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. Thu, 21 Jul 2016 12:21:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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

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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

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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

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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 costs 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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“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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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BioBee To Ship 600 Million Spiders To Colombia http://nocamels.com/2015/12/biobee-spiders-natural-pesticide-colombia/ http://nocamels.com/2015/12/biobee-spiders-natural-pesticide-colombia/#respond Tue, 08 Dec 2015 11:34:16 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=41743

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There is a way to get rid of pests without using toxic pesticides, and the solution is simpler than one might think: Employing predatory bugs that will attack and kill damaging insects.

Israeli company BioBee has been developing this chemical-free technique for years, and is now deploying it in farms all over the world, using living insects instead of chemical pesticides, which could be harmful.

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

Selling its products to 50 countries worldwide, including Russia, India, Chile and South Africa, BioBee recently started to collaborate with Colombia, which will receive 600 million spider mites over the next year. The company was not available to comment on the price of the spiders, but some reports in the media have claimed that one gram of these spiders costs about $180 – more than five times the price of gold ($34 per gram)!

crop duster agri pesticides

BioBee breeds a special kind of predatory spider called Bio Persimilis, which can keep pests under control in several crops, such as peppers, tomatoes, beans, maize, cucumber, melon, strawberries and eggplants. It is specifically effective against other kinds of spider mites, but contrary to these other mites, Bio Persimilis doesn’t cause any harm to the plants.

The Bio Persimilis spiders used by BioBee 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.

spider

These bugs will be shipped to Columbia in bottles of 2,000 or 4,000, then sprinkled over the crops or distributed through unique boxes hung on the plants. The company maintains that the investment is worthwhile to farmers, who would otherwise have to use chemical pesticides and thus not be able to export their crops, since international regulations limit their use.

SEE ALSO: Spider Feeds Itself To Offspring

Experts have long advocated for a decrease in the use of aggressive chemical pesticides, and their risks are known to the public, so finding a natural solution to reduce populations of noxious plant pests seems like the best way to go. Adopting natural solutions could also improve public health. In addition, pesticides damage the environment, pollute the air and water in their surroundings and beyond, 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.

Good bugs versus bad bugs 

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.” According to Shimon Steinberg, head of the research and development team at BioBee, “you can see it in your backyard. This phenomenon exists everywhere, and we need to know how to exploit it.”

agri pesticides

Founded in 1984 in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, BioBee’s facility mass-produces the natural enemies of the harmful pests: The company harvests flies and bees for various purposes, along with spiders. “We take them from nature and we give them the optimal conditions in order for them to proliferate and reproduce,” according to Steinberg. The mites are cultivated without any genetic modification in an environment that allows them to thrive. The Israeli weather is perfect for this purpose, with its short winter and its hot, humid summer.

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. In Colombia and other countries in South America, the reduction in the use of pesticides would allow many farmers to finally meet the standards required for exporting their produce.

Photos: Roger Smithjetsandzeppelins, BioBee

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Turning Trash Into Energy: HomeBiogas Generates Fuel From Organic Waste http://nocamels.com/2015/12/homebiogas-biofuel-biodigester-organic-waste/ http://nocamels.com/2015/12/homebiogas-biofuel-biodigester-organic-waste/#respond Sun, 06 Dec 2015 10:45:34 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=41659

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Last week, world leaders gathered at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris to commit to reducing carbon emissions. But while industrialized countries tackle the environmental problem (which, many would argue, they caused), developing countries are left to face the consequences, such as polluted air and water – with very few resources to address them.

An Israeli startup called HomeBiogas aims to change that with its newly developed biodigester, which turns organic waste into fertilizers and biofuel for cooking, replacing cooking gas. From six liters of food waste or 15 liters of animal manure, this solar-powered system can produce enough biofuel for at least three hours of cooking.

SEE ALSO: Reducing Global Warming: Israel Presenting Solar Energy Solutions At UN Climate Change Conference

home biogas

The crowds seem to be cheering for this new solution: Earlier this month, the company launched an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign, which reached its goal of $100,000 in less than 24 hours. HomeBiogas has now reached $138,000 in pledges, with 18 more days left to go in the campaign.

“One hour of cooking over firewood is equivalent to smoking 400 cigarettes”

Founded in 2012 by Oshik Efrati, Erez Lanzer and Yair Teller, HomeBiogas aims to educate its users and increase global awareness on the health dangers of cooking with solid fuels such as wood, charcoal and coal. So, if you thought barbecuing is harmless, think again.

“One hour of cooking over firewood is equivalent to smoking 400 cigarettes,” Ami Amir, marketing director for HomeBiogas, tells NoCamels. “If you use our system for a year, it is as if you took a car off the road.”

The company is targeting two groups: Homeowners living in developed countries, who want the product mainly for its environmental value; and underserved communities that have no access to clean energy and garbage removal services. HomeBiogas provides these communities with clean energy that can be used for cooking and in turn encourages them to recycle organic waste for generating gas.

The system generates both clean energy and liquid fertilizer

Currently, one HomeBiogas unit costs $890-$995, after the company has lowered the cost of production from previous models by using aluminum instead of iron to manufacture the system. Still, it’s a hefty investment.

But according to HomeBiogas, since the system generates both clean energy and liquid fertilizer, consumers will spend less on both. “If you combine both uses, the return on your investment is approximately three years. After that, it is pure profit,” Amir says.

HomeBiogas is now racing to mass produce its device. “If we can have a purchase order for 1,000 units rather than 30, 50 or 100 units, we can significantly reduce the costs of manufacturing and we can then offer our product for a lower price to customers,” he explains. “The main goal of our crowd-funding campaign is to get as many orders as possible for our product, so we can then offer it for a lower price.”

homebiogasprocess

To further lower the cost of the device, the company has partnered with non-profit organizations that provide subsidies. “The 75 units the company installed in the Palestinian Authority and in Bedouin communities across Israel were subsidized by the Peres Center for Peace and the European Union,” Amir says.

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

homebiogas

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and the HomeBiogas team

Although small-sized biogas units are available in the market – ARTI, DOME and Sleeve, to name a few – HomeBiogas offers its customers an easy-to-use, family-sized product that can fulfill the needs of a standard home.

With 150 HomeBiogas units already up and running, HomeBiogas could bring about a revolutionary method for generating sustainable household energy and offer a solution to some of the challenges that world leaders are trying to resolve.

Photos and video: HomeBiogas

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Parasite Genetically Related To Jellyfish Could Defy Everything We Know About Animals http://nocamels.com/2015/12/parasite-jellyfish-genetically-related-evolution/ http://nocamels.com/2015/12/parasite-jellyfish-genetically-related-evolution/#respond Wed, 02 Dec 2015 08:35:50 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=41444

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Children are taught that all living organisms — animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and unicellular organisms — belong to unique categories of organic life. But a new discovery by Israeli researchers could redefine the very criteria used to classify organisms.

Possibly changing everything we know about animals, Tel Aviv University researchers, along with an international team of experts, have found that a microscopic parasite called myxozoa, known to infect a host of organisms (invertebrate and vertebrate), is in fact a close cousin of the jellyfish.

Why is this so important? Because these parasites have become so physically degenerate that they reverted to being single cells with the smallest genome known so far – a significant finding in evolutionary studies.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Diver-Photographer Wins Prestigious Underwater Picture Award

Flower_Hat_Jellyfish_1 (1) copy

Despite the radical changes in its body structure and genome over millions of years, the myxozoa have retained some of the basic characteristics of the jellyfish, including the essential genes to produce jellyfish stings.

“The myxozoa are microscopic — only a few cells measuring 10 to 20 microns across — and therefore biologists assumed that they were single-celled organisms,” TAU’s Prof. Dorothée Huchon said in a statement. “But when we sequenced their DNA, we discovered the genome of an extremely strange macroscopic marine animal.”

“These micro-jellyfish expand our basic understanding of what makes up an animal”

The study, co-authored by Huchon and her colleagues Prof. Arik Diamant of Israel’s National Center for Mariculture and Prof. Hervé Philippe of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France, was recently published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists.

Huchon summarizes the importance of the study’s findings: “These micro-jellyfish expand our basic understanding of what makes up an animal,” Huchon said.

SEE ALSO: Study Shows Sunscreen Destroys Coral Reef

The discovery of the genetic relationship poses intriguing questions for evolutionary biologists, but the new study may also have commercial applications, because myxozoa commonly plague commercial fish stock such as trout and salmon.

