Far Out!

An Israeli Steak-Out In Space

By David E. Kaplan

You can actually say, “This steak is out of this world” and it would be true; both literally and figuratively.

How so?

Earlier in the year, Lay Of The Land published an article titled ‘Israel Leading A Slaughter-Free Revolution For A Healthier World’ revealing on how the world’s first laboratory-grown steak was served up in Israel by Aleph Farms (Aleph being the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet) by isolating cells from a cow and cultivating them into a 3-D structure.

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Animals Survive; Planet Thrives. Slaughter-free meat involves taking a sample of animal cells from a real cow and replicating them outside of the animal: without the antibiotics, environmental footprint, contamination and animal slaughter which comes with conventional meat production.

Founded   in 2017 by Israeli food-tech incubator The Kitchen – part of Israel’s food processing company Strauss Group Ltd., in collaboration with the Technion, Alpha Farms is set to impact the nature and scope of the future of food by producing cell-grown meat that resembles a free range version.

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Alpha Steak. Healthier for all – animals, humans and the planet.

For meat lovers, that all too familiar alluring sizzling aroma that is  like a culinary aphrodisiac,  will still be there.

The only difference  is  that the genesis of your T-bone, fillet, rump, sirloin or entrecote hails from a laboratory rather than a field. Having unveiled in December 2018 to much fanfare, the first prototype of lab-grown steak in the world, the Israeli enterprising entrepreneurs decided to take its curiosity to another scientific level!

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A lab-grown steak in a laboratory at Aleph Farms in Rehovot, Israel. (courtesy: Jpost.com – photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

The Next Frontier

In typical Israeli out-of-the-box fashion,  Alpha Farms launched its idea into the stratosphere by conducting an experiment to manufacture its meat product on the International Space Station (ISS) some 248 miles (339 km) from earth.

The ISS is a low-orbit space station that serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory between five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).

Aleph Farms explained that the project aims to demonstrate its mission of being able “to provide sustainable food security on earth and beyond by producing meat regardless of  the availability of land and local water resources.”

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Didier Toubia, CEO and co-founfer of Aleph Farms.

Says CEO Didier Toubia who co-founded Aleph Farms together with Prof. Shulamit Levenberg:

 “In space, we don’t have 10,000 or 15,000 liters (3962.58 gallons) of water available to produce one kilogram (2.205 pounds) of beef.”

The experiment, he said, “marks a significant first step toward achieving our vision to ensure food security for generations to come, while preserving our natural resources.”

To conduct the experiment in space, Aleph Farms teamed up with Russian company 3D Bioprinting Solutions, which develops implementations of 3D bioprinting technologies, and two American companies, Meal Source Technologies and Finless Foods, to carry out the process on September 26. As reported by Israel’s innovation news platform, No Camels cosponsored by the IDC Herzliya, “Aboard the Russian segment of the ISS, they used a unique technology of magnetic bio-fabrication, developed by 3D Bioprinting Solutions, to produce bovine, mummichog and rabbit myoblast/fibroblast constructs provided by Aleph Farms, Finless Foods, and Meal Source Technologies, respectively. All under microgravity conditions.”

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New Horizons. The RSC Energia spacecraft. (Photo via Rocosmos)

In a statement released on October 7, 3D Bioprinting Solutions said that the joint project “lays the groundwork for renewable protein sources for long term manned missions.”

3D Bioprinting Solutions and Meal Source Technologies’ co-founder Aleksandr Ostrovsky said, “We believe that bio-fabrication of cultured meat in space has several unique advantages such as sustainability, personalization, and biosafety. What is more, creating cultured meat products in space may grant invaluable scientific insights for implementation of this technology on Earth.”

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What’s Cooking? Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko on board of the International Space Station during the first experiment with 3D bioprinter in December 2018. (Photo 3D Bioprinting Solutions)

Aiming High

Hailing the experiment in space as a “successful proof of concept,” Aleph Farms said the cutting-edge research “in some of the most extreme environments imaginable serves as an essential growth indicator of sustainable food production methods that don’t exacerbate land waste, water waste, and pollution.”

