

The company was founded in 2009 by Dr. Sharon Devir and Boaz Wachtel.

Tal-Ya: Capturing dew for agricultural irrigation

Following the trend of growing more food with less water, Tal-Ya manufactures reusable plastic trays that capture dew from the air. These trays, which are made of recycled plastic, reduce the water needed by crops by 50 percent, cost $3-$5 per piece and last for 10 years.

Tal-Ya, which means ‘God’s dew’ in Hebrew, has benefitted farmers in Israel, the US, China, Chile, Georgia, Sri Lanka and Australia ever since its founding in 2005 by Avi Tamir.

Morflora: A “vaccine” for plants

Morflora’s “flu shot for plants” technology called TraitUP, “vaccinates” plants and seeds against a variety of diseases while simultaneously injecting them with new traits. One of the upsides of Morflora is that these traits are not inheritable, so future generations can opt whether to employ TraitUP to other batches of crops.

Even though genetic modification of plants is a controversial issue, Morflora claims that its solution consists of a middle ground that provides a solution to feed the world’s ever-growing population.

The company was founded in 2008 and is supported by private investors; TraitUP is a patent-pending technology developed at Israel’s Hebrew University by Prof. Haim Rabinowitch and Prof. Ilan Sela.

Netafim: Implementing drip irrigation to save water

No AgTech review is complete without Netafim. This veteran Israeli company is a pioneer in the field of drip irrigation. Netafim is now helping numerous countries around the world conserve water and save money by supplying plants with just the right amount of water.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Experts Help California Grow More Rice With Less Water

Its drip irrigation technique was developed back in the 60s by Israeli engineer and inventor Simcha Blass, along with Kibbutz Hazerim, which later started manufacturing the original drip irrigation systems on site.

Today, Netafim is the world’s leading manufacturer of drip irrigation systems, which save 30-70 percent of the water used with overhead sprays, oscillating sprinklers or rotors.

drip irrigation

GreenWall: Vertical gardens save water and soil

By building vertical gardens in high-rise buildings all over the world, GreenWall takes self-sufficiency to a whole new level. With minimal amounts of water and soil, residents of these buildings can now grow their own food in built-in personal greenhouses, including staple foods such as rice, corn and wheat.

Thus, GreenWall saves considerable space when implementing small modular units onto a building’s sidewalls. Furthermore, the technology also helps save water through a drip irrigation system developed by Netafim.

GreenWall, which was founded in 2009 by engineer and gardening pioneer Guy Barness, has developed an advanced technology with which it erects gardens that line the walls, both inside and outside of buildings, taking up less space compared to conventional gardens.

GreenWall

EdenShield: Non-toxic bug repellent

EdenShield combats harmful insects with a natural, toxin-free extract that masks the odors of plants. The extract, based on desert plants that grow in Israel, leads these bugs to believe the crops aren’t where they actually are, so the pests leave them alone.

According to EdenShield, which was founded in 2012 by Yaniv Kitron and has raised $1M, “it’s like putting a ‘nose clip’ on bugs.”

Photos and videos: Courtesy of the companies

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Israeli Company Ayala Purifies Greywater Using Plants http://nocamels.com/2016/06/ayala-purifies-water-using-plants/ http://nocamels.com/2016/06/ayala-purifies-water-using-plants/#respond Thu, 30 Jun 2016 07:47:55 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=46194 Israel is known for pioneering and perfecting water technologies – from drip irrigation to water recycling and desalination. But using plants to cleanse wastewater? Well, that might top it all.

Israeli company Ayala Water & Ecology provides a solution to water purification which lies within nature itself. Its flagship product, called Natural Biological System (NBS), provides efficient and sustainable purification of water, in what CEO Eli Cohen calls “active landscaping.”

SEE ALSO: In Face Of Global Shortage, World Leaders Praise Israel’s Water Technologies

water lilies

After inserting containers full of plants with remediation powers, sediments and purifying properties into an existing landscape, the plants degrade, accumulate and extract the contaminant particles from the water by way of natural processes, such as runoff and rainfall, acting as a biological filter.

“Modular treatment compartments are sewn into the natural topography to minimize energy requirements,” according to the company. “Inside the treatment compartments is a combination of biotic and abiotic components, plants and aggregates selected for their physical and chemical properties and varying internal hydraulic layouts.”

SEE ALSO: Indian Minister Praises Israeli Water Technologies: “Israel Is My Guru”

One of Ayala's qater purification sites

One of Ayala’s water purification sites

The system is also designed to function with minimal human and mechanical intervention, reducing maintenance costs. According to Cohen, construction costs of one NBS system are 20 percent less than those of a conventional wastewater treatment plant. This sustainable solution to water purification also uses minimal amounts of fossil-based fuels in order to operate.

However, the system requires twice as much land as mechanical systems in order to function. Still, “Ayala is trying to give a holistic solution to a paradox the world is facing,” Cohen tells NoCamels. “On the one hand, there’s great demand for better water; but recycling sewage water often comes with high energy use.”

And that’s why the company is using mostly plants found in nature to purify greywater. After the water is cleansed, it can be reused by factories and farms, as well as by parks and households. The company’s systems are already installed at hundreds of sites in Israel, Europe, and the US.

Some of Ayala’s clients include large manufacturers such as L’Oreal, and municipalities like Hyderabad, India. Cohen declined to discuss the company’s financial standing.

Founded by an engineer-turned-farmer

Ayala Water & Ecology was officially founded in 2002 by engineer-turned-farmer Cohen, who started developing the unique system some 26 years ago, when he moved to the Galilee, a rural area in northern Israel. “I pledged to live in the Galilee and fell in love with agriculture,” he says. “I was looking to create something new, and set my eyes on water plants.”

As for the future of Ayala, Cohen hopes it will help “change the world for the next generation.”

ayala infographic

Photos: Pamela Nhlengethwa, Ayala

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Israel’s BioBee To Ship 500 Million ‘Predatory Bugs’ To Russia http://nocamels.com/2016/06/biobee-spiders-natural-pesticides-russia/ http://nocamels.com/2016/06/biobee-spiders-natural-pesticides-russia/#respond Sun, 19 Jun 2016 11:59:47 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=45941 Israeli company BioBee Biological Systems will ship 500 million “predatory bugs” to Russia to help its farmers get rid of pests – the natural way.

SEE ALSO: Spider Feeds Itself To Offspring

By employing predatory bugs that attack and kill harmful insects, BioBee has developed a technique free of chemicals.  Already, their solution is being deployed in farms across 50 countries, including Colombia, where BioBee shipped 600 million spider mites.

spider

Also dubbed “Bio Persimilis,” these spiders are as big as the spider mites they chase, about one or two millimeters long. They move quickly, hunt their prey and pierce it, sucking out its fluids.

The predatory bugs shipped to Russia – including Bio Persimilis, as well as other mites – “have been shown to benefit agriculture, eliminating pests in tomato and cucumber fields, as well as in rose fields,” the company said on Sunday. It added: “BioBee is helping Russia exterminate pests in a natural way, without harmful toxins.”

Bumblebees were also sent to Russia in order to encourage pollination of vegetables. In addition, the bees sent from Israel will be deployed in cherry orchards across Russia.

cherries

The natural enemies of harmful pests 

Founded in 1984 in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, BioBee’s facility mass-produces the natural enemies of harmful pests by harvesting spiders, flies and bees for various purposes.

Selling its products to 50 countries worldwide, including India, Chile and South Africa, BioBee‘s spiders are said to cost about $180 – more than four times the price of gold ($42 per gram)!

SEE ALSO: BioBee To Ship 600 Million Spiders To Colombia

The company maintains that this is a good investment for farmers, who may otherwise be limited in exporting crops that were sprayed with chemical pesticides, which are limited by international regulations.

Benefiting public health 

Bred by BioBee, the Persimilis spider can keep pests under control in several crops; such as peppers, tomatoes, beans, maize, cucumber, melon, strawberries and eggplant. Contrary to other mites, Persimilis is said not to cause harm to the plants it protects.

Experts have long advocated for a decrease in the use of aggressive chemical pesticides, to benefit public health. In addition, pesticides damage the environment, pollute the water and air in their surroundings, as they are easily carried by the wind.

Another reason to reduce the use of pesticides is that, with time, pests develop resistance to extensive pesticide use. This encourages farmers to use more and more pesticides, while generations of powerful super-bugs proliferate.

crop duster agri pesticides

Reducing pesticides by 80 percent 

The alternative provided by BioBee is inspired by what is called in the scientific literature “the biological control phenomenon,” which is the natural balance of the “good bugs” eating the “bad bugs.”

The impact of this method has been measured on crops in Israel, yielding impressive results, according to BioBee: On sweet pepper crops, it reduced the use of pesticides by 75 percent; and on strawberry crops, they were reduced by 80 percent.

biobee spiders

BioBee’s spider mites

Photos: BioBee, Roger SmithAlex KedaInma Ibáñez

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Not Just Asthma: Exposure To Air Pollution Raises Heart Disease Risk http://nocamels.com/2016/05/air-pollution-raises-heart-disease-risk/ http://nocamels.com/2016/05/air-pollution-raises-heart-disease-risk/#respond Mon, 30 May 2016 08:52:42 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=45526 Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health, known to cause lung cancer and other respiratory diseases, including asthma. According to the World Health Organization, outdoor air pollution causes 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide annually.

SEE ALSO: Exposure To Air Pollution In Womb Raises Risk Of Autism, Study Finds

But air pollution is not only linked to respiratory diseases. A new Israeli study shows that air pollution can worsen blood sugar levels, cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease, particularly in people with diabetes.

Health News: Israeli Researchers Use Skin Cells To Repair Damaged Hearts

The study, which was conducted by Israel’s Ben Gurion University and the Soroka University Medical Center, was recently published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

“The continuous nature of exposure and the number of people affected gives us cause for concern”

“While air pollution is linked with relatively small changes in cardio-metabolic risk factors, the continuous nature of exposure and the number of people affected gives us cause for concern,” Dr. Victor Novack of BGU and the Soroka University Medical Center, who led the study, said in a statement. “Even small changes in glucose levels and glycemic control can contribute to increased risk of cardiovascular disease.”

SEE ALSO: Following Israel’s Most Devastating Sandstorm, Eyes Are On Air Pollution App BreezoMeter

The study examined the effects of air pollution exposure on 73,117 adults living in southern Israel, where levels of particulate matter can escalate due to its location in the global dust belt.

To assess air pollution, the researchers used daily satellite data on how much sunlight was blocked by particles in the air. By examining this and other weather data, the scientists developed a model that allowed them to estimate daily air pollution exposure for each study participant using their address.