“Some myxozoa cause a neurological problem in salmon called whirling disease,” Huchon explains. “These fish parasites cause tremendous damage to the fish industry, and unfortunately there is no general treatment against them. We hope that our data will lead to a better understanding of the biology of these organisms and the development of more effective drugs to fight against myxozoa.”

The scientists are currently studying the evolution of genes that form the stinging organ of jellyfish. Perhaps their research could also yield an effective treatment for jellyfish stings!

Evolutionary Tree original

Tree of life

Photos and infographics: Tom Hodgkinson; Fred HsuSpindrift Press

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Reducing Global Warming: Israel Presenting Solar Energy Solutions At UN Climate Change Conference http://nocamels.com/2015/11/israeli-solar-energy-climate-change-conference/ http://nocamels.com/2015/11/israeli-solar-energy-climate-change-conference/#respond Sun, 29 Nov 2015 10:28:12 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=41479

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

Israel hopes to highlight its green technology expertise, with an emphasis on solar energy, as a major solution to global warming at the United Nations Climate Change talks in Paris on November 30, according to a member of the delegation.

The purpose of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) is to get all 166 UN member countries to sign a binding agreement that will keep global warming below an increase of two degrees Celsius over the next century. A global increase of two degrees is considered a tipping point that will lead to widespread environmental disasters. Hundreds of leaders will gather in Paris for the 11-day summit to try to hammer out a deal capping emissions for all countries and looking for creative solutions to halt the warming of the planet.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Startup Utilight Significantly Cuts Renewable Energy Cost

Environment News: 30 Year Old Dream Comes True With Israel's Biggest Solar Power Plant

“The main focus for the Israeli delegation is that Israeli innovation can help all countries achieve their development and reduction goals,” Josef Abramowitz, the president of solar company Gigawatt Global and part of the Israeli delegation, told The Times of Israel ahead of his trip.

Abramowitz is a pioneer in the Israeli solar energy industry with the Arava Power Company, which is responsible for many of the solar fields in the region. His company, Gigawatt Global, completed a solar field in Rwanda in February, the largest in eastern Africa.

SEE ALSO: World Leaders Praise Israel’s Water Technologies

The Israeli delegation must also explain why, despite their emphasis on technological expertise, Israel has only committed to 17 percent of energy coming from renewable sources by 2030. That figure is on par with other developed countries, but low for a country that claims to have such advanced technology. The government has claimed this is due to high security costs, the geopolitical situation, or lack of geothermal energy. The US is aiming for 28 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2030.

solar panels

To read the full article, click here.

Photos: Wikipedia Commons/ US Air ForceBarefoot Photographers of Tilonia

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Israeli Diver-Photographer Noam Kortler Wins Prestigious Underwater Picture Award http://nocamels.com/2015/11/israeli-diver-photographer-noam-kortler-wins-award/ http://nocamels.com/2015/11/israeli-diver-photographer-noam-kortler-wins-award/#respond Wed, 11 Nov 2015 15:08:21 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=41073

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Israeli diver-photographer Noam Kortler received the prestigious Jean-Louis Galy prize at the renowned World Festival of Underwater Pictures, held last week in France. He’s among four photographers to receive prizes in the still photography category for a portfolio of 10 images. Over the past decade, Kortler has won numerous awards for his stunning sea life photographs.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Student Wows Judges In Photo Contest 

The World Festival of Underwater Pictures (Festival Mondial de l’Image Sous-Marine) has an artistic, cultural and scientific objective to promote the seas and oceans. It takes place every year in late October or early November in Marseille, France, providing a place of exchange among enthusiasts of the underwater world. Considered the most important competition in the world on underwater films and pictures, the festival hosts professionals from 50 countries every year.

“It’s the Oscars of underwater photography,” Kortler tells NoCamels.

Sea life photo by  Israeli diver-photographer Noam Kortler

Sea life photo by Israeli diver-photographer Noam Kortler

Born and raised by the sea

Kortler was born on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and was diving and surfing throughout his childhood. In 1996, he moved to Eilat, a city on the coast of the Red Sea in Southern Israel. After becoming a diving instructor in 2000, he purchased his first underwater camera and has been shooting photos of sea life ever since.

Sea life photo by Israeli diver-photographer Noam Kortler

Sea life photo by Kortler

In 2006, he started his own diving center in Eilat, called Nemo Divers, but that didn’t stop him from taking more amazing photos of Red Sea creatures; he actually started winning photo competitions around the world that year.

Sometimes it would take him 90 minutes to capture a perfect photo, having to lie still underwater, following his colorful subjects. This year’s winning photos even include those of sharks and whales, which obviously took some courage and patience!

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

His series of 10 photos submitted to this year’s competition was shot in Eilat as well as around the world. “I waited four years on the waiting list for room on a unique boat that led me to capture that perfect image of whales in the Pacific Ocean,” Kortler tells NoCamels.

Photo of whales taken by Israeli diver-photographer Noam Kortler

Photo of whales taken by Kortler

Now, Kortler is teaching students how to capture stunning photos of sea life in a program he recently opened in Eilat.

Israeli diver-photographer Noam Kortler

Israeli diver-photographer Noam Kortler

Photos: DPGFestival Mondial de l’Image Sous-MarineNoam Kortler

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New Study Shows Sunscreen Destroys Coral Reefs http://nocamels.com/2015/10/new-study-shows-sunscreen-destroys-coral-reefs/ http://nocamels.com/2015/10/new-study-shows-sunscreen-destroys-coral-reefs/#respond Mon, 26 Oct 2015 15:50:24 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=40815

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The daily use of sunscreen bearing an SPF of 15 or higher is widely acknowledged as essential to skin cancer prevention, not to mention skin damage associated with aging. Although this sunscreen may be very good for us, it may be very bad for the environment, a new Tel Aviv University study finds.

New research published in Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology finds that a common chemical in sunscreen lotions and other cosmetic products poses an existential threat — even in minuscule concentrations — to the planet’s corals and coral reefs. “The chemical, oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), is found in more than 3,500 sunscreen products worldwide. It pollutes coral reefs via swimmers who wear sunscreen or wastewater discharges from municipal sewage outfalls and coastal septic systems,” said Dr. Omri Bronstein of TAU’s Department of Zoology, one of the principal researchers.

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

The study was conducted by a team of marine scientists from TAU, including Prof. Yossi Loya, also of the Department of Zoology, the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Virginia, the National Aquarium (U.S.), the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and other labs in the U.S.

coral reef

A deadly day at the beach

A person spending the day at the beach might use between two to four ounces of sunblock if reapplied every two hours after swimming, towelling off, or sweating a significant amount. Multiply this by the number of swimmers in the water, and a serious risk to the environment emerges.

“Oxybenzone pollution predominantly occurs in swimming areas, but it also occurs on reefs 5-20 miles from the coastline as a result of submarine freshwater seeps that can be contaminated with sewage,” said Dr. Bronstein, who conducted exposure experiments on coral embryos at the Inter University Institute in Eilat together with Dr. Craig Downs of the Heretics Environmental Laboratories. “The chemical is highly toxic to juvenile corals. We found four major forms of toxicity associated with exposure of baby corals to this chemical.”

Forms of toxicity include coral bleaching, a phenomenon associated with high sea-surface temperature events like El Niño — and with global mass mortalities of coral reefs. The researchers found oxybenzone made the corals more susceptible to this bleaching at lower temperatures, rendering them less resilient to climate change. They also found that oxybenzone damaged the DNA of the corals, neutering their ability to reproduce and setting off a widespread decline in coral populations.

The study also pointed to oxybenzone as an “endocrine disruptor,” causing young coral to encase itself in its own skeleton, causing death. Lastly, the researchers saw evidence of gross deformities caused by oxybenzone — i.e., coral mouths that expand to five times their healthy, normal size.

It only takes a drop

“We found the lowest concentration to see a toxicity effect was 62 parts per trillion — equivalent to a drop of water in six and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools,” said Dr. Bronstein. The researchers found concentrations of oxybenzone in the US Virgin Islands to be 23 times higher than the minimum considered toxic to corals.

Coralreef

SEE ALSO: Harnessing Energy From Ocean Waves, Eco Wave Power Establishes First Plant In China

“Current concentrations of oxybenzone in these coral reef areas pose a significant ecological threat,” said Dr. Bronstein. “Although the use of sunscreen is recognized as important for protection from the harmful effects of sunlight, there are alternatives — including other chemical sunscreens, as well as wearing sun clothing on the beach and in the water.”