These new innovative culinary methodologies aim to feed a rapidly growing world population predicted to reach 10 billion by 2050.

Assured of it venturing in the right direction, Aleph Farms cited a UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report  – published in September – that argued that conventional animal farming methods contributed greatly to climate change, creating “a challenging situation worse and undermining food security.”

Said  The Kitchen’s CEO, Jonathan Berger:

“The mission of providing access to high-quality nutrition anytime, anywhere in a sustainable way is an increasing challenge for all humans.” Whether “On earth or up above,” he continued,  “we count on innovators like Aleph Farms to take the initiative to  provide solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems, such as the climate crisis.”

This achievement, said Toubia, “follows Yuri Gagarin’s success of becoming the first man to journey into outer space, and Neil Armstrong’s 50th anniversary this year, celebrating the moment when the first man walked in space.”

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Mindful Menu. “Coming Up, one alpha steak with fresh vegetables and salad.”

While lab-grown steaks will likely not become commercially available for at least three to four years and the world waits, a video shows a group of people – among them Aleph Farm‘s vice president of research and development Neta Lavon – enjoying the steak-of-tomorrow alongside a tomato and zucchini pasta.

All these revelations have tongues not only wagging – but wanting to taste!

 

Protecting The Amazon Forest

Israel may be a tiny country but its humanitarian outreach knows no bounds

By David E. Kaplan

Yes, we are all familiar with the line at the end of emails “Trees have feelings too, please don’t print this!”

It’s a reminder that “Paper doesn’t grow on trees” and we can all do our bit to help save our planet.

Some Israelis have opted to do more – a lot more and going to the heart of one the problem areas – the Amazon rainforest.

While the name ‘Amazon’ conjures up the immediate image as one the world’s most valuable companies, the threat to its namesake –hardly raises an eyebrow and yet, the ‘rainforest’ in South America is a crucial part of our life-support system, creating up to 20% of our oxygen.

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From Israel With Love. The VeganNation team in Israel ready to help sustain the Amazon rainforest.

Here’s why we need the world’s largest rainforest:

All this resonated with the Israeli startup VeganNation  that recently announced  that it leased some 15,000 acres (60.7 square kilometers or 23.4 square miles) in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest for a ten-year period to protect the land from deforestation and wildlife poaching.

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We Are The World. From Yeshiva students to VeganNation co-founders (left to right) Isaac Thomas, Shneor Shapira, Yossi Rayby, and Nati Giat.

VeganNation is based in Ramat Gan, just outside Tel Aviv, with an office in London. Thomas says the startup employs approximately 20 people and works with 30 “ambassadors” across the world in places like Argentina, Brazil, India, and beyond, to spread its message.

Having built a global e-commerce platform and social network for vegans worldwide powered by its own digital currency, VeganNation, said it would hand the Amazon land over to preservation groups and activist organizations to protect it.

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Free The Forest. An aerial view of the river in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Deposit Photos

The Amazon rainforest might be located in Brazil, but its destruction affects us all, as climate change is a direct result of human activity and it’s in our hands to fight it,” said Isaac Thomas, the CEO and co-founder of  VeganNation.

The startup also announced that it was partnering with four local soccer teams from cities near the entrance to the rainforest to raise environmental awareness. Thomas told the Israeli innovation news network, NoCamels, that “VeganNation is already a main sponsor of the teams – three men’s teams and one women’s team – and revealed that an additional four top-tier national teams are set to sign on to the initiative.”

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Food For Thought. VeganNation co-founder Isaac Thomas with actress and dancer Jenna Dewan, a supporter of VehanNation.

Kicking For Eco-Goals

VeganNation’s initiative comes amid the devastating fires that have continued to burn in the rainforest since early August, releasing dangerous air pollutants into the atmosphere, severely damaging flora and fauna ecosystems, and endangering indigenous communities that live under the forest canopy. The fires are so intense that they can be observed from space.

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Our Future In Flames. A tract of Amazon jungle burning as it’s cleared by loggers and farmers in Novo Airao, Brazil. Reuters

“When we measure the destruction of the rainforest, we talk about football (soccer) fields as a unit, so we thought what if we use that same measure to save parts of it,” explained Thomas. To illustrate the point, the land leased by VeganNation covers over 5,500 soccer fields if we’re using the measure of large regulation-sized soccer fields of approximately 2.69 acres per field.