They then analyzed the results from 600,000 blood samples taken from the study subjects between 2003 and 2012. All of the study participants were known smokers or were diagnosed with diabetes, ischemic heart disease (a disease characterized by reduced blood supply to the heart), and hypertension (or dyslipidemia), which occurs when levels of fats in the blood are too high or low.

The study found participants tended to have higher blood sugar levels and a poorer cholesterol profile when they were exposed to higher levels of air particulates in the preceding three months compared to those exposed to lower levels of air pollutants. In all, particulate matter exposure was associated with increases in blood glucose, LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol), and triglycerides, or fats in the blood. Exposure to particulate matter was also linked to lower levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol.

The associations were stronger for people with diabetes; however, those who were taking medications other than insulin to treat diabetes experienced a protective effect. This group experienced smaller changes in blood sugar and cholesterol levels following air pollution exposure.

diabetes

Although air pollution did not have an immediate effect on blood test results taken within as little as seven days of exposure, the researchers found that cumulative exposure over the course of three months was tied to risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

“We found an association between air pollution exposure in the intermediate term and undesirable changes in cholesterol,” researcher Maayan Yitshak Sade of BGU and Soroka University Medical Center said in a statement. “This suggests that cumulative exposure to air pollution over the course of a lifetime could lead to elevated risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Other authors of the study include: Itai Kloog of BGU; Idit F. Liberty of BGU and Asuta Medical Center in Beer-Sheva; and Joel Schwartz of the Harvard School of Public Health. The research was supported by a grant from Israel’s Environment and Health Fund. 

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Israeli Experts Help California Grow More Rice With Less Water http://nocamels.com/2016/05/israel-california-rice-water-drought/ http://nocamels.com/2016/05/israel-california-rice-water-drought/#respond Mon, 02 May 2016 07:40:27 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=44194 Drought is a continued concern for farmers in California, especially those who grow rice, which requires large amounts of water. Now, a project based on Israeli research and water technology aims to create one of the first sustainable rice farms in the US, which will reduce water use at the 17,244-acre Conaway Ranch in Woodland, California.

SEE ALSO: Could Groundwater Desalination Solve California’s Water Crisis?

The project seeks to better understand if rice can be grown effectively with subsurface drip irrigation. The method consists of a series of pipes that deliver water directly to the roots of the plant and has the potential to reduce water usage, as well as save on fertilizers and improve weed control.

rice

“We believe this initiative represents the first use of drip irrigation in the US for a rice crop,” Kyriakos Tsakopoulos, owner of the ranch, said in a statement. “We couldn’t ask for better partners.”

The ranch has enlisted the help of Israel’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU) and drip-irrigation leader Netafim, which have experience growing rice in arid regions. “This effort could serve as a model for other farms and potentially save hundreds of thousands of acre feet of water in California if widely adopted,” according to Tsakopoulos.

SEE ALSO: How Israeli Desalination Technology Is Helping Solve California’s Devastating Drought

Bryce Lundberg, vice president of agriculture for Lundberg Family Farms, which is one of the world’s largest producers of organic rice and whole grain products, agrees. “As a partner in this cutting-edge project, we are hopeful that this concept could provide farmers with a revolutionary form of rice production not only in California, but wherever rice is grown worldwide,” he said in a statement. “We are always looking to implement new technologies that can benefit growers and promote sustainable farming practices, and we hope that the project’s success can be duplicated to improve organic weed management while producing environmental and conservation benefits.”

“Helping farmers reduce their water consumption”

Over the past 18 months, BGU’s water expert Prof. Eilon Adar has traveled several times to meet with California legislators and water resource officials, discussing how Israel, an arid country, has created a surplus of water through innovation, technology and effective water management policies.

After evaluating a number of options to enhance water use efficiency, Conaway Ranch decided to move forward with his subsurface drip irrigation pilot project. “We’ve outlined the testing procedures necessary to maximize success, based on experience growing a variety of crops in arid climates using subsurface drip irrigation,” Adar explained. “We’re pleased to be playing a leading role, providing knowledge and expertise to help California farmers reduce their water consumption.”

Improving rice yields 

In meetings and public forums, Adar has highlighted the ways in which Israel is closing the gap between water supply and demand, including improving irrigation efficiency, expanding wastewater reclamation and reuse, as well as engineering drought-tolerant crops.

Agronomists from Israeli company Netafim, which pioneered and perfected the drip-irrigation system, have conducted a few rice crop trials in other parts of the world. Installation of the system and the first plantings at the Conaway Ranch are scheduled for completion this year. Based on results from previous projects, this trial is expected to produce an improvement in yield, while reducing water use.

A traditional rice field

A traditional rice field

“As drought conditions persist, efficiency in every aspect of farming is critical”

“As drought conditions persist, efficiency in every aspect of farming is critical to the sustainability of California farming,” Netafim’s Scott Warr said in a statement. “Through research trials and partnerships, Netafim continues to be committed to providing growers with access to viable solutions that address the challenge of maintaining profitable farming in a resource-limited world.”

According to Tom Stallard, Woodland’s mayor, Conaway Ranch owners are “demonstrating their commitment to smart water conservation and long-term sustainability.”

sub-surface irrigation

Subsurface irrigation

Photos: City of Lakewood

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Israeli-Made ‘Black Hole’ Could Win Stephen Hawking A Nobel Prize http://nocamels.com/2016/05/israeli-black-hole-stephen-hawking-nobel-prize/ http://nocamels.com/2016/05/israeli-black-hole-stephen-hawking-nobel-prize/#respond Sun, 01 May 2016 08:40:14 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=44769 This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

British physicist Steven Hawking could finally win a Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking theory on black holes thanks to new research out of Israel’s Technion university.

SEE ALSO: Tel Aviv University Discovers New Planet Using Einstein’s Theory Of Relativity

In 1974, Hawking hypothesized that black holes are slowly evaporating, challenging the conventional understanding that nothing could escape from the void of a black hole.

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking

The theory, known as Hawking Radiation, suggests that subatomic light particles are sometimes ejected back out of a black hole, taking with them tiny amounts of energy, resulting in a gradual decrease in its mass over time until it evaporates completely.

But more than 40 years later, no one had been able to prove Hawking’s theory, mainly because light particles from black holes are too small to be detected from Earth.

Enter Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Physics Professor Jeff Steinhauer. His team of researchers recreated the conditions of a black hole in a lab using sound waves in order to study how subatomic particles behave on its edge, known as an event horizon.

SEE ALSO: NASA And Israel Ink Deal On Space Cooperation

In his new paper, Steinhauer explains that he simulated a black hole event horizon by cooling helium to just above absolute zero (–273.15 degrees C or –459.67 degrees F), and then heating it rapidly to create a barrier impenetrable to sound waves, similar to light from a black hole.

During the experiment, Steinhauer found that tiny particles of energy that formed sound waves did escape his simulated black hole, as Hawking suggested.

“This confirms Hawking’s prediction regarding black hole thermodynamics,” Steinhauer wrote in the introduction to his paper.

Prof. Jeff Steinhauer

Prof. Jeff Steinhauer of the Technion

To read the full article, click here

Photos: NASA, Technion-Israel Institute of TechnologyLwp Kommunikáció

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Vegetables Irrigated With Treated Wastewater Expose Consumers To Drugs, Scientists Warn http://nocamels.com/2016/04/vegetables-irrigated-wastewater-expose-drugs/ http://nocamels.com/2016/04/vegetables-irrigated-wastewater-expose-drugs/#respond Wed, 27 Apr 2016 13:44:36 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=44735 Treating greywater and using it for agricultural irrigation is one of the best ways to conserve and recycle water. But now, an Israeli study shows that eating vegetables and fruits grown in soils irrigated with reclaimed wastewater exposes consumers to pharmaceutical contaminants. This new experiment found residues of carbamazepine – an anti-epileptic drug commonly detected in wastewater effluents – in the urine of people who consumed vegetables grown in wastewater-irrigated soil.

SEE ALSO: In Face Of Global Shortage, World Leaders Praise Israel’s Water Technologies

“Fresh water scarcity worldwide has led to increased use of reclaimed wastewater, as an alternative source for crop irrigation. But the ubiquity of pharmaceuticals in treated effluents has raised concerns over the potential exposure for consumers to drug contaminants via treated wastewater,” according to the team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Hadassah Medical Center.

Vegetables - Health News - Israel

Study co-author Prof. Benny Chefetz of the Hebrew University acknowledges that “Israel is a pioneer and world leader in reuse of reclaimed wastewater in the agriculture sector, providing an excellent platform to conduct such a unique study.” However, his study – one of the first to directly address exposure to such pharmaceutical contaminants in healthy humans – shows that additional safety measures should be considered when treating wastewater for agricultural use.

SEE ALSO: How Israelis Are Helping Solve California’s Devastating Drought

The study, which was recently published in the scientific journal Environmental Science and Technology, followed 34 men and women divided into two groups. The first group was given reclaimed wastewater-irrigated produce for the first week, and freshwater-irrigated vegetables in the following week. The second group consumed the produce in reverse order.

The volunteers consumed the produce, which included tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and lettuce, according to their normal diet and drank bottled water throughout the study to neutralize water contamination.

“We have demonstrated that healthy individuals consuming reclaimed wastewater-irrigated produce excreted carbamazepine and its metabolites in their urine, while subjects consuming fresh water-irrigated produce excreted undetectable or significantly lower levels of carbamazepine,” Prof. Ora Paltiel of the Hebrew University, who led the study, said in a statement. “Treated wastewater-irrigated produce exhibited substantially higher carbamazepine levels than fresh water-irrigated produce.”

Research showed that healthy individuals who consumed reclaimed wastewater-irrigated produce excreted carbamazepine in their urine

She further warns that “those who consume produce grown in soil irrigated with treated wastewater increase their exposure to the drug.” Although the levels detected were much lower than in patients who actually consume this specific drug, “it is important to assess the exposure in commercially available produce.”

Most importantly, this study demonstrates that “human exposure to pharmaceuticals occurs through ingestion of commercially available produce irrigated with treated wastewater, providing data which could guide policy and risk assessments,” Chefetz concludes.

Photos and infographics: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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Israeli Startup Aqwise Provides Potable Water To Drought-Stricken India http://nocamels.com/2016/04/aqwise-provides-water-drought-india/ http://nocamels.com/2016/04/aqwise-provides-water-drought-india/#respond Mon, 25 Apr 2016 06:04:24 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=44626 This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

India has been in a chronic water shortage for years, but this year things seem worse. Drought, a failing water infrastructure, and even politics are contributing to what many experts are calling the country’s worst water crisis in decades.