The researchers hope their study will draw awareness of the dangers posed by sunscreen to the marine environment and promote the alternative use of sun-protective swimwear.

Photos: Toby Watson/ Jim E Maragos, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/ Fascinating Universe/ Wikipedia Commons

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In Face Of Global Shortage, World Leaders Praise Israel’s Water Technologies At WATEC Conference http://nocamels.com/2015/10/world-leaders-praise-israeli-water-technologies-watec/ http://nocamels.com/2015/10/world-leaders-praise-israeli-water-technologies-watec/#respond Thu, 15 Oct 2015 08:46:54 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=40691

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Despite tensions in the region, 25,000 people from 100 countries are attending the 2015 Water Technology and Environment Control Exhibition (WATEC) conference held in Tel Aviv this week, one of the largest water technology events in the world, featuring 150 exhibitors and dozens of speakers.

SEE ALSO: Israelis Helping California Overcome Devastating Drought

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. This pressing issue is met at WATEC this week with a host of Israeli solutions, from seawater desalination and water conservation, to grey water recycling and wastewater treatment. Other pressing issues on the agenda include drip irrigation (an agricultural technology developed and perfected in Israel primarily by Netafim) and water purification.

Sorek desalination plant

Sorek Desalination Plant, Israel

Many WATEC attendees are looking to bring such solutions to their countries. And so is Mark LeChevallier, director of innovation and environmental stewardship for American Water, one of America’s largest publicly traded water utility companies. His company is “looking into the Israeli water companies and water-related technologies, trying to find the next big thing and import it to the US,” says LeChevallier, who’s currently meeting with Israeli entrepreneurs at WATEC in order to find projects to collaborate with.

Nuno Fragoso and Angeles Ramos, executives at Spanish engineering firm EPTISA who are attending the conference, tell NoCamels they’re looking for water technologies to be used in arid areas of Southern Spain, but not only. “We have projects all around the world, we can help Israeli companies expand into Latin America,” Fragoso says. Angeles says EPTISA is looking “to form a consortium of strong companies that can solve water shortages. I believe Israel can provide these solutions.”

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

Chinese executive Yanhua Ca of Umore Consulting Group, says she has brought three of her clients – large, Chinese manufacturers – to WATEC. “They’re looking for industrial wastewater solutions, specifically recycling and treatment technologies.”

supercoolingwater

Israel: A global leader in managing water resources

According to Israel’s Minister of Economy Aryeh Deri, who spoke at the conference, Israel is a “global leader in developing innovative and breakthrough technologies to manage scarce water resources.”

Since 50 percent of Israel is made up of desert – and with recurring droughts – over the years the Israeli government, scientists and companies have developed cutting-edge solutions to avoid water shortages. Now, most of Israel’s drinking water comes from desalination plants that are scattered around the country. “Israel has become an oasis of water technologies,” Deri told a mixed crowd of Israelis and internationals at a WATEC panel discussion on Tuesday.

As retold at the conference, Israel used to rely on natural resources for its water, like the Sea of Galilee, but quickly discovered that “Galilee is really a pond,” as desalination expert Ron Yachini of IDE humorously put it, and that the Jordan River is “famous and holy but lacks water,” as former Israeli president Shimon Peres said at the event.

Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee

Now that Israel doesn’t solely rely on natural water, its remarkable water management solutions inspire others – including countries in Africa, Asia and America – to implement technologies developed in the Startup Nation.

“Israeli drip irrigation technologies can transform the lives of millions”

According to William Samoei Ruto, Kenya’s deputy president, only 4 percent of Kenya’s available water is used, and the country is looking for solutions to make the other 96 percent usable. The African country looks to Israel, “the superpower of water,” for solutions, he said. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel.”

Drip irrigation – an Israeli technology that carefully dispenses drops of water to plants, thus conserving water – is especially important for agriculture in Africa, Ruto said. “We have come here with open minds to benefit from Israeli technologies that can transform the lives of millions in our continent and country.”

drip irrigation

Governor of Arizona Doug Ducey said Israel and his state share the same climate and that he feels “truly honored and privileged to be given an unparalleled opportunity to collaborate.” He praised the fact that 80 percent of Israel’s sewage water is reused; combined with extensive desalination for drinking water, these efforts give Israel significant water supplies. “You figured it out,” he said.

And while Arizona is looking forward to collaborating with Israel, California, which is suffering from extreme drought, already provides proof that Israeli water technologies can be successfully implemented elsewhere in the world. Israeli company IDE and its partners are currently building a desalination plant just outside San Diego, which could potentially provide Californians with 54 million gallons of water a day. The plant is using technology Israelis have been using for years, reverse-osmosis, which involves forcing seawater through a film with tiny holes that allow only water molecules to pass through, while the larger salt molecules cannot.

According to Richard Bloom, a California Assembly member attending WATEC, “up until now, Sacramento homes didn’t have water meters, because water has been taken for granted for so long; this needs to change. We never gave another thought to water, and now we’re forced to conserve water and learn from Israel, a world leader in the field.”

Photos: Joby Elliott, IDE

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By 3D-Printing Solar Panels, Israeli Startup Utilight Significantly Cuts Renewable Energy Cost http://nocamels.com/2015/10/utilight-3d-prints-solar-panels/ http://nocamels.com/2015/10/utilight-3d-prints-solar-panels/#respond Tue, 13 Oct 2015 13:35:53 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=40477

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Solar power is rapidly gaining momentum as the world’s alternative source of energy, with a slew of new technologies aimed at harnessing the sun’s powerful rays. In search of non-polluting alternatives and cost-effective methods of capturing solar energy, scientists and companies alike are turning to technology to find a compatible solution.

And one Israeli startup is at the forefront of harvesting sustainable energy. Utilight, a Yavne-based startup founded in 2009, is using 3D printing methods to create solar cells at faster and cheaper manufacturing rates than conventional solar panels.

SEE ALSO: How Going Solar Can Earn You Some Extra Income

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

Utilight’s 3D printing method is particularly efficient for high-volume manufacturing of solar photovoltaic cells since the contact-free, laser-based printing process produces more solar cells, but uses the same or fewer materials as opposed to conventional printing methods, the company claims. “Striving towards a brighter future, our innovative technology aims to increase solar cell efficiency and reduce material use, reducing the cost per watt of solar electricity,” the company notes.

The innovative startup has developed a unique printing technology called “Pattern Transfer Printing” for high-volume manufacturing of photovoltaic solar cells, creating a cheaper way to apply a conducting metal layer to the cells. PTP, Utilight’s method of wafer-metallization, avoids excessive use of materials such as silver paste, and allows cells to generate more power. The good news for manufacturers is that this new technology simply requires one extra module at the plant, as Utilight‘s systems can be installed not only in new production lines, but also in existing manufacturing lines.

The system’s “implementation is designed for a quick and smooth assimilation within existing production lines, using the same metal pastes and production sequences and maintaining cell durability and bankability,” according to the company. Simply put, the production process yields more solar panels per minute that also last longer.

Annual savings of up to $1 million

The process is expected to save traditional manufacturers up to $500,000 in silver paste and an additional $500,000 in annual efficiency for a standard voltage manufacturing line, according to the company. “While the cost of solar cells has been steadily declining, it still remains one of the main barriers for wider adoption,” according to a company statement. “Utilight’s printing technology can provide significant reduction in manufacturing costs.”

SEE ALSO: Vast Solar Roof Makes Israeli Knesset World’s Greenest Parliament

This promise is exactly why Utilight has captured the interest of top investors. In 2012, the company secured a $4.5 million funding round from Robert Bosch Venture Capital, I2BF Global Ventures and Waarde Capital.

Utilight

Utilight – founded by CEO Dr. Giora Dishon, Amir Noy, Misha Matusovsky and Moshe Finarov – has also raised funds from a series of government grants, angel investors and from Israel’s Office of the Chief Scientist.

By significantly cutting the costs of solar cell production, Utilight may have earned its place in the sun.