VeganNation understands that promoting veganism is an important step towards fighting the global warming crisis and raising awareness through local environmental projects among the Brazilian community is key. Partnering with four Brazilian soccer teams further enables us toward our mission of working together to create a better world,” he says.

Thomas reveals that the initiative came about through his close connection with a family in the city of Manaus in Brazil that owns land in the rainforest and used to lease it to a US gas company . When the lease was up, Thomas proposed to the family to lease the land to VeganNation explaining that “it’s a win-win situation for everyone as we’re not polluting the environment.”

The Israeli startup raised capital through private investors and added celebrity vegan activists Jerome Flynn, of Game of Thrones, and actor and dancer Jenna Dewan, to its advisory board.

Thomas says VeganNation’s work in the sports world is of key importance and the startup is set to bring in “one of the top three football players in the world as an ambassador for sustainability.”

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Fighting For Life. Typical in Game of Thrones of switching allegiance, Jerome Flynn (left) in Game of Thrones is today a celebrity vegan activist and on the advisory board of VeganNation.

Devils Peak

Environmental groups and researchers say the fires were started by humans at an accelerated rate probably by cattle ranchers and loggers looking to clear the land. The area of devastation in this year’s forest fires  marks a 47% increase compared to 2018 according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.

While deforestation had declined by 75% from 2005 to 2014 and Brazil was moving impressively toward a zero-deforestation policy, it started reverting back massively from 2015 onwards and now in 2019, it seems to have reached literally – a “devastating” peak.

Late last month, under heavy international pressure, and amid several public spats with world leaders rejecting aid offers, Bolsonaro finally issued an order to send over 40,000 troops to help fight the fires. Included in the global support are an eleven-member team of firefighters and rescuers from Israel to assist local authorities with search-and-rescue operations.

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Fiery Forecasts. Imagery from European Union satellites shows smoke from fires in the Amazon rainforest stretching across Brazil and into other countries. European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts

President Jair Bolsonaro who has good relations with the Israeli Prime Minister, accepted the aid from the Jewish state, which is understood to include 100 tons of fire-fighting material.

So, while Israeli firefighters will do what they can in the immediate term,  the Israeli startup VeganNation is looking long-term  – focusing on preserving Brazil’s home to 2.5 million animal species. Rainforest deforestation – which often takes place to raise and feed cattle for the meat industry – is one of the most important issues to tackle in the fight against climate change.

What also needs to ‘change’ are peoples understanding of the threat and this is where Israel’s VeganNation is looking  to make a difference.

Its also about changing lifestyles.

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Reality Check! A deforested area near Novo Progresso, in Brazil’s northern state of Para, in 2009. AP Photo/Andre Penne

Breath Of Fresh Air

Thomas exalts Tel Aviv as “number one in the world for vegan food,” having earned its title as the “vegan capital of the world.” Tel Aviv recently held the world’s largest vegan festival at the Sarona complex in June, attracting over 50,000 attendees. The city is home to some 400 vegan and vegan-friendly kitchens.

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Where’s The Beef? There isn’t any at this boardroom spread at VeganNation’s offices in Ramat Gan.

The Mediterranean diet, Thomas explains, “is naturally based on plants; there are salad bars everywhere in Israel. The basic Med diet is very complimentary to a plant-based lifestyle.”

Thomas met his co-founder Yossi Rayby while in Yeshiva (Jewish seminary) in Jerusalem some years ago. Rayby brought in Nati Giat and Shneor Shapira who all have a religious background, and some have maintained an Orthodox lifestyle.

Judaism has a strong message that drives me toward making the world a better place, where we live in peace and harmony,” says Thomas.

Yes, its one thing putting out fires, but the real battle is to see that deliberate fires are not started in the first place.

Acknowledging that the Amazon rainforest creates up to 20% of the world’s oxygen – the Israeli startup VeganNation and the work it is doing  is like ‘a breath of fresh air’.