SEE ALSO: In Face Of Water Crisis, Indian Minister Praises Israeli Technologies: “Israel Is My Guru”

More than ever, India is turning to Israel for assistance in dealing with its water issues. Earlier this month, a dozen companies and as many Israeli officials were in India for its annual Water Week, where agreements were signed on water research and implementations of solutions between Israel and India, including several deals with the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana.

Aqwise

Aqwise’s water treatment facility in Mexico

Leading the list of Israeli companies at Water Week was Aqwise, an Israeli water tech firm that has already had significant experience in India. In fact, it’s because of Aqwise that visitors to the Taj Mahal – located in Agra, a city with about 2 million people – have potable water, said Elad Frankel, CEO of Aqwise.

“We helped build a water treatment plant, designed to treat 160,000 cubic meters per day and supplying drinking water to the entire city. Aqwise’s share of the project is several millions of dollars. Aqwise was up against several global and well known water technology companies and its technology was proven to be the most successful and cost effective one.”

SEE ALSO: Israeli Tech Brings Clean Water Solutions To China’s Cities

To clean water, Aqwise attacks the elements that make it polluted – the chemicals, effluent, and other unwanted elements that make using water a hazard – with bacteria that thrive on those elements.

Aqwise’s technology uses thousands of little polyethylene biofilm carriers – little hollow plastic balls in which bacteria live, clinging to the walls of the carriers – and sets them loose in a body of water, which is aerated to ensure maximum exposure for the balls. Water passes through the balls, and when it comes into contact with the biofilm, the bacteria, hungry from all that aeration activity, scarf down the “nutrients” they seek, while remaining safely on the carrier.

Launch enough of those carriers into the water, said Frankel, and pretty soon you have clean water flowing through the pipes of a municipal water system, even in a city as big as Agra.

Taj Mahal, India

The Taj Mahal, Agra, India

To read the full article, click here

Photos: Chronic Crippler, Aqwise, Kumaravels

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The Coolest Israeli Startups Making Our Planet ‘Greener’ http://nocamels.com/2016/04/earth-day-innovative-green-israeli-startups-technologies/ http://nocamels.com/2016/04/earth-day-innovative-green-israeli-startups-technologies/#respond Thu, 21 Apr 2016 12:27:15 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=44573 “It’s not easy being green,” Kermit the Frog famously sang. While that may be true for some, many Israeli startups are helping the world go ‘green.’ By using innovative technologies which can lead to more environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible decisions and lifestyles, they help protect the environment and sustain its natural resources for current and future generations.

In honor of International Mother Earth Day (or, in short, Earth Day), which is celebrated annually on April 22, here are 10 of the coolest Israeli companies and technologies making our world greener:

Tal-Ya: Growing more food with less water

Water shortage is a pressing issue worldwide: According to the UN, 1.2 billion people (almost one-fifth of the world’s population) live in areas where water is scarce, and another 500 million people are nearing this situation. It’s no wonder, then, that the world is seeking to conserve water – both for drinking and for agriculture -especially during droughts.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Desalination Technology Helps Solve California’s Drought

Fortunately, Israeli company Tal-Ya Agriculture Solutions has developed technologies designed to grow more food with less water. Its reusable plastic trays capture dew from the air, reducing the water needed by crops by 50 percent. The square tray, which costs $3-$5 per piece, is made of recycled plastic. The innovative trays work by surrounding each plant, collecting dew as the weather changes overnight, and funneling it to plants and tree crops. The trays, which are supposed to last for 10 years, also block weeds that would otherwise compete with crops for water.

Since its founding in 2005, Tal-Ya (which means ‘God’s dew’ in Hebrew) has served farmers in Israel, the US, China, Chile, Georgia, Sri Lanka and Australia.

dew

Phresh: Keeping your fruits and veggies crisp

One-third of the food produced around the globe, which is worth roughly $1 trillion, is lost or wasted during its production or consumption. In the US alone, 30-40 percent of the food supply is wasted – more than 20 pounds of food per person per month.

Israeli startup Phresh came up with unique food protectors, which preserve your fruits and vegetables for three times longer and could save each household up to $400 a year from the loss of spoiled fruits and vegetables, while also limiting humankind’s environmental footprint.

Using organic technology to triple the shelf life of fruits and vegetables, Phresh allows people to enjoy healthier foods for longer periods of time. The product comes in the shapes of an apple (red or gold) and robot (white), in which Phresh’s organic, non-toxic powder is inserted. The powder dissolves into the atmosphere and eliminates bacteria and fungi while oxygenating the area, according to the company. As a result, no physical application upon the produce is required, and no additional smells or tastes can be sensed. Phresh is designed to extend the shelf life of cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, apples, lemons, lettuce, grapes, mushrooms, strawberries and pepper.

HomeBiogas: Turning grabage into cooking gas

Now that you’ve kept your fruits and vegetables fresh, what should you do with the scraps?

HomeBiogas is an Israeli startup that has created a self-assembled biogas system that turns kitchen waste and livestock manure into usable cooking gas and liquid fertilizer. The system can produces clean cooking gas for three meals and 10 liters of clean natural liquid fertilizer.

HomeBiogas empowers homeowners to minimize their gas bills, while significantly reducing dangerous greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants entering our groundwater.

homebiogas

Opgal: Detecting leaks to prevent pollution

Air pollution was shown to be responsible for many diseases, including cancer. Israeli startup Opgal checks the joints on the pipes that transport gas, oil, and chemicals. Its EyeCGas FX, a gas-leak detection infrared camera can quickly detect gas emissions such as ethylene, methane, butane and propane. It then automatically alerts plant managers.

BreezoMeter – Tracking air quality around the globe 

Israeli mobile app BreezoMeter tracks pollutants and determines air quality in nearly every corner of the world. Its big-data analytics platform uses local air-monitoring sensors to gather real-time pollution data. The information is collected by the startup from monitoring stations around the world and is then compiled and packaged to provide up-to-date information about air quality. The startup claims its localized pollution reading is 99 percent accurate.

SEE ALSO: What’s In The Air You Breathe?

BreezoMeter can’t change the fact that pollutants are a fact of life in our modern world, but the app does give consumers better knowledge of their surroundings, in hopes that they can then act on that knowledge. “We empower citizens to better plan their daily activities and to minimize their personal exposure to pollution,” BreezoMeter’s co-founder and CMO Ziv Lautman said in a statement.

Utilight: 3D-printed solar panels

Solar power is rapidly gaining momentum as the world’s alternative source of energy. One Israeli company at the forefront of harvesting sustainable energy is Utilight, a Yavne-based startup founded in 2009, which is using 3D printing methods to create solar cells at faster and cheaper manufacturing rates than conventional solar panels.

BioBee: Using insects to control pests

Before you swat that fly away, think twice; it may be on a mission to help make our planet greener. Israel’s Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, a pioneer in organic agriculture, has successfully left its mark on chemical-free farming with its very own company BioBee. The firm, which was established in 1984, specializes in breeding beneficial insects and mites to help propel agricultural growth in open fields and greenhouses.

Through its subsidiary Bio Fly, the company sells pollinating bumblebees and sterile male Mediterranean fruit flies to help control pests. This well-established firm already exports eight different species of biological control agent to 30 nations, including the US, Japan and Chile.

The idea behind the system is to achieve a balance between the pest population and their natural enemies. If this balance is achieved, the spraying of pesticides can be reduced to a minimum, and agricultural produce can safely be collected without fear of chemical residues.

Earth - Environment News - Israel

HARBO: Keeping oil spills contained

We’ve all seen news reports of tragic oil spills that destroy entire marine ecosystems, often spreading hundreds of miles within the first 24 hours. 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. Moreover, recovery rates continue to hover just below 15 percent, a figure that has not improved much over the years, making many of the cleanup efforts seem almost futile.

SEE ALSO: Volcanic Rock To Clean Up Oil Spills

Israeli startup company HARBO Technologies tackles this tough 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’s 100-foot prototype “boom” (floating barrier) contains up to two tons of crude oil overnight, without leaking, according to the company.

Eco Wave Power: Turning ocean waves into energy 

Water covers three-quarters of the earth’s surface, but the world has yet to capitalize on the power of ocean waves, even though the energy that can be harvested from oceans is equal to twice the amount of electricity that the world produces now, according to the World Energy Council.

Israeli startup Eco Wave Power is taking giant steps forward in the field of renewable energy harvested from the sea. Founded in 2011, Eco Wave Power (EWP) turns water into electricity using uniquely shaped buoys (floating devices), which rise and fall with the waves’ up-and-down motion and the changes in water levels.

Eco Wave Power system in Gibraltar

Eco Wave Power’s system in Gibraltar

GreenWall: Grow your own food in a vertical garden

Vertical gardens, in which residents of high-rise buildings can grow their own food, use minimal amounts of water and soil, thereby conserving natural resources. Israeli company GreenWall, which was founded in 2009 by engineer and gardening pioneer Guy Barness, has developed an advanced technology with which it erects gardens that line the walls, both inside and outside of buildings, taking up less space compared to conventional gardens and capable of growing almost every plant species with proper care.

vertical garden in Sydney

Kermit was probably right; it’s not easy being green, but that doesn’t deter Israeli startups from making our world a little greener.

Photos and videos: Maojin Lang, the companies

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Israeli Firm AlefBet Partakes In Ethiopia’s Initiative To Build 2.4 Million Houses In Five Years http://nocamels.com/2016/04/israeli-firm-alefbet-ethiopia-construction-industrialization/ http://nocamels.com/2016/04/israeli-firm-alefbet-ethiopia-construction-industrialization/#respond Mon, 18 Apr 2016 05:08:17 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=44528 The Ethiopian government plans to build 2.4 million new apartments in the next five years, of them 900,000 units will be built in the capital Addis Ababa. In addition, eight new industrial parks will be built as part of the revolutionary initiative to industrialize the poor, rural country.

SEE ALSO: By Improving Access To Basic Necessities, Israeli Technologies Transform Africa, Save Lives

One of the architecture and engineering firms that will take part in this mega-construction project is Israeli AlefBet Planners, which recently signed a cooperation agreement with Tiret, one of Ethiopia’s largest construction groups. This agreement was signed in an effort “to bridge the local gap of knowledge in the fields of high-rise construction, site and regional development, design and supply of supporting services to the community,” according to AlefBet, which is expected to design hundreds of thousands of new homes for the Ethiopians.

A rendering of am Ethiopian neighborhood planned by AlefBet

A rendering of an Ethiopian neighborhood planned by AlefBet

Representatives of AlefBet Planners, one of Israel’s largest design groups, recently visited Ethiopia and the sites where those new neighborhoods and industrial parks are to be built. They also met the Ethiopian urban development and housing minister. According to AlefBet, the hosts – introduced by Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia Belaynesh Zevadia – expressed their desire for cost-effective, high-quality projects.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Student Delegation In Africa To Battle Neglected Tropical Diseases

“Ethiopia’s economy is growing very fast – the construction sector reached more than 30 percent growth in the past two years,” AlefBet’s business development manager Daphna Regev said in a statement. “The average growth rate is expected to reach 11.6 percent per year.”