Photos and video: Courtesy of Utilight

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These Israeli Companies Fight World Hunger With Innovative Technologies http://nocamels.com/2015/09/israeli-technologies-fight-world-hunger/ http://nocamels.com/2015/09/israeli-technologies-fight-world-hunger/#respond Mon, 21 Sep 2015 18:19:24 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=40240

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The escalating global food crisis might soon mean that increasing yields and sowing more crops may simply no longer meet the demand for nourishment. By 2050, it is estimated that the world will need to produce at least 50 percent more food to feed its 9 billion people. However, due to global warming, crop yields could drop by 25 percent, according to the World Bank.

SEE ALSO: ‘The Waze of Agriculture’ Aids Farmers With Crowdsourced Data

In the face of world hunger, some Israeli companies are working hard to put a halt to world hunger and agflation – the rising food prices caused by increased demand for agricultural commodities. Since the 1950s, Israelis have found innovative ways to feed the world and grow crops in their very own desert. NoCamels highlights five major Israeli technologies that could end world hunger.

Agriculture - Environment News - Israel

Tal-Ya

While water scarcity has plagued desert countries for decades, it is no longer an inevitable concern for Israel’s desert thanks to technologies like Tal-Ya Agriculture Solutions. The Israeli firm has developed technologies designed to grow more food with less water.

Among the company’s technologies are: Reusable plastic trays that 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.

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

Since its inception 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

GrainPro

In poor countries where agricultural resources are scarce, mold and insects can easily destroy harvests, especially amid extreme heat and humidity. The GrainPro Cocoon, created by Hebrew University alum Professor Shlomo Navarro, solves that problem. The Cocoon is a giant storage bag that safeguards crops by keeping out hungry bugs.

The material used to protect crops is specifically designed for open desert conditions, in areas with harsh weather conditions such as Africa and South America, where there is a shortage of storage facilities to protect harvests.

Nowadays, the storage bags are not only used in the Middle East but all over the world. Since the Cocoon’s inception in 2011, Navarro’s creation is now owned and sold by American company GrainPro.

NRGene

Can you imagine growing limitless amounts of wheat amid extreme climates such as drought or heat? The Israeli firm NR Gene, based in Ness Ziona, has already checked that off its list. The genomic data startup recently mapped the complete emmer wheat genome in one month, which is now expected to allow scientists to breed seeds with higher yields and stronger disease resistance.

Now, “we can get higher yields, better grain quality and nutritional value, and plants that are resistant to diseases and better adapted to their growing environments,” NRGene‘s lead researcher Dr. Assaf Distelfeld said in a statement. “Sequencing the wild wheat genome will advance wheat research and facilitate the genetic identification necessary for continuing wheat improvement.”

The emmer wheat genome map was a collaborative project led by researchers from various universities in Israel and abroad.

black emmer

Black emmer

Bio Bee

A pioneer in organic agriculture, Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu has successfully left its mark on chemical-free farming with its very own company Bio Bee. 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. Bio Fly is a collaborative effort by Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian agricultural experts.

Fruitflys

AKOL

Israeli software house Agricultural Knowledge On-Line (AKOL), founded in 1978, specializes in helping producers grow fruits and vegetables, raise poultry and dairy cows, manage vineyards, and even make olive oil. The AKOL online forum, which is owned by Kibbutz Bror Hayil in Southern Israel, advises farmers on what time of year is best to plant and harvest, how to cope with drought, how to track growth of livestock, among many other questions and concerns when running a modern farm.

In 2011, the firm signed a development agreement with computer giant IBM to be hosted on its “cloud.” Most recently, AKOL announced it would lunch an “agricultural cloud” in China, after signing an agreement with its government earlier this year.

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Israel Inks Deal To Provide Water Technologies To Drought-Ridden Southern California http://nocamels.com/2015/09/israeli-technology-helps-drought-ridden-southern-california/ http://nocamels.com/2015/09/israeli-technology-helps-drought-ridden-southern-california/#respond Sun, 20 Sep 2015 12:00:42 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=40398

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

The rains may have finally come to Southern California in recent weeks, but officials know they can no longer rely on the vagaries of nature to ensure a proper water supply and are looking to Israel for help.

SEE ALSO: How Israeli Desalination Technology Is Helping The US

In an agreement signed earlier in September, LA County will work with Israel to study Israeli water technology, seeking the most appropriate systems to be used in the county to conserve water resources.

Carlsbad desalination project

“The technology Israel has developed and employed to stretch its meager water resources is truly impressive,” said LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “I look forward to working together on ways that Los Angeles County can benefit from their work on technology and research concerning point of reuse, recycling and groundwater recharge. ”

SEE ALSO: Genetically Modified Plants To Resist Intense Drought

LA County, which encompasses the City of Los Angeles and dozens of other cities and towns, has nearly 10 million residents; nearly a quarter of all California residents. About half the county’s population gets its water from a network of municipal reservoirs and sources, but the other half gets it water from private water systems – many of them drawing from groundwater. These systems are, according to a recent UCLA study, vulnerable to contamination, limited supply, or inability to supply current and projected demand.

Israeli expertise to solve California’s ongoing water problems

The agreement with LA County is the latest in a series of deals in which California has drawn on Israeli know-how and experience to solve the state’s ongoing water problems.

In March 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a deal with California Governor Jerry Brown to export Israeli desalination, water recovery and recycling, water filtration, and water security technology to the state.

“Through this agreement, California and Israel will build on their respective strengths in research and technology to confront critical problems we both face, such as water scarcity, cybersecurity and climate change,” said Brown.

San Diego area

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here

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Following Israel’s Most Devastating Sandstorm, Eyes Are On Air Pollution App BreezoMeter http://nocamels.com/2015/09/israel-devastating-sandstorm-air-pollution-app-breezometer/ http://nocamels.com/2015/09/israel-devastating-sandstorm-air-pollution-app-breezometer/#respond Thu, 17 Sep 2015 10:25:51 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=40354

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The worst dust storm in Israel’s history struck last week, causing widespread health problems and pollution, and leaving behind it a beige layer of dirt covering the entire country. While most found the storm unbearable, there are some exceptions, notably the team behind the already popular Israeli app BreezoMeter, which tracks pollutants and can determine air quality in nearly every corner of the world.

The massive sandstorm, which broke air pollution records, led many to seek pollution data through BreezoMeter, which CNBC recently called one of the “world’s hottest apps.”

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

BreezoMeter

“Air pollution is a global problem that 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.

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

Last week, the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection issued a pollution warning urging the public to remain indoors. Some areas, including the capital Jerusalem, saw pollution skyrocket to up to 140 times the usual levels.

This happened during the same week that Tel Aviv hosted Israel’s largest technological conference, DLD, which forced its 10,000 attendees to face extreme conditions of heat and humidity. But Breezometer reaped the rewards, as its booth at the conference was one of the most sought-after.

Real-time pollution data at your fingertips

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.

The company, founded just last year by Emil Fisher, Ran Korber and Ziv Lautman, has so far raised $1.8 million in private financing rounds. Its app is available for Android and iPhone users.

BreezoMeter

Still, pollutants are a fact of life in our modern world – and that’s something BreezoMeter can’t change. However, 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. “Imagine how useful it would be if on your next visit to the doctor, they’d be able to check the quality of the air you have breathed over the past two weeks – maybe that could be the cause of your cough?”

Photos and video: Amos Meron, BreezoMeter

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Israeli Researcher Heads Team That Discovers One Of The Oldest Galaxies In The Universe http://nocamels.com/2015/09/israeli-researcher-oldest-farthest-galaxies-in-universe/ http://nocamels.com/2015/09/israeli-researcher-oldest-farthest-galaxies-in-universe/#respond Wed, 16 Sep 2015 10:07:11 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=40312

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When speaking of galaxy EGS8p7, “far out” would be an understatement.

A team of researchers at the California Institute of Technology, led by Israeli Adi Zitrin, reports that they have identified one of the oldest and most distant galaxies known to mankind. According to Zitrin, a NASA Hubble Postdoctoral Scholar in Astronomy, and Richard Ellis, a professor of astrophysics who joined in the research, the galaxy known as “EGS8p7” is about 13.2 billion-years-old. As a point of comparison, the known universe is 13.8 billion-years-old, meaning the EGS8p7 came into existence a mere 600 million years after the Big Bang.

The discovery is now forcing researchers across the world to rethink their understanding of what happened after the Big Bang.