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Tel A-Vegan. Tel Aviv’s abundance of food markets made veganism popular here before it was trendy worldwide. (Photo © Fotokon / Shutterstock)

Back To Africa

Originally from South Africa, Paul Hirschson returned to Africa as Israeli ambassador to Senegal and six other West African countries.  Following his tenure, he reflects on the experience with Lay Of The Land.

By Rolene Marks and David E. Kaplan

Seated in a bustling coffee shop in Tel Aviv Ambassador Paul Hirschson was far removed from downtown Dakar. Nevertheless, like Tel Aviv, Hirschson will tell you “Dakar is a cosmopolitan city whose identity is based on its melting pot of peoples.” Looking around at the packed tables of  animated Tel Avivians besides us, it was hard not to recognise a similarity of ethnic diversity.

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Hands On. Ambassador Paul Hirschson in West Africa.

Housing 25% of the country’s population and 80% of its economic activity, “Dakar is Senegal’s veritable engine room,’ he says.

So is Tel Aviv Israel’s engine room!

Culture, climate and a history of overcoming adversity – “there are a lot of similarities.”

Dakar is one of Africa’s great cultural and economic hubs. It is also home to a unique MASHAV-supported project helping Senegalese learn drip irrigation. Before returning to Israel at the end of his tenure as ambassador, Hirschson visited agricultural projects Israel was supporting, such as small farms east of Dakar in the plains of Senegal, nestled beneath the giant baobab trees.

“Agriculture is the anchor of what we are doing there,” says Hirschson.

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Israel’s Man In West Africa. Ambassador Paul Hirschson in front of the iconic Mosque of the Divinity in Dakar. (photo credit: Seth J. Frantzman)

“There is no country more perfectly poised to help Africa than the State of Israel,” says Hirschson, who was Israel’s man in Dakar from August 2015 to August 2018.  It was an active period of diplomatic outreach as an increasing number of African countries warmed to the State of Israel. “Bilateral ties between Israel and countries on the continent that the Jewish state had previously no established relations are growing,” he says. This is born out by Israel recently opening its twelfth Embassy in Africa, this time in Kigali, Rwanda and rumours abound of the possible establishing of formal ties with Sudan.

“Such relations are of mutual benefit,” he says. For Israel it represents a strategic outreach  but for West Africa “we are able to provide Israel’s groundbreaking technologies in agriculture, cyber security, counterterrorism, medicine, water management and other fields. We help provide much needed solutions to many of the challenges facing the continent today.”

The history of relations between Israel and the African continent is both heartwarming and complex.

It would seem almost natural that African countries would seek to build bridges with Israel. “Many of these countries have a historical and political trajectory that mirrors that of the Jewish State,” points out Hirschson noting that it was the legendary Golda Meir, Israel’s first female Prime Minister who recognized as Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in the 1950s, the great potential for Israel to help Africa.

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Facing The Press. Israeli Ambassador to Senegal Paul Hirschson speaks at a press conference, September 2015. Photo: Israel au Sénégal / Facebook

“Meir recognized that African countries and Israel share similar tragic pasts, having endured multiple wars and struggles for independence against foreign powers who ruled their ancestral homelands,” he says.

Listening to Hirschson, we were reminded of Theodore Herzl, the founding father of modern Zionism also wrote about what he saw as two peoples whose mutual histories of slavery and colonisation mirrored each other.

There is still one other question arising out of the disaster of nations which remains unsolved to this day, and whose profound tragedy, only a Jew can comprehend. This is the African question. Just call to mind all those terrible episodes of the slave trade, of human beings who, merely because they were black, were stolen like cattle, taken prisoner, captured and sold. Their children grew up in strange lands, the objects of contempt and hostility because their complexions were different. I am not ashamed to say, though I may expose myself to ridicule for saying so, that once I have witnessed the redemption of the Jews, my people, I wish also to assist in the redemption of the Africans.”

It is well over 100 years that Herzl wrote these empathetic words and “Israel is proud to be in Africa not to exploit  but to enrich,” says Hirschson.

While today relations between Israel and the continent are strengthening, it seems that in West Africa “something quite extraordinary” is taking place reflected by the visits of Israel’s Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, over the last few years.