Since this construction capacity is beyond the capacities of the local industry, according to Regev, “the Ethiopian government is granting incentives such as land plots free of charge, fast-track design, and more.”

Contrary to Europe, North America, parts of Asia and even Israel, which are saturated with construction experience, “Africa is only on the brink of massive development,” Regev said.

SEE ALSO: Facebook To Beam Free Internet Across Africa Using Israeli Satellite

Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, Alefbet Planners is a multidisciplinary design company of architects, engineers, designers and consultants. Among its projects are Sapir College and Triumph’s distribution center in Israel, residential neighborhoods in Nigeria and manufacturing facilities around the globe.

An AlefBet neighborhood in Ghana

An AlefBet neighborhood in Ghana

Most recently, the firm helped South Sudan build a $150 million modern dairy project, consisting of five dairy farms.

Since the majority of the houses in Ethiopia are made of mud and stick or thatch walls, the Israeli firm will now help the African country take a giant leap forward towards modern building.

A village in Nigeria planned by AlefBet

A village in Nigeria planned by AlefBet

Photos and renderings: Rod Waddngton, AlefBet

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Opgal’s Camera Detects The Little Leaks Responsible For Big Pollution http://nocamels.com/2016/04/opgal-camera-detects-leaks-pollution/ http://nocamels.com/2016/04/opgal-camera-detects-leaks-pollution/#respond Sun, 10 Apr 2016 10:00:47 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=44361 This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

All over the world, air pollution is thought to be blamed for a host of diseases — cancer, birth defects, and many more. And despite efforts by authorities to reduce pollution in industrialized areas — such as Haifa, Israel — the problem persists and seems to be getting worse.

SEE ALSO: Technion Creates Artificial Lung To Study Pollution Effects

One reason for that, according to Israeli optics technology firm Opgal, is that authorities are looking in the wrong place: Instead of examining the towers that spew out smoke, what needs to be checked are the joints on the pipes that transport gas, oil, and chemicals.

EyeCGas camera by Opgal

“Effective gas-leak detection equipment is vital to keeping employees, products and the environment safe,” said Amit Mattatia, president and CEO of Opgal. “Over the last years, we have been very successful in developing specialized algorithms and sensors that are highly sensitive to the presence of gas traces in the invisible spectrum, and we have included this technology in our EyeCGas FX thermal camera system.”

In a study released in February, University of Haifa researchers suggested a link between infant disorders and pollution caused by heavy industry. According to the research, babies born in certain neighborhoods of Haifa adjacent to heavy industry had heads with circumferences recorded at 20-30 percent less than elsewhere. In addition, there was a higher incidence of cancer and lung diseases among the population there.

SEE ALSO: Following Israel’s Most Devastating Sandstorm, Eyes Are On Air Pollution App BreezoMeter

Although Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry will come out with its own report only later this year, it said that it was “operating on the assumption” that air pollution in the Haifa Bay was too high. The area is home to Israel’s highest concentration of oil refineries, power plants, chemical factories, and other “smokestack industries” that clearly are a major source of pollution in the area.

The city has already begun implementing some pollution-reducing projects, such as limiting traffic in downtown areas, adding filters to diesel-powered buses, and increasing monitoring of factories to ensure that they do not exceed legal limits for the release of pollutants.

But according to Opgal, there’s more that needs to be done. In any highly industrialized area, there are many “invisible” sources of pollution such as leaks from pipes or underground storage facilities; or undetected emissions of pollutants from unexpected or unknown sources (perhaps an old underground gas tank that over the years was forgotten).

To solve that problem, Opgal has developed EyeCGas FX, a gas-leak detection camera for installation in petrochemical, oil and gas plants as well as offshore platforms and rigs.

The system, said Opgal, is able to quickly detect a variety of hydrocarbon gas emissions such as ethylene, methane, butane, propane and various VOC (volatile organic compounds). EyeCGas FX includes a sensitive infrared camera and an HD color camera for fast recognition of such fugitive emissions in the areas being inspected. It then automatically alerts plant personnel via a color display and a warning message, or connects to alert systems such as text messaging system.

To read the full article, click here

Photos and video: Courtesy

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In Face Of Water Crisis, Indian Minister Praises Israeli Technologies: “Israel Is My Guru” http://nocamels.com/2016/04/india-praises-israeli-water-technologies/ http://nocamels.com/2016/04/india-praises-israeli-water-technologies/#respond Tue, 05 Apr 2016 13:07:06 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=44290 In recent years, Israel has established itself as a powerhouse in the fields of water desalination and purification, as well as drip irrigation for agriculture. Several cutting-edge Israeli technologies are currently presented at ‘India Water Week’ in New Delhi, which was inaugurated by Israel’s minister of agriculture Uri Ariel.

SEE ALSO: World Leaders Praise Israel’s Water Technologies At WATEC Conference

During the event, India’s water, agriculture and finance ministers expressed their interest in tightening the relations between the two nations. “India’s water issues need our urgent attention, and Israel has a proven track record in agriculture and water technologies. Israel is definitely my guru,” India’s water minister Uma Bharti said at the inauguration event, according to a statement released today.

israeli-pavilion-at-india-water-week-2016 photo by Israeli embassy

The Israeli pavilion at India Water Week 2016

Arun Jaitley, India’s finance minister said that India is facing major challenges in the field of water supply, and that’s why “we are strengthening our cooperation with Israel, our role model.”

SEE ALSO: Could Groundwater Desalination Solve California’s Water Crisis?

According to Ariel, “water is essential to humankind, and it’s urgent that we conserve our limited water resources and efficiently use them. Thanks to the challenges our small country is facing, and our spirit of innovation, we are able to excel in technologies such as water purification and preservation, drip irrigation, and water recycling. Our collaboration with India is important for both nations.”

Ariel is expected to inaugurate an Israeli-Indian agritech center tomorrow.

One-fifth of the world’s population lives in areas where water is scarce

Water shortage is a pressing issue worldwide: According to the UN, 1.2 billion people (almost one-fifth of the world’s population) live in areas where water is scarce, and another 500 million people are nearing this situation. The World Bank estimates that 21 percent of infectious diseases in India are related to unsafe water. In India, diarrhea alone causes 1,600 deaths daily — equivalent to eight jumbo jets crashing each day.

This year, India Water Week (April 4-8) is being held in collaboration with the Israeli government, including the country’s agriculture, foreign and economy ministries. During the week, Israeli companies in the fields of water supply and agricultural irrigation are showcasing 20 different technologies at the Israeli pavilion. According to the Israeli embassy in India, the delegation also includes Israeli drip irrigation giant Netafim, and Israeli desalination leader IDE Technologies.

This is the fourth year India is hosting India Water Week, but this is the first year that Israel is its partner. Israeli ambassador to India Daniel Carmon praised the partnership: “Israel is a development laboratory and we’ll make every effort to justify the trust that the Indian government and people have entrusted upon Israel, its capabilities and experience.”

israels-agriculture-minister-uri-ariel-receives-a-present-from-minister-for-water-resources-uma-bharti_photo by Israeli embassy

Israel’s agriculture minister Uri Ariel receives a present from Indian water minister Uma Bharti

Photos: Israeli Embassy, New DelhiYann

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White House Taps Israeli Technologies For Solving California’s Water Crisis http://nocamels.com/2016/03/white-house-israeli-technologies-california-water/ http://nocamels.com/2016/03/white-house-israeli-technologies-california-water/#respond Sun, 27 Mar 2016 10:30:40 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=44106 This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

In the US, cleantech has often focused on ways to develop alternative energies, like solar and wind, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that water may be an even bigger problem.

“Just look at what happened in Flint,” said Mark Donig, a member of the steering committee of the recently formed Israel-California Green-Tech Partnership. “The lead in the water there is due to a longstanding infrastructure problem that is going to take years and billions of dollars to fix, and it’s a problem that is likely to repeat itself in many other places.

“As a developer of inexpensive and relatively inexpensive water technologies, Israel is a place the US must look to in order to ensure that farmers, industry, and citizens have access to clean, potable water.”

San Diego area

Arid areas around San Diego, California

That’s not just Donig’s opinion. The White House recently announced a series of projects and programs designed to “elevate a national dialogue on the state of our nation’s water resources and infrastructure,” with support, investments, and resources provided for technologies that can improve water management, promote conservation, and “advance water sustainability on all fronts.”

SEE ALSO: Could Groundwater Desalination Solve California’s Water Crisis?

Nearly all of the 30 projects on the White House’s list of approved projects were born in the US – except for the one approved for Los Angeles, which will establish a cleantech incubator where Israeli firms will develop solutions for California’s ongoing water crisis.

That project, announced earlier this month at a summit on water solutions, “builds on California and Israel’s March 2014 memorandum of understanding to cooperate on developing water and green technology solutions,” the White House said in a statement.

SEE ALSO: In Face Of Global Shortage, World Leaders Praise Israel’s Water Technologies

“Today, the partnership is announcing a new joint venture with the city of Los Angeles’ Cleantech Incubator (LACI) that will culminate in the introduction of 10 Israeli companies in water, energy, and agricultural technologies to the California market. These companies will help accelerate the shift to a greener economy, with a particular focus on benefiting drought-stricken populations across the state, including the nearly 123,000 farmers in California.”

Carlsbad desalination project

A desalination plant in Carlsbad, California, built by Israeli experts

To read the full article, click here

Photos: daveynin, IDE Technologies

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Eco Wave Power Turns Seawater Into Energy At New Gibraltar Plant http://nocamels.com/2016/03/eco-wave-power-gibraltar-plant/ http://nocamels.com/2016/03/eco-wave-power-gibraltar-plant/#respond Wed, 23 Mar 2016 09:50:13 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=44063 Water covers three-quarters of the earth’s surface, but the world has yet to capitalize on the power of ocean waves, even though the energy that can be harvested from oceans is equal to twice the amount of electricity that the world produces now, according to the World Energy Council. But Israeli startup Eco Wave Power is taking giant steps in the field of renewable energy harvested from the sea, with the completion of its first commercial-scale power plant.

Located in Gibraltar, Europe – a peninsula that naturally lends itself to ocean wave harvesting – this new $5 million, 5 Megawatt plant is expected to produce 15 percent of Gibraltar’s electricity within two years, Eco Wave Power co-founder Inna Braverman tells NoCamels.

SEE ALSO: TaKaDu’s Water-Saving Technology Saves Australia Millions Of Dollars

Founded in 2011, Eco Wave Power (EWP) turns water into electricity using uniquely shaped buoys (floating devices), which rise and fall with the waves’ up-and-down motion and the changes in water levels.