SEE ALSO: Are We Alone In The Universe? Research Says Chances Of Advanced Alien Life Are Slim

egs8p7

Discovering the evolution of the universe

The Big Bang is the theory that posits that the universe continuously expands so out of its original dense, hot state, which was characterized by high amounts of free-roaming electrons, protons and photons. After a cooling period, protons and electrons began to mix together to form hydrogen atoms that allowed light to travel through space. This allowed for galaxies, like our own, to begin to form, as gravity could then begin pulling matter together. In most known galaxies, the clouds of hydrogen atoms absorbed radiation emitted from newly-formed galaxies, a process known as reionization, but as the researchers show, for EGS8p7, this was not the case.

“If you look at galaxies in the early universe, there is a lot of neutral hydrogen that is not transparent to this emission,” Zitrin said in a statement. “We expect that most of the radiation from this galaxy would be absorbed by the hydrogen in the intervening space. Yet still we see Lyman-alpha from this galaxy.” Lyman-alpha is an emission line of hydrogen through space, which, as stated above, usually indicates the formation of new galaxies or stars as the clouds of hydrogen absorb radiation. It is believed that Lyman-alpha emissions should have ended after the reionization process billions of years ago, but now the detection of Lyman-alpha lines may turn accepted astrophysical theories on their heads.

“The surprising aspect about the present discovery is that we detected this Lyman alpha line in an apparently faint galaxy…corresponding to a time when the universe should be full of absorbing hydrogen clouds,” Ellis stated. One possible explanation for this previously unobserved phenomenon is that the absorption of radiation by the hydrogen clouds did not occur in a uniform manner across all galaxies. In addition, it is possible that EGS8p7 is populated by unusually hot stars and that the hydrogen clouds were created, or reionized, much earlier than was previously thought.

SEE ALSO: New Research Maps The Location Of Our Gigantic Galactic Supercluster – Laniakea

egs8p7graph

Graph of the distance of EGS8p7 from other known redshifts.

The novelty of the finding also has to do with the distance of the EGS8p7 galaxy from our own. Using spectrometer data the team gathered from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope, they were able to discover the galaxy’s redshift, or the red light that extends from the galaxy that indicated its distance, similar to the way some sounds cause the Doppler effect. In the case of EGS8p7, its redshift reading is 8.68, while prior to the discovery, the most distant galaxy we were aware of had a redshift of 7.73.

“We are currently calculating more thoroughly the exact chances of finding this galaxy and seeing this emission from it, and to understand whether we need to revise the timeline of the reionization, which is one of the major key questions to answer in our understanding of the evolution of the universe,” Zitrin says.

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Evogene’s Gene-Based Insecticide Is Protecting Plants The Natural Way http://nocamels.com/2015/09/evogene-gene-based-insecticide/ http://nocamels.com/2015/09/evogene-gene-based-insecticide/#respond Tue, 08 Sep 2015 13:22:50 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=40071

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

In the latest innovation in the growing industry of genetic modification, Israeli research firm Evogene last week announced a breakthrough in insecticide development.

Its big data gene analysis platform has enabled scientists to successfully recruit genetic material from microorganisms that show promise as insecticides, the company said. With more research, the company hopes to further modify the genes and enhance their insecticidal properties, and insert or breed them into crops as a built-in insecticide to battle pests.

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

fieldevogene

It sounds futuristic, but Evogene didn’t invent this process. In fact, the company is simply expanding technology that has been around for over two decades in an effort to develop a replacement for a popular gene-based insecticide that is showing its age.

Some organisms have natural defenses against predators and pests, and with the advent of big data computing and advanced genetic analysis technology, it’s now possible to isolate the genes that are responsible for providing these defenses. The analysis provides insight the function of genes, with an eye toward exploiting their functionality. With enhancements, genes could be developed for insertion into species to provide a plethora of benefits, such as resistance to pests and a greater ability to thrive in dry climates.

SEE ALSO: Proof Of Earliest Agriculture Found In Israel

evogeneplantgene

Based on its latest research, Rehovot-based Evogene announced that it had isolated specific genes in microbes that appear to have “insecticidal properties” capable of fighting off several major-league pests. Using its proprietary microbial-based database and dedicated analysis platform, BiomeMine, the company said it had isolated several microbial-based genes that will be effective against Coleoptera (members of the beetle family) and Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies).

Those bug families include insects that are among farmers’ biggest nightmares – corn rootworm and corn earworm, responsible for huge losses each year.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

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Internet of Bees: Intel Tech Puts Backpacks On Bees To Track World Bee Collapse http://nocamels.com/2015/09/internet-of-bees-intel/ http://nocamels.com/2015/09/internet-of-bees-intel/#respond Thu, 03 Sep 2015 12:23:43 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=40172

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Since the 1990s, beekeepers around the world have witnessed the strange and inexplicable disappearance of honeybees from their hives. Not only does this natural tragedy affect the supply of succulent honey; honeybees are also the pollinators of flowers and plants that play a central role in the earth’s ecosystem, and are a source of a third of our food. Many melittologists (bee scientists), horticulturalists and beekeepers alike blame this decline on the increasing use of pesticides on plants and crops, as well as the effects of climate change.

In order to better understand how honeybees act and why their populations are on the decline, engineers at Intel are partnering with CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, to create tiny “backpacks” that will be fitted on bees to track their movements.

Bee pollinating with "backpack"

Using Intel’s Edison Breakout Board kit, a customizable computing platform only slightly larger than a postage stamp, beekeepers around the world will be able to keep track of honeybee behavior and collect potentially crucial bee-saving data.

In turn, the information collected will be made part of the Global Initiative for Honey Bee Health (GIHH), an international alliance of researchers, beekeepers, farmers and technology companies that aims to better understand why healthy bee colonies are on the decline.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Pesticide Company That Fights Pest With Bumble Bees Now Launches In India

Bee backpacks

Intel’s micro-sensor kits, which were largely developed by engineers in Israel, will track bees’ behavior and activity through tiny Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags that will be placed on select bees’ backs. The tags will report back to the Intel Edison board when the bees pass by, letting it know how many come back to the hive, as well as other environmental information including humidity levels surrounding the hive, temperature and solar radiation.

“Bee colonies are collapsing around the world and we don’t know why,” said Professor Paulo de Souza of CSIRO in a statement. “Due to the urgent and global nature of this issue, we saw the need to develop a methodology that any scientist could easily deploy. This way we can share and compare data from around the world to collaboratively investigate bee health. This united effort is a fantastic example of the Internet of Things.”

inteledisonchip

Intel’s Edison Breakout Board

Internet of Things does good

The information collected by Intel’s Edison platform is expected to be even more detailed than standard mechanisms to measure bee behavior. The captured data will then be sent onto CSIRO’s Data Access Portal. Researchers will then go about composing a comprehensive 3D model to visualize how the bees may be moving through the landscape. This will give researchers insights into bee movement, behaviors and responses to levels of stress that can affect their health and pollination patterns.

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

beehivecloseup

Inside the beehive

This methodology is being applied by the CSIRO in Hobart, Tasmania, where more than 10,000 sensors are now fitted to the backs of bees. Following on from the success of that project, the CSIRO is now seeking collaboration from across the world to make this a global research effort.

beekeepersPhoto: Spectrum Communications

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Chameleons’ Eyes Can’t Look In Two Directions At Once, Research Shows http://nocamels.com/2015/08/chameleon-eye-function-research/ http://nocamels.com/2015/08/chameleon-eye-function-research/#respond Sun, 30 Aug 2015 11:09:45 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=40133

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Well known among nature’s best tricksters for their ability to change color to fit their background, chameleons have yet another talent up their lizardly sleeves – eyes that swivel around and appear to be looking in two directions at once.

In contrast to humans, who have to turn their heads to have a wider but still relatively narrow field of vision, chameleons enjoy a wider field of vision with the ability to swivel each of their eyes in a different direction.  Called ‘voluntary strabismus,” this ability enables the chameleon to minimize its body movements to reduce the likelihood of revealing its presence to those it hunts as well as to those that might hunt them.

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

Is this crazy adaptation really an example of this reptile’s eyes each being independent of the other, thus enabling them to simultaneously see two different views of their world?

greenchameleon

Chameleon computer games

To Professors Ehud Rivlin of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and Prof. Gadi Katzir of the University of Haifa, this seemed like an intriguing research question. They went about answering that question by getting chameleons to play a computer game especially designed to potentially frustrate the creatures, yet possibly solve the riddle of whether chameleons really enjoy ‘eye independence.’