In 2016, Netanyahu became the first Israeli premier to visit Africa in nearly three decades, with a trip to Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda. A year later he attended a meeting in Liberia of heads of state from the West African regional group, Ecowas. Regrettably, an Israel-Africa summit that was supposed to take place in Togo in October 2017 was cancelled but the mood is changing reflected in the statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when

Chad and Israel renewed diplomatic ties describing it as:

a partnership… to forge a prosperous and secure future for our countries”.

Ambassador Hirschson has strong ties and a passion for the African continent. Born and raised in South Africa to a family that played an active part in the struggle against Apartheid, Hirschson has an affinity to the people of the continent.

He is most proud of his grandfather, Issy Wolfson who was an anti-Apartheid activist and a trade unionist and “the only union representative to stand in a parliamentary election.” Growing up in a family at the forefront of the anti-Apartheid movement, “has had a huge impact on me; it gets into the DNA.”

Africa Outreach

“Africa and Islam meet in a harmonious way in Senegal,” says Hirschson, a country which has had a turbulent and troubling history. “For 300 years, slaves were exported from a small island off its coast called Goree, where visitors can see the dank cells where people were imprisoned until shipped to the New World.  The “Door Of No Return” still there, says it all! But from this tragic past has arisen a success story, a democracy in West Africa with a unique form of localised Islam and a colourful local culture.”

Hirschson says, he met with many in Africa “who identify Israelis with the West but are acutely aware that we are not European.” This impacts on their understanding and “although Muslims in Senegal and West Africa may have an affinity for the Islamic world and the Palestinian cause, they differentiate it from relations with Israel.”

Now, with Senegal last year joining the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member for the next two years – alongside Egypt, Japan, Ukraine and Uruguay – “it is potentially a very important ally for Israel.” The Embassy in Senegal is also responsible for six other countries in West Africa – Guinea, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde.

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Israel – A Friend In Deed. As there is no Israeli embassy in Sierra Leone – one of the poorest countries in the world according to UN indicators – Israel sent in 2014 medicines, clean water, blankets and other needed items via its embassy in Senegal.

Shared Experience

Hirschson explains that Israel is able “to have a unique conversation” with Africa. There is an explanation of ‘salvation’ why Africa became known for Jews as the “new exile from exile”.

“What few people are aware is that when Jews fled from the Spanish peninsular during the horrendous persecution of the Inquisition of the 15th century, it was to the African continent they first took refuge; this is why there were such large Jewish communities in north Africa from Morocco to Egypt.” When introducing himself in Africa, Hirschson would relate that “our first engagement with Africa was 3000 years ago when we were slaves in  Egypt. The second was some 2500 years ago when the Iraqis (Babylonians) conquered our first state and a part of my people escaped south and were given refuge in Ethiopia. Our third engagement was 500 years ago when we were exiled from Europe during the Spanish Inquisition. And our fourth engagement with Africa is Israel’s outreach today as a nation state that is independent. Today, Israelis live all over Africa. Africans hear the same story as our story of being slaves, conquered, colonised, exiled, and regaining independence in modern times. It’s the same narrative.”

Helping Hand

Situated in one of the most neglected regions in the world, Senegal as with many parts of West Africa are in dire need of both humanitarian and economic aid. During the 2014 Ebola crisis that placed thousands at risk, the tiny state of Israel  was according to a statement by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in New York, the world’s largest per-capita contributor to halting the spread of Ebola in West Africa.

“We have the ability to win hearts and minds in places like Senegal,” says Hirschson. “Unfortunately, it sometime takes outbreaks of diseases or natural catastrophes like floods, landslides and earthquakes for the world to notice the scope of our contributions.”

In Guinea, with whom “Israel renewed diplomatic relations in 2016, we built in 2017 an Intensive Care Unit in an economically depressed neighborhood and ran an agricultural training course for Guinean agronomists in Israel.”

During the same period, “We established the only Dialysis Center in Sierra Leone and was the first country in the world to deliver humanitarian aid to Sierra Leone following the devastating mudslides which killed over 1000 people in 2017.”  In 2015, “Twenty-five children from The Gambia and in 2018 the same number from Senegal were sent to Israel for life-saving heart treatment.”