Last year, Eco Wave Power established a subsidiary in China, after receiving an approval – as well as funds – from the Chinese government to build a 100 kilowatt plant. The $450,000 power station will initially serve 100 households, serving hundreds more as it grows. The company also operates two power stations in Israel.

“Israel is certainly a powerhouse when it comes to water technologies, including desalination and irrigation. The world positively views technologies that were developed in Israel,” according to Braverman.

SEE ALSO: In Face Of Global Shortage, World Leaders Praise Israel’s Water Technologies

In 2012, Eco Wave Power won the prestigious Frost & Sullivan Product Innovation Award. The judges stated that the company “efficiently handles the prominent challenges prevailing in the field, and offers an all-around solution for effective energy harvesting.”

The company recently raised $2 million in a financing round led by Pirveli Ventures, after which it also received a grant from the European Union for its Gibraltar project. The latter amount was not disclosed.

It seems that investors believe in Eco Wave Power’s ability to potentially succeed in what other companies have failed to achieve: Producing cost-effective, renewable energy from sea waves. “Our competitors have tried to establish power stations offshore, where the waves rise to 17 meters, but the costs of maintaining a power station 4-5 kilometers from the coastline were very high,” Braverman says. “In contrast, we operate close to the pier, where the waves are not as powerful but the cost of operation is not expensive. Our goal is to harvest as much energy as possible with our uniquely shaped devices, so that we can be competitive in the market.”

Says co-founder David Leb: “The future is looking bright for wave energy, as it picks up traction and becomes more prevalent among other green energy initiatives.”

ocean wave

Photos and video: Ayala, Eco Wave Power

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Can The Newly Developed ‘Coral On A Chip’ Save The World’s Reefs From Extinction? http://nocamels.com/2016/03/coral-on-chip-saves-world-reefs/ http://nocamels.com/2016/03/coral-on-chip-saves-world-reefs/#respond Thu, 17 Mar 2016 11:05:05 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=43962 Human-induced environmental changes are responsible for coral disease, infertility and bleaching, a process by which corals turn white (they continue to live, but growth is limited). The loss of the world’s stony coral reefs – up to 30 percent in the next 30 years, according to experts’ estimates – will mean the loss of their “services,” including sequestering some 70-90 million tons of carbon each year and supporting enormous marine biodiversity. Yet, despite many advances, we are still far from understanding the causes and processes contributing to the corals’ demise.

Now, Israeli researchers have developed a new experimental platform for studying coral biology at micro-scale resolutions – which they dub “coral on a chip” – to provide new insights into this complex problem. This platform enables live-imaging microscopy of reef-building corals, which could help save the coral population from dwindling, according to a study recently published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

The research team was also able to directly visualize the initiation of coral disease, pointing to a little-known path of infection. This finding could lead to future solutions for the coral reef crisis.

coral reef with fish

“Corals are running out of time”

“Many corals are running out of time; it is crucial to know how our actions are affecting their survival, and how they affect ours,” Weizmann Institute’s Dr. Assaf Vardi, who led the study, said in a statement. “Our method can help researchers investigate everything from the coral genes that affect survival, to the strategies coral use to build reefs, to their effects on the marine carbon cycle.”

SEE ALSO: New Study Shows Sunscreen Destroys Coral Reefs

The tiny (often less than one millimeter in diameter) animals that build coral reefs create a thin layer of living tissue surrounding the calcium-based skeleton. These animals live in symbiosis with single-celled, photosynthetic algae that provide nutrients and oxygen in return for carbon dioxide and shelter.

According to Vardi, “in order to understand what happens during bleaching, when this symbiosis is broken, we need to understand what happens to these organisms at the cellular and molecular levels under various conditions.”

Vardi and his team claim that for the first time, they were able to examine living coral polyps in the lab, under highly controlled conditions. This system is based on a unique technology, which was developed to track cellular processes under life-like conditions.

Taking a small piece of coral, Vardi and his team induced stressful conditions – in this case by increasing salt content – which caused the corals to release polyps, a process sometimes referred to as “polyp bail-out.” Settling the bailed-out polyps into tiny, prefabricated wells, the scientists were able to observe under a microscope, how miniature coral colonies grow and behave in different conditions.

coral reef

Visualizing coral disease

Using their system, the team recorded the growth of the basic building blocks of the coral skeleton. The team was also able to directly visualize the initiation of coral disease, pointing to a little-known path of infection. Subjecting coral to high light intensities, known to induce coral bleaching, enabled the team to follow the elimination of the symbiotic algae, one cell at a time.

SEE ALSO: Sci-Fi Medicine Sees Corals Turned Into Bone Grafts

Vardi’s lab is currently in the process of adapting the coral-on-a-chip system to track the nutrient and carbon cycles of reef-building corals, as well as delving further into disease and bleaching processes.

Vardi’s team members include Orr Shapiro, Esti Kramarsky-Winter and Assaf R. Gavish of the Weizmann Institute; and Roman Stocker of MIT (currently at ETH, Switzerland).

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Phresh Keeps Your Fruits And Veggies Fresh, Saves Up To $400 A Year http://nocamels.com/2016/03/phresh-keeps-fruits-veggies-fresh/ http://nocamels.com/2016/03/phresh-keeps-fruits-veggies-fresh/#respond Thu, 10 Mar 2016 10:37:54 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=43855 One-third of the food produced around the globe, which is worth roughly $1 trillion, is lost or wasted during its production or consumption. In the US alone, 30-40 percent of the food supply is wasted – more than 20 pounds of food per person per month.

Israeli company Phresh came up with unique food protectors, which preserve your fruits and vegetables for three times longer and could save each household up to $400 a year from the loss of spoiled fruits and vegetables, while also limiting humankind’s environmental footprint.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Flavoring Giant Frutarom Pivots To Multi-Billion-Dollar Organic Food Market

phresh food protectors

Robot-shaped food protector designed by Phresh

“Phresh will help us realize our vision of creating heroic solutions that make our personal lifestyles sustainable,” Amit Gal-Or, founder and CEO of Phresh, said in a statement.

The crowds seem to be cheering for this vision: In two weeks, the company raised over $21,000 on crowd-funding platform Kickstarter, exceeding its original $20,000 goal – with two more weeks to go. The price of one unit starts at $20, to be shipped this summer.

SEE ALSO: Turning Trash Into Energy: HomeBiogas Generates Fuel From Organic Waste

Using organic technology to increase the shelf life of fruits and vegetables by three times, Phresh claims that it allows people to enjoy healthier foods for longer periods of time. The product comes in the shapes of an apple (red or gold) and robot (white), in which Phresh’s organic, non-toxic powder is inserted.

This powder dissolves into the atmosphere and eliminates bacteria and fungi while oxygenating the area, according to the company. As a result, no physical application upon the produce is required, and no additional smells or tastes can be sensed.

Phresh is designed to extend the shelf life of cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, apples, lemons, lettuce, grapes, mushrooms, strawberries and peppers. More fruits and vegetables will be added soon.

Based on 12 years of research at the Israeli company BotanoCap, spin-off startup Phresh concocted a ‘magic’ powder that’s composed of essential oils, which are natural preservatives created by plants, such as oregano, spearmint, mustard oil, and other plants. Using a patented micro-encapsulation procedure, each grain of Phresh’s powder extends the effect of the preservatives to over a month.

The consumer has to place one of the powder sachets, which come in every package, inside the food protector. Each package supplied by Phresh contains 12 sachets, which is enough for one year. Each food protector is equipped with a LED lamp that changes color over time, reminding the customer to change the powder once every one or two months. After that, the consumers place the food protector near their fruits and vegetables – whether in the fridge, a basket, or a bowl – and the powder starts protecting the produce.

fruits

“Households’ little hero” 

Countless areas of our lives are touched by constant improvements – our TVs get better, our smartphones become faster, and the services we receive get quicker all the time. But food spoilage, which touches the lives of each one of us, hasn’t seen major improvements since the invention of the refrigerator.

Says Gal-Or: “When Phresh was created, our powder began to display almost magical power of seemingly increasing fruit and vegetable lives using organic materials. We hope that the food protectors can be each household’s little hero in the kitchen.”

Photos and video: Phresh

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Could Groundwater Desalination Solve California’s Water Crisis? http://nocamels.com/2016/03/desalination-groundwater-california-water-crisis/ http://nocamels.com/2016/03/desalination-groundwater-california-water-crisis/#respond Mon, 07 Mar 2016 09:33:07 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=43789 California’s severe drought has prompted its leaders to build large-scale seawater desalination plants, like the one built in Carlsbad with the aid of Israeli experts and engineers. But a new study suggests that saline groundwater could actually be better for desalinization through reverse osmosis (which is used in Carlsbad), a process that involves forcing seawater through a film with tiny holes that allow only water molecules to pass through, while the larger salt molecules cannot.

SEE ALSO: In Face Of Global Shortage, World Leaders Praise Israel’s Water Technologies At WATEC Conference

Researchers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) suggest that saline groundwater from coastal aquifers is a better water source than seawater for reverse osmosis desalination, mainly thanks to reduced treatment costs.

Carlsbad desalination project

The desalination plant in Carlsbad, California

The study, which was recently published in the scientific journal Environmental Science & Technology, was conducted by BGU researchers, along with experts from the Israel Geological Survey and the National Institute of Oceanography.

The pros and cons of desalting seawater 

Half a decade of of devastating droughts in California has pushed cities and counties in the Golden State to seriously consider turning to the one drinking source that is not depleting anytime soon – seawater. With the Pacific Ocean abutting their shores, water desalination may be the much-needed solution for Californians. But desalination has its disadvantages, the chief one being its high cost. Critics of the reverse-osmosis technology have also claimed that it requires too much energy, which also makes it environmentally damaging.

“Decision makers in both California and Israel can use this research to seriously consider saline groundwater as a realistic alternative when planning future large-scale seawater desalination facilities,” BGU’s Dr. Roni Kasher said in a statement. “In Israel, seawater desalination accounts for 60 percent of the total freshwater supply, so these findings are significant.”

SEE ALSO: TaKaDu’s Water-Saving Technology Saves Australia Millions Of Dollars

Other saline groundwater benefits include consistent water temperatures, as well as lower levels of dissolved oxygen, which decrease the cost of desalination. The reverse osmosis desalination process of seawater requires not only energy but also large plant areas by valuable shorefront property, both of which increase the costs.

“The study showed that aquifer filtration increases the feed water quality and reduces the need for extensive pre-treatment processes,” explains BGU researcher Shaked Stein. “Desalination with saline groundwater as feed water is also more efficient, with higher freshwater recoveries, less chemical use and maintenance, and therefore less overall operational costs.”