When the researchers showed chameleons a double image of a tiny insect moving opposite directions across a computer screen, the reptiles focused first on one image with one eye while the other eye “wandered.” Suddenly, both eyes locked on one image a nanosecond before the reptile cocked its dart-like, sticky tongue and fired at-will.

“There were a few seconds of indecision when the chameleons were deciding which target to shoot at,” said Prof. Rivlin. “If the eyes were truly independent, one would not expect one eye to stay put and then have the other eye converge.  But we found that once the chameleon made its decision about which target to fire on, it swiveled the second eye around to focus on the same simulated fly the first eye was locked on.”

chameleoneyes

This behavior pattern, said the researchers, suggests that the second eye has knowledge of where the first eye is directed.  That the chameleons are able to track objects moving in opposite directions before deciding which one to target suggests that their eyes are not really independent, as many have believed.

SEE ALSO: Knot So Fast: Israeli Researchers Discover Incredible Self-Defense Mechanism

“Their eyes possibly engage in some kind of ‘cross talk,’” suggested Prof. Rivlin.

When chameleon eye cross talk occurs and the second eye locks onto the same target as the first, the expert predator of tiny insects gets the necessary stereoscopic depth perception at just the right moment for accurate striking.

What we share with chameleons

Chameleons, of which there are over 200 species, are denizens of tropical climates and deserts, but widely kept as pets the world over. They have intrigued scientists and non-scientists alike with their ability to change color and skin textures and their seemingly roaming, independent-looking eyes.

redchameleon

According to the researchers, many animals – especially fish and birds, but not mammals – have wandering, independent eyes, with each eye connected to the opposite side of the brain so that the left part of the brain knows what the right eye is doing, and vice-versa. That’s more common than we realize, they said.

But, no surprise, chameleons are different.

“We demonstrated that when chameleons are presented with two small targets moving in opposite directions, they can perform simultaneous, smooth, monocular visual tracking,” said Prof.  Rivlin. “To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of this capacity. We suggest that in chameleons, eye movements are not simply ‘independent,’ but are disconjugate (not paired in acting) during scanning, conjugate (paired in action) during binocular (two-eye) tracking, and disconjuate but coordinated during monocular (one-eyed) tracking. Each eye is aware of its own location and the orientation of the other eye. It is just a different kind of cooperation that takes place in human binocular vision.”

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Israeli Farm Seakura Produces New Superfood: Organic Seaweed Grown Outside The Sea! http://nocamels.com/2015/08/seakura-seaweed-superfood/ http://nocamels.com/2015/08/seakura-seaweed-superfood/#respond Wed, 26 Aug 2015 11:27:39 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=39994

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It’s fresh, nutritious, organic, and has officially been labeled as the up-and-coming superfood. And no, we’re not talking about kale. Seaweed is finally making its mark on the world, and one Israeli company is helping this natural treasure make its way to the top of the food pyramid.

Seakura, an Israeli seaweed company established in 2006, is considered a world leader in developing, harvesting, and manufacturing the leafy algae. Unlike seaweed that’s grown in salty seawater and is later dried, Seakura is one of a few companies in the world that grows seaweed outside the ocean and sells it fresh and ready to eat.

SEE ALSO: Fueling The Future With Algae?

seaweed

While most of the world’s seaweed is collected in the ocean, Seakura organically grows the vegetable in controlled pools using purified Mediterranean seawater. On Seakura’s farm just north of Tel Aviv, the company produces seaweed with greater nutritional values than seaweed grown in the ocean – year-round. The firm, which also operates an on-site research institute, is composed of a small yet highly skilled team of 15 field professionals, including an aquamarine biologist and two marine biologists.

Thanks to Seakura’s meticulous aquaculture technology (the farming of aquatic organisms), one serving of this superfood is said to boast double the amount of protein, iron, and fiber found in dried seaweed harvested from ocean water. For every 100 grams, Seakura’s “sea lettuce” contains 28 grams of protein, 53.8 mg of Iron, 2.73 mg of Vitamin B12, 21.9 mg of Vitamin C, and 238 mg of magnesium. In comparison, generic dried seaweed contains approximately two grams of protein and only one gram of dietary fiber, according to eatgoodfood.org. “There are also three times the carotenoids in our seaweed,” Seakura CEO Moshe Rivosh tells NoCamels.

Seakura sea lettuce

Avoiding contamination by purifying seawater 

For nearly a millennium, coastal people consumed algae, but in recent years, oil spills, sewage, industrial and radioactive wastes have contaminated it. Seakura avoids such concerns by growing its product in purified water, with complete control over elements such as water temperature and acidity levels.

“Seaweed has the ability to absorb water, so if the water is dirty, the seaweed is dirty, too,” Rivosh explains. “But our water is purified. It’s pure water without any dirt or heavy metals.”

SEE ALSO: Designer Uses Seaweed To Create Lamps

The standard seaweed-harvesting protocol entails growing the algae in small pools, equipped with filters and sensors that monitor water quality. Over time, Seakura’s team transfers the plants to larger pools. Thanks to its cultivating procedure, the company says it is able to naturally manipulate and raise the levels of proteins, fiber and vitamins found in the kelp.

Rivosh hopes seaweed will be added to our diets and become a food staple – not just wrapped around sushi rolls. Thanks to the overwhelming amount of nutrients found in seaweed, it’s also an ideal alternative for vegans and vegetarians.

Seakura's seaweed farm

Seakura’s seaweed farm

Affordable and nutritious, fresh seaweed can be added to any recipe 

Known for its versatility, fresh seaweed can be added to salads, sandwiches, and even pasta. “Seaweed is also considered a fresh herb – you can add it to anything you create in your kitchen,” Rivosh says. “It’s also very good in quiche!”

Seakura’s products are also affordable. The firm’s staple sea lettuce is priced around $2.5 per 100 grams, as opposed to $10-$12 – the cost of 100 grams of dried seaweed sheets.

Seakura seaweed salad

Seakura has already made its grand debut in the European market, where the kelp can be found in several health and organic food stores. In the UK, for example, it can be found at Planet Organic; and high-fashion department store Harrods serves Seakura seaweed in its salads.

The leafy algae are also sold across Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Israel. The company is now increasing production and working on new recipes. And, its seaweed experts are about to bring a taste of Israel to the UK, with a new product – hummus with seaweed!

Seakura seaweed with tofu

Seakura seaweed with tofu

Photos: Seakura, Ryan McDonald

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Israeli Tech Preserves More Crops With Fewer Chemicals http://nocamels.com/2015/08/adama-ringworm-agriculture/ http://nocamels.com/2015/08/adama-ringworm-agriculture/#respond Tue, 18 Aug 2015 06:17:41 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=39835

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

More than one out of every ten tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, okra plants, potatoes, and many more species never make it out of the field – completely destroyed by nematodes, also known as ringworms. And much of the rest of an infected crop is too damaged to sell.

These bugs have been the bane of farmers around the world, but a new solution from Adama Agricultural Solutions (formerly Makhteshim-Agan Industries Ltd) could end their reign of agri-terror. Nimitz, Adama’s brand name for a nematicide (nematode killer) based on a newly-discovered molecule called fluensulfone, will get rid of the most common nematodes without the use of heavy chemicals that have been the mainstay of nematicides, the company says.

SEE ALSO: Open Sesame: Israeli Researcher Gives Favorite Middle Eastern Grain A Boost

nematodedamage

Damage typically caused by nematodes.

Adama said Nimitz has the potential to be a game changer for farmers, as well as for the company. Nimitz, it said, is “expected to be a significant growth driver for the company in the future.”

Adama said that studies conducted over the past six years in 21 countries prove its product, the first new nematicide introduced anywhere in the past 20 years, is less hazardous to the environment than other solution. Israel, Australia, Europe, and many US states have approved Nimitz for use in commercial growing settings.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Startup Breeds Protein-Rich Edible Insects To End World Hunger

ringwormsupclose

The US Environmental Protection Agency approved Nimitz last September, saying that while you wouldn’t want to expose children and the elderly to the product for an extended period of time, there were no carcinogenic or other negative effects from Nimitz.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

Photos: Oregon State University/ Nematode CS

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Revolutionary Rooftop Farm Grows Organic Veggies Sans Soil In The Heart of Tel Aviv http://nocamels.com/2015/08/urban-farm-organic-produce-mall-rooftop/ http://nocamels.com/2015/08/urban-farm-organic-produce-mall-rooftop/#respond Sun, 16 Aug 2015 12:00:40 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=39865

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Buying organic and locally grown produce is a raging trend that is here to stay. And a new project in Israel called “Green in the City” is taking the trend to a whole new level, literally.