Good relations with Africa can be mutually beneficial and “there is little doubt of  an increasing appreciation of Israel by Africans. It is appreciated that Israel was the fourth country in the world to recognize Senegal’s independence.”

Ambassador Hirschson asserts that Israel is “a perfect match” for Africa with agricultural, water, security and smart phone technology.

“Our farming conditions are almost an exact mirror image of the Senegalese farms. It is almost ‘copy & paste’,” says Hirschson.

“We built hundreds of smallhold-family farms in Senegal and trained 1500 family farmers in modern agricultural technologies and systems.”

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Field Of Dreams. With Israel’s helping hand, lettuce is grown on a MASHAV farm in Senegal. Photo: MASHAV

In recent years, Israel’s expertise in security technology is increasing sought. With the defeat of ISIS, “many of its members are returning home to Africa and pose a threat to fledgling democracies and the stability of fragile states,” says Hirschson. “This provides a fertile ground for terror, and Israel has the proven experience, expertise and technology to help. African countries are aware of the threat of fundamentalism, and poverty creates perfect conditions for extremism to flourish.”

An encouraging development, “is that some countries have come to understand that they can have friendly ties with both Israel and Palestinians; that it is no more a case of one or the other. This is a valuable lesson that more developed countries around the world can heed.”

Looking at Israel “through the lens of self-improvement and not only politics is mutually beneficial, and the next big challenge will be getting farming done right and hopefully convert farmers into entrepreneurs,” says the ambassador.

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Conversing Over Coffee. Lay Of The Land correspondents David E. Kaplan and Rolene Marks with Ambassador Paul Hirschson (right) for exclusive interview in Tel Aviv.

“Netanyahu’s warm embrace of Africa,” asserts Hirschson, “coupled with the growing needs of African countries is starting to bear real fruit.

With shared narratives and a growing affinity for each other, it makes total sense that the next great love affair with Israel is born in Africa. 

 

 

 

*Feature picture: Having A Field Day. An animated Ambassador Paul Hirschson at a small farm project supported by Israel in Senegal. (photo credit: Seth J. Frantzman)

Cleansing Experience

Two Young Israeli engineers introduce clean water to Ugandan community

By David E. Kaplan

 

Israelis have their eyes on Africa, not to exploit but to enrich.

Such was the motivation for two 26-year-old water engineering graduates Selda Edris and Mayes Morad, both from the Galilee who as students were shocked on discovering the level of poverty in rural Uganda.

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Dirty Water. A major cause of children’s illness and death in Uganda.

“We were amazed by the living condition of the children,” said Morad. “We were exposed to horrible poverty and were shaken to see children shivering when it got cold, barefoot or with torn shoes.”

It was one thing to be “shocked”, but both asked the question:

Can we do something about it? Can we make a difference?”

Following their graduation it was not the exotic beaches of the far east that attracted these idealistic engineers. Armed with their education, they wanted to volunteer and knew exactly where. The calling was clear;  they wanted to help provide a specific Ugandan community with clean drinking water.

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“Clean Water”. Young Israel engineering graduates Selda Edris (left) and Mayes Morad providing water solutions in Uganda (Photo: Gali Margalit)

So, soon after graduating, Edris, from the Circassian village of Rehaniya, and Mayes from the Druze village of Beit Jann on Mount Meron in northern Israel, joined the HELPAPP organization and set off for a community in Uganda that pulled at their heartstrings. “There were 900 school children from the region that drank water  from a nearby swamp that filled up in winter,” said Edris.

Although the three schools in the community boiled the swamp water before drinking, “this was  hardly a safe solution” to the young Israelis.

Finding “a solution” proved challenging to the enterprising and innovative young engineers. However, Edris and Morad were finally able to install sinks and taps in the schools and connect them to a proper purification facility. When complete, 900 children had running clean water.

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Normal Life. Extracting dirty water from swamp in rural Uganda.

The reality of what they achieved struck home.

When I saw how happy they were when they just turned on the tap and water came out, I thought to myself,” says Morad, “what in the world would make me, or my nieces and nephews who are the same age as these schools kids, feel so happy?”