Due to seasonal seawater characteristic fluctuations, Stein specifically recommends using saline groundwater in the summertime rather than seawater since the research identified higher membrane fouling in the summer: “Salt rejection decreases in elevated temperatures due to changes in membrane permeability and mass transfer.”

San Diego area

Arid areas around San Diego, California

Other researchers involved in this study include BGU’s Dr. Amos Russak, Dr. Orit Sivan, and Dr. Yoram Oren; Dr. Yoseph Yechieli of the Israel Geological Survey; and Dr. Eyal Rahav of the National Institute of Oceanography.

Photos: IDE Technologies

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12,000-Year-Old Village Discovered Near The Sea Of Galilee Reveals Humanity’s Shift To Agriculture http://nocamels.com/2016/02/prehistoric-village-discovered-israel-agriculture/ http://nocamels.com/2016/02/prehistoric-village-discovered-israel-agriculture/#respond Thu, 18 Feb 2016 11:00:26 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=43454 Israeli archaeologists have discovered a prehistoric village in the Jordan Valley that sheds light on the historical shift from foraging to agriculture some 12,000 years ago.

Excavated by a group of archaeologists led by Dr. Leore Grosman of the Hebrew University, the site is located near the Ein Gev Stream, not far from the Sea of Galilee.

SEE ALSO: 5,000-Year-Old Egyptian Beer Mugs Discovered In Israel

site of excavations

The site of the excavations near the Sea of Galilee

A series of excavations on site revealed an abundance of findings, including human burial remains, flint tools, art manifestations, faunal assemblage (a group of associated animal fossils found together in a given stratum), and tools.

The 1,200-square-foot excavated area revealed an extensive habitation; surprisingly, the village differs markedly from others of its period in Israel. The Ein Gev findings encapsulate cultural characteristics typical of both the Old Stone Age, known as the Paleolithic period, and the New Stone Age, known as the Neolithic period.

SEE ALSO: Researchers Reveal Why Thriving Civilizations Perished 3,200 Years Ago In The Levant

In a study recently published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, the archaeologists claim that the findings reveal the cultural transition from smaller, mobile tribes to larger, sedentary communities.

The findings are “crucial for the understanding of the socioeconomic processes that marked the shift from Paleolithic mobile societies of hunter-gatherers to Neolithic agricultural communities,” Grosman said in a statement.

The earliest and the longest period in the history of mankind

The Paleolithic period is the earliest and the longest period in the history of mankind. The end of this period is marked by the transition to settled villages and domestication of plants and animals.

A panoramic view of the Jordan Valley

A panoramic view of the Jordan Valley

According to Grosman, the buildings found at the site “represent at least four occupational stages,” and “the various aspects of the faunal assemblage provide good indications for site permanence.” In addition, “the uniformity of the tool types and the flint knapping technology indicate intensive occupation of the site by the same cultural entity.”

Photos: Austin (Chad) Hill, Leore GrosmanЮкатан

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Why Studying Mosquito Habitats And The Evolution Of The Zika Virus Can Help Halt The Epidemic http://nocamels.com/2016/02/israeli-scientists-zika-virus-origin-habitat/ http://nocamels.com/2016/02/israeli-scientists-zika-virus-origin-habitat/#respond Thu, 04 Feb 2016 15:22:03 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=43126 Since the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a “public health emergency of international concern” alert regarding the Zika virus, US President Barack Obama and other world leaders have called upon researchers to develop tests, vaccines and treatments to fight the mosquito-transmitted virus. Less than a week later, Israeli scientists from Ben Gurion University and the University of Haifa responded with insights into the particular circumstances of this most recent outbreak and how the virus is evolving.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Researcher’s Discovery May Pave Way For Malaria Vaccine

Since the 1940s, outbreaks of the Zika virus have been reported in Africa, the Americas and in parts of Asia. Spread through Aedes mosquito bites, the virus used to cause fever and joint pain. However, now, researchers have reason to believe that the most recent outbreak is closely linked to microcephaly, a condition in which a baby is born with an abnormally small head and brain.

Aedes mosquito

Aedes mosquito

Over the past few months, hundreds of Brazilian women affected by the Zika virus gave birth to babies with microcephaly, leading several governments in Latin America to advise women to avoid pregnancy for the next two years.

SEE ALSO: Israel’s SightDx Detects Malaria In Blood In Only Three Minutes

This call-to-inaction is so extreme that Israeli universities are trying to gather findings that could stop the outbreak. Ben Gurion University’s Dr. Leslie Lobel has joined a much-needed international consortium in order to understand the risks and prevent the spread of the disease. “The Zika virus was discovered long ago, but not so much research has been done on it,” virologist Lobel tells NoCamels. The main goal now is to check if the pathology caused by the Zika virus is changing and, if so, why. “The correlation with microcephaly is still not clear,” he says.

 

pregnant-woman-in-green

Comparing Brazil to Uganda 

Lobel’s preliminary research focuses on the genetics of the virus, and on the differences between symptoms found in Ugandan and Brazilian patients. These differences could teach us about the evolution of Zika and lead researchers to a possible cure. In other words, virologists are trying to understand why before, the Zika virus only caused mild reactions such as fever, whereas now, it is believed to cause more severe symptoms such as microcephaly.

Lobel, an American-born virologist and physician, has worked on Zika together with Ugandan experts for 13 years and is now helping Brazilian authorities, since “it is very important to have a reference and compare the different cases”, he says. Funding for the research will likely come from the European Union, which sponsors several projects to advance medical research, some of them specifically addressed at preventing the spread of Zika.

However, Zika will not likely spread to Israel and many other parts of the world, Lobel estimates. “The insects that cause the virus don’t exist in Israel, and the ecosystem here does not represent an ideal environment for them to proliferate,” he tells NoCamels. “But we cannot foresee if the virus will change again in the future.”

Severe drought could have led to mosquito proliferation 

Meanwhile, preliminary findings from a study conducted at Israel’s University of Haifa could shed light on certain climates in which Zika-carrying mosquitos flourish. The study, led by Dr. Shlomit Paz in collaboration with the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, has found correlation between exceptionally hot and dry winters and the Zika virus. The study was recently published in the prestigious scientific journal The Lancet.

“The extreme temperature and drought in Brazil are due to a combination of the El Niño phenomenon and the climate changes of recent years,” Paz said in a statement. Her findings are based on data from the US agency the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They show that the latter half of 2015 saw the highest temperatures since records began, combined with severe drought. The Zika outbreak appeared in these areas over the weeks that followed.

Drought in Brazil

The Zika outbreak is linked to global warming

High temperatures (up to a certain limit) have provided a fertile breeding ground for Aedes mosquitoes to reproduce. These mosquitoes also require water. Coincidentally, during periods of drought, local residents store water in containers, thereby creating a convenient habitat for the mosquitoes to proliferate.

The researchers are currently expanding the study in order to gain further insight into the precise nature of the correlation between climatic conditions and the outbreak of the disease. “In light of the health risk, and the fact that the Aedes mosquitoes also carry other viruses, it is important to address the impacts of climate when analyzing the causes of the current outbreak,” Paz concluded.

Photos: Muhammad Mahdi Karim, Planet Ark

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Israeli Flavoring Giant Frutarom Pivots To Multi-Billion-Dollar Organic Food Market http://nocamels.com/2016/02/frutarom-flavoring-israel-organic-foods/ http://nocamels.com/2016/02/frutarom-flavoring-israel-organic-foods/#respond Wed, 03 Feb 2016 13:48:55 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=43035 Consumers’ craving for natural and chemical-free products has been growing in recent years; everything from organic milk to organic cosmetics is becoming more widespread, according to industry trade group the Organic Trade Association (OTA), which estimates that the US market for organic products, both food and non-food items, is just shy of $39 billion — an 11 percent increase from last year.

SEE ALSO: Burger And Fries, Anyone? Processed Foods Could Cause Autoimmune Diseases

Israeli food flavoring giant Frutarom is cashing in on the opportunity, using its deep pockets to acquire organic and natural food flavoring companies, which its CEO hopes will bring the company a ‘unicorn,’ $1 billion valuation.

frutarom lab science

Frutarom’s lab in Herzeliya

Founded in 1933, Frutarom is one of Israel’s oldest enterprises and considered to be one of the 10 largest companies globally in the field of flavors and specialty fine ingredients. Everything from low-fat peach yogurt to jalapeno tortilla chips use flavors and extracts supplied by Frutarom, which operates production centers in six contents, selling over 43,000 products to more than 20,000 customers in 150 countries.

SEE ALSO: Is Sushi Healthier Than Ice Cream? Not Necessarily, Diabetes Researchers Say

To ensure market leadership, Frutarom has recently pivoted towards the organic foods market. Natural products already make up 75 percent of the company’s activity, which Frutarom’s management wants to expand: “The key is to manufacture unique ingredients at an affordable price,” CEO Ori Yehudai tells NoCamels. “To do so, we need to collaborate with the most innovative and technologically advanced enterprises.”

Growing through acquisitions 

Working to expand its research and development, Frutarom has turned its attention to Israeli algae producer Algalo. Based on Kibbutz Ein HaMifratz near Haifa, Algalo has developed a method for the cultivation, harvesting and processing of a variety of algae that yield active ingredients for use in the food and cosmetics industries. Frutarom invested $ 2.6 million in Algalo in order to develop a broader range of cosmetic products (yes, your hand moisturizer contains algae).

“The investment in Algalo is part of a broad strategic move to boost our presence in the organic market, while offering the healthiest and most natural solutions to our clients”, Yehudai explains.

Algalo is but one of Frutarom’s 15 investments in the past 12 months. Most recently, Frutarom acquired Grow Company, an American producer of vitamins and dietary supplements, for $20 million. The acquisition of the New Jersey-based company came off the heels of their largest deal yet, announced last December, in which Frutarom revealed that it was buying Austrian savory flavor company Wilberg for approximately €119 million ($130 million). Over the past five years, Frutarom has acquired 30 companies.

1200px-Whole_Foods_Market_in_the_Lower_East_Side_of_New_York - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Whole_Foods_Market_in_the_Lower_East_Side_of_New_York.jpg

Organic supermarkets like Whole Foods (pictured) have bolstered consumer demand for organic products

These multinational deals are part of the company’s rapid growth strategy to achieve what Yehudai hopes to be $2 billion in sales by 2020. “Frutarom has doubled its size every 4 -5 years, every year is a new record for us,” Yehudai says. “It is really a fascinating journey.”

Given that more households are buying organic — 51 percent more, according to the OTA —Frutarom flavors are now more likely to end up on the dinner table of families that consume organic foods.