‘Green in the City’ grows mostly organic vegetables in floating beds of water (without soil) on the rooftop of Dizengoff Center, Tel Aviv’s central mall complex. Started by Mendi Falk, the project aims to bring the farm to the city, and fresh produce onto urban dwellers’ plates.

SEE ALSO: Israelis Create Enhanced Strains Of Fruits And Veggies 

urban agriculture

Urban agriculture on Dizengoff Center’s roof

Lettuce, basil, bok choy, onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers are among the vegetables grown on Falk’s compact, 100-square-meter rooftop farm. And while just about anything can be grown on the farm, Falk concentrates mainly on leafy vegetables because they have the shortest life cycles.

Urban agriculture requires less water, no soil

The science behind this intriguing project is hydroponics, a type of gardening that grows plants using very little nutrient-rich water solutions and without any soil. There are different types of hydroponic systems, but they all essentially work by pumping just the right amount of nutrients and water directly to the plants’ roots. Unlike traditional agriculture, hydroponic gardening gives the grower control over the plants’ watering and feeding cycles, as well as over the strength and acidity of the nutrient solution that is given to the plants.

SEE ALSO: Buy Your Food Straight From The Local Farmers With Farmigo

Falk’s farm also utilizes an aquaponics system: fish are grown in a tank that is connected to the plant growing beds, with water circulating between each other. The plants take in nutrients from the fish tank’s waste and clean the water that is pumped back into it.

Urban agriculture on Dizengoff Center's roof

The advantages are numerous: First and foremost, the plants grow faster and produce greater yields. These systems also take up less space, rule out the need for pesticides (since plant diseases and parasites are mostly soil-borne), and require less weeding. In addition, the rooftop garden needs less water as hydroponics uses 70 to 90 percent less water than conventional gardening.

“Harvested just 15 minutes before being served on the customer’s plate”

According to Falk, customers can taste the difference. “The taste is different not because the produce is growing in hydroponic systems, but because people are not used to eating fresh vegetables,” he tells NoCamels. “They’re used to eating vegetables that have been sitting in their refrigerator for days. Our vegetables are organic, pesticide-free, and truly fresh, because oftentimes they are harvested just 15 minutes before being served on the customer’s plate.”

Urban agriculture on Dizengoff Center's roof

Green in the City is a joint venture between Dizengoff Center and Falk’s company Living Green – which sells hydroponic and aquaponics systems to private consumers. “We believe that urban agriculture should be more spread throughout the city,” Falk says. “Since the farm is located on top of a popular space, people can easily come and see that the hydroponic method is not that complicated and they will be inspired to grow their own vegetables in their homes with hydroponic systems.”

A solution for world hunger? 

The farm’s produce is currently sold to two restaurants in Dizengoff Center – Café Greg and Garden Restaurant – as well as to Dizengoff Center’s farmers market for about $1 per unit, as opposed to organic vegetables sold at local supermarkets, which on average cost $2.5 per kilo. Falk says that 100 square meters are not enough to run a financially sustainable farm, and plans to expand to a 500-square-meter space on the Center’s roof in the coming months.

His vision for hydroponic systems extends way beyond his own business interests. “I think this is a part of a bigger solution for world hunger,” Falk explains. “Of course, hydroponics will not replace traditional agriculture as the major source of food, but in countries where there is not enough fertile ground or enough water, hydroponics can provide a much needed solution.”

Dizengoff_Center_Tel_Aviv

Dizengoff Center

Photos: Eunice Lim, Living GreenBeny Shlevich, Purdue University

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Proof Of Earliest Agriculture Found In Israel, Dating Back 23,000 Years Ago http://nocamels.com/2015/08/agriculture-dates-back-23000-years/ http://nocamels.com/2015/08/agriculture-dates-back-23000-years/#respond Fri, 07 Aug 2015 11:15:17 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=39688

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Open any history book and you’re likely to find that the practice of agriculture was invented 12,000 years ago in the Levant, an area in the Middle East that was home to some of the first human civilizations. But a new discovery recently made in Northern Israel seems to have shattered the myth on the advent of agriculture, offering up exciting evidence that trial plant cultivation, what we call agriculture, began far earlier – some 23,000-years-ago.

SEE ALSO: Why Thriving Civilizations Perished In The Levant

Researchers from Israel’s Tel Aviv, Bar-Ilan and Haifa Universities, with participation from Harvard, recently uncovered the first weed species at the site of a sedentary human camp on the shore of Israel’s Sea of Galilee, the location where prehistoric communities cultivated the first plants for human consumption.

“While full-scale agriculture did not develop until much later, our study shows that trial cultivation began far earlier than previously believed, and gives us reason to rethink our ancestors’ capabilities,” TAU’s Prof. Marcelo Sternberg said in a statement. “Those early ancestors were more clever and skilled than we thought.”

Sea of Galilee , Israel

Sea of Galilee, Israel

‘Our ancestors were more clever and skilled than we thought’

Though weeds are typically considered a threat or nuisance in contemporary farming, their presence at the site of the findings revealed the earliest signs of trial plant cultivation — some 11 millennia earlier than conventional historical thought regarding the onset of agriculture.

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

The site, which was built by fisher-hunter-gatherers, was found to be unusually well-preserved, having been charred, covered by lake sediment, and sealed in low-oxygen conditions — ideal for the preservation of plant material. Hence, weed species and harvesting tools found at the site provide clear evidence of early farming.

“This uniquely preserved site is one of the best archaeological examples worldwide of the hunter-gatherers’ way of life,” Sternberg says.

Prehistoric plant cultivation

The site bears the remains of six shelters and a particularly rich assemblage of plants. Upon retrieving and examining 150,000 plant specimens, the researchers determined that early humans there had gathered over 140 species of plants. These included 13 known weeds mixed with edible cereals, such as wild emmer (wheat), wild barley, and wild oats.

barley

Barley

The researchers found a grinding slab — a stone tool with which cereal starch granules were extracted — as well as a distribution of seeds around this tool, reflecting that the cereal grains were processed for consumption. The large number of cereals showing specific kinds of scars on their seeds indicate the likelihood of those cereals growing in fields, and the presence of sickle blades indicates that these humans deliberately planned the harvest of cereal.

This groundbreaking study offers evidence that early humans clearly functioned with a basic knowledge of agriculture and, perhaps more importantly, exhibited foresight and extensive agricultural planning far earlier than was previously believed.

Emmer wheat

Emmer wheat

The study was recently published in PLOS ONE and led by Prof. Ehud Weiss of Bar-Ilan University, in collaboration with Prof. Marcelo Sternberg of the Department of Molecular Biology and Ecology of Plants at TAU’s Faculty of Life Sciences and Prof. Ofer Bar-Yosef of Harvard University, among other colleagues.

Photos: H20Zachi Evenor

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Israeli Startup StemRad To Protect Astronauts From Radiation In Space http://nocamels.com/2015/08/israeli-startup-stemrad-protect-astronauts-space-missions/ http://nocamels.com/2015/08/israeli-startup-stemrad-protect-astronauts-space-missions/#respond Wed, 05 Aug 2015 10:20:25 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=39817

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

Israeli technology that can protect first responders from deadly gamma radiation – the kind of radiation emitted by nuclear bombs – may one day protect astronauts who explore deep space from the high levels of radiation they are likely to encounter.

SEE ALSO: What If Nuclear Disaster Strikes

Israel’s StemRad is working with US defense giant Lockheed-Martin to develop a version of its gamma-ray shielding vest for use in deep-space missions, the companies announced this week.

“We’re going to take our extensive knowledge of human spaceflight, apply our nano-materials engineering expertise, and working closely with StemRad, evaluate the viability for this type of radiation shielding in deep-space,” said Randy Sweet, Lockheed Martin business development director for the civil space line of business. “The Lockheed Martin team believes this could result in an innovative solution to enhance crew safety on the journey to Mars.”

StemRad

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor building Orion, NASA’s next-generation spacecraft designed to transport humans to destinations beyond low Earth orbit and bring them safely home. Designed for the space missions of tomorrow, Orion will, among other things, provide technology against the effects of deep-space radiation, considered one of the biggest threats and roadblocks to human exploration of the solar system beyond the moon.