The joy in the children’s eyes when they opened a tap to wash their hands and water came out stayed with her. “It’s difficult to imagine that there are children in this world who don’t have the most basic commodity – drinking water – only because they weren’t fortunate enough to be born in the right place.”

For Edris and Morad “Clean water is a basic right for every person in this world – regardless of where you were born.”

After providing a solution to supplying the schools with running water, the two Israelis initiated a Facebook fundraising campaign to buy shoes for many the children who ran around barefoot on the hard-arid African terrain.

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“I feel beautiful for the first time”. Every day Helen had to choose how to use the little water she had. Now that she has a steady source, she says she feels beautiful for the first time.

We Shall Return

“We’ve helped hundreds of children, but we know there are so many others in other parts of Uganda, who don’t consider drinking water a given,” says Edris. “We want to come back to Uganda and initiate a larger scale operation.”

Ask a young teenager in Israel, the USA or Europe what they most want? The answers would not be even close to the answer a 13-year-old girl gave Edris. “All she wanted was clean water, clothes and an electrical light at home to light up the house when it gets dark. What we take for granted isn’t taken for granted in so many places around the world, and that’s sad. She broke my heart.”

It also broke Israel’s Foreign Minister Golda Meir in the 1950s. When the future Prime Minister was appointed Israel’s second Foreign Minister in 1956, Golda announced that a cornerstone of her foreign policy was to reach out to the African states emerging from colonial rule. The rationale for this was lost to many at the ministry. After all, the new countries were often poorer than Israel and facing greater security, environmental and other problems; what could they possibly help Israel with?

She explained:

Independence had come to us, as it came  to Africa, not served up on a silver platter, but after years of struggle. Like them, we had shaken off foreign rule; like them, we had to learn for ourselves how to reclaim the land, how to increase the yields of our crops, how to irrigate, how to raise poultry, how to live together and how to defend ourselves…. The main reason for our ‘African Adventure’ was that we had something we wanted to pass on to nations that were even younger and less experienced than ourselves.”

That “African adventure” continues today inspiring young and talented Israelis like Selda Edris and Mayes Morad who could not stand idly by in the face of suffering.

 

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A refugee camp in Uganda, 2018 (Photo: AP)

 

Dumb & Dumber

Obsessed with Israel, South Africa ‘Downgrades’ into the abyss of absurdity

By David E. Kaplan

While South Africa speaks of downgrading its diplomatic ties with Israel, smarter countries to its north like Sierra Leone are benefiting from Israel’s amazing technology.  Since March, the Jewish State is providing school children at St. Joseph’s Girls’ School in Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown with clean drinking water extracted from the air.

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Israel In Africa. Students receiving clean, fresh water extracted from air at St Joseph’s school in Freetown, Sierra Leone from an Israeli invention. (photo credit: DRUSSO/SHTEVI PHOTOGRAPHY)

Sound impossible? Not for Israel where the word “impossible” is absent from the Start-Up Nation’s lexicon.

The technology comes in the form of an atmospheric water generator known as the “GEN-350,” and is produced by the Israeli company Watergen which can produce up to 900 liters of water per day.

Situated in Rishon LeZion in central Israel, Watergen was set up in 2009 by entrepreneur Arye Kohavi, a former combat reconnaissance company commander in the Israeli Army.

The technology developed by Kohavi and his cadre of engineers, uses a series of filters to purify the air. After the air is sucked in and chilled to extract its humidity, the water that forms is then treated and transformed into clean drinking water. The technology uses a plastic heat exchanger rather than an aluminum one, which helps reduce costs.

Head Above Water

So, while in 2016 when a water conference to deal with the water crisis in South Africa was nixed because of the participation of Israel – considered the world’s no. 1 expert on water management – other countries in Africa like Sierra Leone are literally ‘tapping’ into Israel’s expertise in water technology.

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Water Crisis In Africa. Israel has solutions.

Watergen is currently operating in many African countries,” said Yehuda Kaploun, president of Watergen USA, “and even more announcements about other countries in Africa using our machines and technology will be forthcoming.”