Photos: Frutarom; David Shankbone, Taura Natural Ingredients 

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Israeli AgTech Firm EdenShield Keeps Crops Bug-Free, No Chemicals Needed http://nocamels.com/2016/01/agtech-edenshield-bugs-pesticide-free/ http://nocamels.com/2016/01/agtech-edenshield-bugs-pesticide-free/#respond Sun, 24 Jan 2016 08:25:05 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=42772 This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Farmers face a major crisis today — a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” crisis. Farmers need to keep their fields free of insects that eat crops and destroy their livelihood.

SEE ALSO: BioBee To Ship 600 Million Spiders To Colombia

However, the pesticides that are effective against those insects are causing major environmental damage, killing off not only pests, but helpful insects such as bees.

tomatoes

Studies have linked the disappearance of bees around the world, known as Colony Collapse Disorder, to the overuse of pesticides. Because bees are the effective pollinators of fruit trees — scientists believe that as much as one-third of human nutrition is due to bee pollination — fewer bees means less food. But without pesticides, bug infestations would rise significantly, causing just as many crop losses.

Fortunately, an Israeli startup has developed a middle way — a system that enables farmers to protect their crops, while avoiding the use of environment-destroying pesticides. And a new study conducted by that startup, EdenShield, showed just how effective are the company’s natural pesticides, which have been developed from plants and herbs.

In the study, greenhouses in Italy where tomatoes are grown using EdenShield’s GateKeeper prevented close to 100% penetration of pests and led to a reduction of over 80 percent in the use of pesticides.

SEE ALSO: Making Crops ‘Invisible’ To Pests

EdenShield, a portfolio company of Trendlines Agtech, develops insect-control solutions derived from natural plant extracts. The products are nontoxic, so they pose no danger to growers or consumers. And they can be used throughout the growing period, especially during the critical pre-harvest period.

According to D. Todd Dollinger of the Trendlines Agtech accelerator, EdenShield’s products “have the capacity to make a major impact on our food chain, making production more efficient and consumption healthier.”

edenshield

EdenShield’s GateKeeper system

To read the full article, click here

Photos: Courtesy

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Crops Can ‘Communicate’ Their Needs Through Revolutionary IoT Technology Phytech http://nocamels.com/2016/01/israeli-phytech-iot-agtech-crops/ http://nocamels.com/2016/01/israeli-phytech-iot-agtech-crops/#respond Sun, 10 Jan 2016 08:27:27 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=42409 This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Sygenta, one of the world’s biggest agriculture technology businesses, along with Japan-based Mitsui, one of the world’s biggest corporate groups, are banding together to invest in an Israeli agriculture tech company.

SEE ALSO: In Face Of Global Shortage, World Leaders Praise Israel’s Water Technologies

Phytech, which has developed an Internet of Things (IoT) technology for crops, is to receive an undisclosed investment from the two firms for its PlantBeat service, which equips crops with sensors that record information about the growing environment.

phytech

According to Dr. Michael Lee, managing director at Syngenta Ventures, the VC arm of Swiss agribusiness giant Sygenta – the world’s largest maker of chemical pesticides – “Syngenta’s ambition is to bring greater food security in an environmentally sustainable way to an increasingly populous world by creating a worldwide step-change in farm productivity. In working towards our ambition, we put the grower at the center of everything we do. Phytech’s grower-centric solutions join our breadth of technologies in crop protection, seeds, traits and seed treatment, providing the grower with integrated offers and broad-based innovation for the future.”

Already in use on some of the biggest farms in the US, Brazil, Australia, and other countries – including Israel, where some 60 percent of tomato farmers and 40 percent of cotton growers already use the system – Phytech’s PlantBeat keeps track of how much water crops get, how moist the soil is, soil temperature, and other data. The sensors upload the information to a cloud server, where it is analyzed and downloaded to a mobile app Phytech users download, with the app indicating how healthy a plant is and what to do to improve its performance.

SEE ALSO: Rooftop Farm Grows Organic Veggies Sans Soil

The low-cost sensors can be attached to sample plants to take readings within an immediate area of several square meters, with multiple sensors set up as an array to get a full picture of conditions in a growing area. The sensors include simple lithium batteries which can last for up to a year, and the sensors upload the data in an encrypted manner using cellphone networks, with the data secured from prying eyes.

phytech

First established in 1998 on Kibbutz Yad Mordechai near the Gaza border, Phytech, now with about 20 employees, was reorganized in 2011, when it developed the plant sensor system.

To read the full article, click here

Photos: Phytech

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By Improving Access To Basic Necessities, Israeli Technologies Transform Africa, Save Lives http://nocamels.com/2016/01/israeli-technologies-transform-africa-save-lives/ http://nocamels.com/2016/01/israeli-technologies-transform-africa-save-lives/#respond Tue, 05 Jan 2016 09:44:34 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=41942 Israeli innovation has long been the center of attention – products like the USB flash drive or the electric epilator, as well as apps like Waze and Viber, are used by millions of people around the world. However, Israeli-developed technologies that help rural societies in Africa don’t always receive the attention they deserve, even though they’re saving the lives of millions.

“Working with and for developing countries is an enormous moral and economic opportunity,” said Dr. Aliza Belman Inbal, director of the Pears Program for Global Innovation at Tel Aviv University, which works to increase Israel’s contribution to international development through technology-based solutions. She spoke at the recent Pears Challenge event titled ‘Can Innovation Transform Africa,” held on the Google campus in Tel Aviv.

According to Inbal, “Israeli startups are developing products that will have a meaningful impact on the people who need them the most.”

drought

Turning air into water

Among several issues people living in Africa have to face, the lack of access to clean water is probably the first on the list. According to the United Nations, more than 783 million in Sub-Saharan Africa live in water-stressed environments – a figure that several Israeli companies are trying to lower.

SEE ALSO: These Israeli Companies Fight World Hunger With Innovative Technologies

Rishon LeTsiyon-based company Water-Gen has developed a new way to extract water molecules from thin air. The generators can ‘suck in’ water from the ambient air humidity and separate it from dust and dirt through unique air filters. One unit of this system produces 5 to 20 gallons a day of clean drinking water, even in very dry weather conditions. The company has also developed a battery-powered device that can purify lake water, generating up to 57-63 gallons of pure water per single battery.

Water Gen's battery powered mobil water purification unit

Water-Gen’s battery-powered mobile water purification unit

Originally designed for the defense sector, these water-from-air generators have recently been adapted to civilian use, with the aim of addressing the ongoing water shortage in developing countries. Such units could be used in locations where municipal water does not exist or is unsafe to drink.

IDE Technologies, the Israeli specialist in desalination facilities and industrial water treatment, is adapting its solutions to the African market. The company, which has already built desalination plants in Israel and in California, has developed special units powered by solar energy that have the potential to provide desalinated water to entire municipalities at a low cost.

“Economies will not be able to step forward without a solution to water scarcity, and one of the solutions is going to be desalination,” CEO Avshalom Felber told Bloomberg News. Research from the World Health Organization reinforces Felber’s point: For every $1 invested in water and sanitation, there is an economic return of between $3 and $34.

Ensuring food security 

Agriculture is another area in which Israeli innovation is being deployed. Irrigation and harvesting are often left in the hands of individual farmers and very seldom are automated. Such lack of infrastructure means that farmers need ready-to-use tools in order to make the cultivation of crops more efficient.

Israeli designed GrainPro Cocoons, for example, are helping farmers to recoup post-harvesting losses, a problem that afflicts 50 percent of the crops in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most farmers in developing countries consume what they produce and store their crops in straw baskets or canvas bags, leaving them vulnerable to insects and mold. First developed by Prof. Shlomo Navarro, these large storage bags keep water and air out, and protect the grains from humidity and bacteria.

SEE ALSO: Can Vertical Gardens End World Hunger?

Another Israeli company, LivinGreen, provides inexpensive, self-sustaining and environmentally friendly hydroponics devices, which allow farmers to grow vegetables without the need of fertile soil. According to the company, a single unit can provide for a family of five; if chained together, multiple units can be enough for a whole village.

livingbox

LivinGreen’s mini-farm

Improving health 

Though malaria mortality rates have declined dramatically in the last 15 years, the World Health Organization estimates that the disease is still responsible for 438,000 deaths annually.

SEE MORE: Breakthrough Israeli Research Improves HIV/AIDS Treatment, Could Lead To Cure

While many medical and life-science companies have veered away from treating malaria because the research and development costs outweigh commercial returns, Israeli startup Sight Diagnostics has made its malaria solution a flagship product. Using computer vision algorithms, the company’s ‘Parasight Platform’ can determine within three minutes if a patient’s blood contains the malaria parasite. This high throughput device automates most of the process of taking and testing blood samples, delivering quick and accurate results for people in areas afflicted by the disease.

Founded in 2011 by CEO Joseph Joel Pollak and developed by a team of Israeli biologists, software experts and engineers, the company has so far raised $6 million from Israeli crowdfunding firm OurCrowd, investment group Clal Bio and VC fund Innovation Endeavors, founded by Google chairman Eric Schmidt.

SightDx

Sight Diagnostics’ Computer Vision Blood Test Platform

If innovators continue to develop devices that can be easily deployed to rural communities, such technologies can be scaled and distributed to developing countries across the globe, ultimately advancing the wellbeing of millions of people.

Photos: CIATBarefoot Photographers of TiloniaWater GenLiving Box; Sight Diagnostics 

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Green Energy: Algae-Based Biofuel Could Power Cars, Airplanes http://nocamels.com/2016/01/israel-algae-biofuel-study/ http://nocamels.com/2016/01/israel-algae-biofuel-study/#respond Mon, 04 Jan 2016 09:37:17 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=42314 In pursuit of environmentally friendly fossil fuel alternatives, corn, soybeans and palm oil have been converted into biofuels to power vehicles, factories and even the trains at Disneyland. Yet, these sources of energy, though far less polluting than petroleum or coal, occupy arable land, and may further jeopardize the global food supply.

SEE ALSO: These Israeli Companies Fight World Hunger With Innovative Technologies

Now, Israeli researchers have investigated the possibility of producing fuel from sea-harvested algae, and have found that a certain strain could provide an alternative fuel source, while restoring marine life in contaminated areas.

Algae_fuel_in_a_beaker

The appeal of algae is quite simple: The green layer that covers ponds and sea rocks can be converted into biofuel faster than conventional crops, such as corn and soy — without competing with food production. According to the US Department of Energy, the genetic diversity from the many varieties of algae presents researchers with “an incredible number of unique properties that can be harnessed to develop promising algal biofuel technologies.”