SEE ALSO: Startup Launches Cellular Radiation Detection App

Key to the effort to protect against such radiation is the solution by StemRad, which has a product that protects first responders against gamma radiation generated by, among other things, nuclear explosions. Cleverly designed to allow freedom of movement, the StemRad 360 Gamma belt is not a full-body suit that makes it difficult to maneuver and freely explore – a key requirement for rescue workers.

Exposure to gamma radiation results in radiation sickness, the accelerated destruction of the blood cells and the inability of the body to replenish them, due to the damage sustained to bone marrow, which needed to generate new cells. Fifty percent of the body’s bone marrow is located in the groin and midsection areas of the body – and that is exactly the part of the body the StemRad belt protects, ensuring that rescue workers are protected against the effects of radiation sickness, but are able to maintain freedom of movement needed to assist others.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

Photos: HubertRoberts, StemRad

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Study: Bonobos Use Sophisticated Tools To Get Food, Just Like Humans Did 2 Million Years Ago http://nocamels.com/2015/08/bonobos-use-tools-to-get-food/ http://nocamels.com/2015/08/bonobos-use-tools-to-get-food/#respond Mon, 03 Aug 2015 11:31:10 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=39628

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Bonobos and humans may have more in common than we think.

A new Israeli study has found that the endangered bonobo (a type of chimpanzee) is capable of making and using tools to solve problems. And while individual apes in captivity have been known to use basic tools, this study shows that they can also make more advanced tools and that this capacity is more prevalent than previously believed.

SEE ALSO: Israelis Bring Archaeological Landmarks Back To Life

In an effort to better understand how ancient humans (also called hominins) came to be the earliest tool users in the Paleolithic era, about 2 million years ago, the research team studied a group of male and female bonobos. The results were surprising.

bonobobaby

For the study, led by University of Haifa researcher Itai Roffman, the team observed how two populations of captive and semi-captive bonobos in Germany and the US responded to a series of food extraction challenges that were set up. For one challenge, the researchers would show the bonobos that food was buried under rocks at an open field site, and then place natural materials like deer antlers, sticks, and stone tools nearby for potential use. “These were effectively used as mattocks, daggers, levers and shovels,” according to the study, which was recently published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

SEE ALSO: Domesticated Camels Didn’t Exist During Biblical Times

In a different challenge, the researchers hid food in the cavities of dry long bones to see how the bonobos would extract it. One bonobo was seen bisecting a bone by striking it successively with an angular hammer stone.

“She jabbed at me with her spear”

Especially remarkable was how a few bonobos modified short and long branches to serve specific purposes. One bonobo fashioned spears from long branches with her teeth. “She jabbed at me with her spear to prevent me from writing my notes and to bar me from going to different sites. If I didn’t dodge, I could have gotten hurt,” Roffman tells NoCamels. “But it’s remarkable, because this kind of behavior has been regarded as a uniquely early human trait until now.”

Of the 15 bonobos studied, seven made use of tools. “My main excitement was not about the fact that they were using tools, but rather about the complexity of the tool use,” Roffman says. “It surprised me that the bonobos were using the same strategies and same sequences of action with the tools that early hominins did in similar contexts to achieve the mission of extracting food.”

bonobo in captivity

A handful of scientists, however, have criticized the study, pointing out that the behavior of animals in captivity differs from that of their counterparts in the wild; mainly, that captive bonobos have more time to experiment with tools in a secure environment. Roffman plans to respond to this criticism with new data that he has accumulated from his field study on wild chimpanzees in West Africa. He declined to further comment until the new data is published.

Rebuilding the cultural traditions of apes 

Will apes take over the world in a few years? Probably not. Yet, Roffman believes his study carries important ethical implications. “Hopefully, this study will show that zoos are not suitable for chimpanzees and bonobos – our sister species,” Roffman says. “At least they should be kept in semi-captivity, open spaces with natural raw materials where they can rebuild their cultural traditions and express their potential, which resembles that of early hominins.”

In the future, Roffman hopes to establish cultural rehabilitation sanctuaries in Israel and in Africa to rethink the way apes are kept in captivity.

Photos: Jeroen KransenRob Bixby

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Stunning Hanging Garden Will Cover Israel’s Busiest Highway http://nocamels.com/2015/07/hanging-garden-ayalon-highway-israel/ http://nocamels.com/2015/07/hanging-garden-ayalon-highway-israel/#respond Mon, 27 Jul 2015 12:10:25 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=39641

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Plans are in motion to give the Ayalon, Israel’s busiest thoroughfare, a massive makeover that will see its eight lanes and two railroads roofed over and covered with a stunning new park. This 60-acre, $525 million “hanging garden” – which will include sports and recreation areas, cycling trails and coffee shops – could turn the highway, an infamous source of pollution and noise, into a green oasis in the heart of Tel Aviv.

SEE ALSO: Can Vertical Gardens End World Hunger?

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

Rendering of the park above the Ayalon Highway

Rendering of the park above the Ayalon Highway

The multi-year project, which may take another year before it is fully approved, will “overhaul Tel Aviv’s central business district, connecting its eastern side to its center,” city officials said in a statement.  Because it will be build on top of existing infrastructure and “maximize the use of existing land”, it is an environment friendly project, the city argues.

SEE ALSO: Massive Trash Site Turns Into Israel’s Largest Eco-Park

“This project is an environmental and architectural milestone for Tel Aviv,” city council member Itay Pinkas, head of the project’s steering committee, said in a statement. “This project will likely grab international attention, because it will be built over the Middle East’s busiest infrastructure strip, which includes roads, railroads, train stations, sewage, electricity and communication lines.”

Furthermore, Pinkas said, “the vast park in the heart of Israel’s largest metropolitan area will solve the scarcity of public land in the city, and reduce air and noise pollution. It will become a source for pride.”

The country’s busiest highway sees 750,000 vehicles a day

The Ayalon Highway, also known as Route 20, is the most congested highway in the country, and one of the busiest in the Middle East, with 750,000 crossing every day.

Critics of the plan argue that the steep half a billion price tag could instead go towards improvements in Tel Aviv’s transportation system, including building an underground railway. Others point to the project’s grandiosity and the challenges in raising enough funds to complete it.

In any case, the new master plan for the Ayalon Highway, prepared by local firm Lerman Architects, is subject to further approvals by county planners. If approved, the construction is likely to start only three years from now at the earliest.

Ayalon Highway today

Ayalon Highway today

Photos, renderings, video: Viewpoint (uploaded by Haaretz), City of Tel Aviv, Dr. Avishai Teicher, Yuval MadarLerman Architects

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Israeli Startup Breeds Protein-Rich Edible Insects To End World Hunger http://nocamels.com/2015/07/israeli-startup-breeds-edible-insects/ http://nocamels.com/2015/07/israeli-startup-breeds-edible-insects/#respond Tue, 14 Jul 2015 09:01:51 +0000 http://nocamels.com/?p=39394

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

Millions of people suffer from lack of protein, which is especially dangerous for children – and with the world population set to grow significantly in the coming years, mankind needs more, and cheaper, sources of protein.

Problem solved, believes Dror Tamir. According to Tamir, his company can provide a healthy, cheap alternative source of protein to the millions of children who lack other sources. His plan, he believes, will improve their health, give their families food security and jobs, and help the environment. How? With bugs. “We are growing edible insects for humans,” Tamir said.

His company, Steak TzarTzar – the word means cricket — which he founded with Ben Friedman and Chanan Aviv, aims to be the first to farm edible insects, using high-tech methods to quickly grow them in an organized manner, under sanitary conditions.

SEE ALSO: New Insects Introduced To Jordan River

grasshopper

In a world where protein is already lacking – and will become even harder to come by, as the world’s population grow to as many as 9 billion by 2050 – insects, and especially grasshoppers, are one under-untapped source. According to Tamir, grasshoppers are not only healthier than most sources of protein, but also cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

Without sufficient protein, health dangers abound. Lack of protein can hurt kids’ development, damage their immune system, and shorten their life expectancy. Already, cattle is not a viable source of protein for most people because it is too expensive and harmful for the environment – and the availability of animal protein will continue to fall as the world’s population grows and global warming makes farming in temperate climates more difficult.

Other alternative sources of protein are also impractical. Genetically modified salmon were rejected by the market, Tamir said, and the world’s first artificially grown burger cost about $330,000 to produce. “We wanted an alternative protein source and found that insects are the easiest solution,” Tamir said.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here

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