The algae possibility 

Doctoral student Leor Korzen, under the direction of Prof. Avigdor Abelson from Tel Aviv University and Prof. Israel Alvaro from the National Institute of Oceanography, began growing sea lettuce in floating net baskets in the Mediterranean coast, just north of Tel Aviv. After each harvest (a cycle of 1-10 days), the team collected the sea lettuce to convert it into fuel. To expedite the process, the researchers applied ultrasonic frequencies greater than 20 kHz to the algae in order to quickly break down its complex sugars into glucose, which they then fermented into bioethanol.

SEE ALSO: Turning Trash Into Energy: HomeBiogas Generates Fuel From Organic Waste

The specific strain of algae they harvested (Ulva) was not only a more efficient producer of biofuel compared to other algae varieties, but when grown downstream from a fish colony, it grew 27-40 times faster than when it was harvested upstream.

Perhaps to their surprise, the symbiosis between algae and fish goes both ways: Algae serve successfully as a bio-filter for contaminated water. In this experiment, sea lettuce released nutrients back into the sea that had been crucial to marine life. “The concept of ecological sustainability in aquaculture refers to the maximization of internal feedback (e.g. recycling) within a culture system,” Korzen tells NoCamels.

Is Algae fuel scalable? 

Algae biofuel, like many novel green energies, has yet to become economically viable on a massive scale. Some companies, including ExxonMobil, which recently pulled out of a $600 million joint venture to develop algae fuel, believe that commercial viability is more than 25 years away.

Photobioreactor PBR 4000 G IGV Biotech

Photobioreactor

Yet, environmentalists maintain that the net positive effects of this green fuel could lead to faster commercialization. Compared to other biofuels, algae can be grown just about anywhere: On the sea shore, in a pond, even in photobioreactors, as pictured above. Moreover, algae can be harvested with run-off water contaminated with fertilizers, while the waste products from production can be used as a sufficient animal feed.

Such comparative advantages led the Japanese transportation and industry ministers to put algae high on their list of biofuels that could be used in jet engines, a goal they would like to achieve before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Since the announcement last summer, a handful of algae production companies have made headlines: Euglena in partnership with Chevron is testing its algae blends on Virgin Atlantic aircraft, while Toyota subsidiary Denso is developing algae-based diesel for motor vehicles.

If other governments follow with similar incentives, algae might just get off the water and into your car.

Photos: Eutrophication & Hypoxia

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Solar Power Breakthrough: Ultra-Thin Panels Increase Energy Used For Fuel Production By 30% http://nocamels.com/2015/12/solar-powered-hydrogen-generation-israel/ http://nocamels.com/2015/12/solar-powered-hydrogen-generation-israel/#respond Tue, 29 Dec 2015 13:45:35 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=42185 Hydrogen is a zero-emissions fuel that is already powering cars, spacecraft and electric devices. However, pure hydrogen does not occur naturally on Earth in large quantities. In the past, the element was extracted from methane, but this process results in greenhouse gas emissions, leading scientists to explore alternative methods.

SEE ALSO: By 3D-Printing Solar Panels, Israeli Startup Utilight Significantly Cuts Renewable Energy Cost

Now, Israeli researchers are making progress towards this endeavor, using a method by which solar-generated electricity is run through water to separate the hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Their new light-trapping technique, which uses ultra-thin solar cells, has achieved a 30 percent increase in energy generation used to produce hydrogen-based fuel, which is considered a major breakthrough in the field of solar energy.

Environment News: Israeli Venture Helps People Go Green And Get Green By Going Solar

It’s important to note that the research team did not use traditional solar panels, like the ones that carpet the deserts of Arizona. Here, researchers used solar cells made out of hematite, a kind of iron ore that looks like rust.

How efficient really are solar panels? 

Solar cells, despite their label as a sustainable source of energy, are not actually that efficient when it comes to converting sunlight into storable and transferable energy. Theoretically, they should be able to absorb and store up to 86 percent of the energy from the sunlight, but engineering challenges and dust typically decrease their performance.

solar-hydrogen-energy_cycle

To make solar panels more efficient, researchers and companies have developed cells that are composed of multiple layers of light-absorbing, semiconductor materials; yet, these advances are not without expense, as each additional layer increases the cost of manufacturing. Thus, the challenge for solar cell companies has been to develop the most cost-effective (and often thinnest) solar cell, with the maximum efficiency.

The light at the end of the panel

Israeli researchers Prof. Avner Rothschild of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and Dr. Avi Niv from Ben-Gurion University shed light on this problem when they revealed that an ultra-thin solar cell made out of hematite was both more energy efficient and cost-effective than standard models.

Their findings, recently published in one of the scientific journals of the Royal Society of Chemistry, detail a method in which the confinement and absorption sites within the cell are separated. The light is first trapped in a thick layer, and then fed into an ultra-thin, yet absorbent hematite layer.

SEE ALSO: Turning Trash Into Energy: HomeBiogas Generates Fuel From Organic Waste

By attaching a light scattering sheet (called a Lambertian reflector) to the backside of the cell, the captured light is diffused widely into the hematite layer, resulting in a 30 percent increase in comparison to the same cell with a flat mirror, which would only reflect the light in two directions.

Their proposed method is not only cost-effective because Lambertian reflectors are already commercially available, but it is also non-material-specific and thus could be applied to other types of solar cells, including the old-fashioned ones on your roof.

As for solar-powered hydrogen generation, the researchers have presented a sustainable method for industrial-scale hydrogen production that could soon find its way into the next generation of hybrid vehicles.

Environment News: Will A $20M Solar Fields Rekindle Israel's Alternative Energy Market?

Photos: ConiferGreen Econometrics; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Israeli Startup Mapal Green Energy Uses Bubbles To Clean Up Schweppes Factories In Australia http://nocamels.com/2015/12/mapal-green-energy-schweppes-australia/ http://nocamels.com/2015/12/mapal-green-energy-schweppes-australia/#respond Thu, 24 Dec 2015 08:37:39 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=42104 This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Fresh from British success with its aeration recycling system, Israeli green tech firm Mapal Green Energy hopes to pull off the same trick Down Under.

The company recently signed its first major contract in Australia – supplying a system to beverage maker Schweppes to clean up industrial waste from its factories throughout the country.

SEE ALSO: TaKaDu’s Water-Saving Technology Saves Australia Millions Of Dollars

Mapal Green Energy

Mapal Green Energy’s floating purification devices

Mapal will work with a local engineering firm to design an aeration system for installation at bottling plants belonging to Schweppes, which has a huge operation across Australia. Mapal will supply the equipment and operate the water purification equipment it installs.

In a Mapal system, bubbles – water infused with air – are used to clean water as part of aeration systems, removing pollutants and separating sludge from water. The treatment removes nearly all the solid waste and pollutants, allowing water providers to purify and recycle water quickly and efficiently.

Among water professionals, bubbles are considered one of the more effective ways of treating sewage and water suffering from industrial pollution. But bubble purification systems haven’t been popular because they are generally limited to use in smaller, manmade pools and lagoons.

SEE ALSO: World Leaders Praise Israel’s Water Technologies

In a bubble purification system, a machine pumps oxygen into wastewater to enhance “aerobic digestion,” a bacterial process occurring in the presence of oxygen, in which bacteria consume organic matter and convert it into carbon dioxide, which is then released into the atmosphere.

But traditional aeration systems have limitations. In order to get the bubbles to all parts of the wastewater, water utilities have relied on mechanical aeration (large machines that are stationary or mobile that make bubbles by agitating the water) or jet aeration (jets pushing air into the water). Both are expensive to run, requiring large amounts of energy to diffuse the air into the water; in addition, jet aeration, while a little cheaper, is suitable only for small concrete-lined pools or lagoons.

Mapal Green Energy

Mapal’s system solves all these problems, according to company CEO Ze’ev Fisher. Mapal’s idea is to use floating aerators that “travel” across the surface of the water, diffusing oxygen throughout the pool (up to a depth of six meters). Unlike floating mechanical diffusers, the Mapal version has a series of tubes that extend into the water, requiring far less energy to push the oxygen into the lower depths of the water and ensuring that the oxygen gets to all parts of the wastewater.

To read the full article, click here

Photos: Mapal Green Energy, Adrien Séné

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Japan Turns To Israel For Radiation Disease Treatment http://nocamels.com/2015/12/japan-israel-technology-treat-radiation-disease/ http://nocamels.com/2015/12/japan-israel-technology-treat-radiation-disease/#respond Thu, 10 Dec 2015 07:56:39 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=41727 This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Four years after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, the country is still not out of the woods, with the risk of mass radiation poisoning a continued risk. That is why the Fukushima Medical University’s Global Medical Science Center has signed a deal with Israel’s Pluristem Therapeutics to further develop the company’s PLX-R18 cells to treat acute radiation syndrome (ARS).

Under the deal, PLX-R18 cells will be studied primarily as a potential treatment for radiation-induced damage to the skin, lungs and gastrointestinal tract. The parties intend to develop pre-clinical models of radiation damage in these tissues, and then use them in trials; Pluristem will contribute PLX-R18 cells and scientific knowledge, while Fukushima Medical University will conduct the studies and provide the required resources.

SEE ALSO: If Nuclear Disaster Strikes, This Israeli-Designed Belt Protects Against Radiation Exposure

Fukushima

Fukushima, Japan

Although out of the news, the Fukushima plant continues to pose major health risks. Four and a half years after the explosion and subsequent meltdown at the plant damaged in the earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan in March 2011, radiation continues to spread, both in Japan and abroad.

SEE ALSO: Five Israeli Biotech Companies Using Stem Cells To Change The Face Of Medicine

Just last week, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution issued a report saying that more sites off the coast of the western US were showing signs of radiation contamination. And in Japan itself, as many as a million people could die in the coming years from radiation-induced cancer, according to a report last month by Fairewinds Energy Education.

So far there have been just a few documented cases of cancer directly linked to the disaster, but no one in Japan is taking anything for granted. While officials are doing what they can to clean up the site, they realize that they must also act to prevent a potential health emergency.

Enter Pluristem, a Haifa-based company that is developing a cure for acute radiation syndrome (ARS), also known as radiation disease, the mass destruction of tissues and cells caused by exposure to extremely high levels of radiation, such as a nuclear catastrophe.

ARS can cause lethal damage to the gastrointestinal tract, lung, skin and bone marrow, as well as other systems. But tests have shown that the stem-cell technology developed by Pluristem can prevent damage to cells affected by ARS. In tests conducted in Israel and the US, animals (mostly mice) that were subjected to total body irradiation and injected with human cytokines, showed significantly increased survival rates when treated with Pluristem’s PLX-RAD cells. The treatment essentially reversed the effects of radiation disease – which is especially hard on bone marrow – to a great extent.

Pluristem

Pluristem

To read the full article, click here

Photos: Juha Uitto, Pluristem

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