With a weight of just 800 kilograms, the GEN-350 is easily transportable and can be installed easily. The GEN-350 units are provided with an internal water-treatment system and need no infrastructure except a source of electricity in order to operate.

Watergen’s efforts to make fresh, pure water available around the globe earned the company its place on the World Economic Forum’s list of the world’s top technology pioneers in 2018.

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Ready To Respond. Watergen USA built an emergency response vehicle to take GEN-350 atmospheric water generators to disaster zones to provide drinking water from air. Photo: courtesy

Yet, South Africa prefers to listen to BDS that says, “Israel water technology is not unique or special; such technology is widely available through other more friendly countries.”

So where are those other counties Lindiwe Sisulu, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation – the wording a clear misnomer – who is championing the campaign to downgrade her country’s diplomatic relations with Israel?

Rather than turn to Israel for help, will Cape Town prefer the dubious honor of becoming one of the few – if not the first – developed cities in the world to run out of water?

Would BDS SA try influence Sierra Leone to follow silly Sisulu’s lead, where water pollution in the West African country is one of the leading causes of death and which has an average life expectancy of 56 years, one of the lowest in the world. Approximately half of the population has no access to clean drinking water, and a little less than three-quarters of urban dwellers have a safe water supply available for use.

Sierra Leone’s water sources – primarily consisting of ponds, unprotected wells and freestanding water – have been contaminated by mining and chemicals used in the agricultural industry. Water-borne infections and parasites have increased the probability of Sierra Leoneans contracting diseases such as typhoid fever and Hepatitis A.

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GEN-350 Medium Scale atmospheric water generator.

Does BDS South Africa prefer contaminated water than to being contaminated by contact with Israel?

Other than being antisemitic, BDS’s arguments – do not hold water!

Water Everywhere

There is a line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ that reads:

Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink…”

The image is of a sailor on a becalmed ship, surrounded by salt water that he cannot drink.

Today, because of Israeli ingenuity, there is potential water everywhere.

From the remote corners of India and Vietnam, to the palm-lined streets of Miami-Dade County, Watergen is doing what was once thought unthinkable – extracting safe, inexpensive potable water from the air we breathe.

We created a product that can really be the next major source of drinking water,” says Maxim Pasik, Executive Chairman of Rishon LeZion-based Watergen.

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Israel In India. One of the first countries to try was India where you see here a Watergen unit in New Delhi.

Fired up after his visit to Africa in mid-2017, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – re-elected this May 2019 – announced that year to the world from the podium of the UN when he addressed the General Assembly, about Israel transforming air into water. He was thinking specifically how Watergen’s revolutionary product could be used in various parts of Africa.

“Game Changer”

Watergen’s cutting-edge and patented GENius technology provides a low cost, abundant and renewable source of fresh and clean drinking water by extracting it directly from the atmosphere. It is a plug and drink solution, requiring only electricity and no infrastructure. The company has also sought alternative energy sources for areas with little or no electricity.

For every community size, “We can provide drinking water from the air in the most cost effective, efficient manner to produce the healthiest, and cleanest tasting drinking water,” says Pasik. The Large-Scale unit produces up to 6,000 liters of clean drinking water each day, the mid-scale GEN-350 unit up to 650 liters each day, and the Genny home unit up to 30 liters each day, all based on an average temperature of 27°C with relative humidity of 60%.

Providing fresh pure water directly from the atmosphere, “at prices that are up to ten times cheaper than local filtered well water (at developing world prices), we are talking about a game changer for many tens of millions who only have access to contaminated drinking water,” says Pasik.

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Watertight Relations. Providing water out of air in India – (L-R) – Tenny Cherian, Chief Operating Officer, Quality Services, TATA Projects with Michael Rutman, Member of the Board of Directors, Watergen Israel. (PRNewsfoto/TATA Projects)

Regarding rural areas where there might be no access to electricity, the company has come up with a battery-operated solution. Using a reverse osmosis process for filtration and purification, the battery-operated device has a water purification capacity of 1,200 liters a day, so it can serve villages or areas that need water in emergency situations.

Modern Miracle

With unsafe water being responsible for more death than war, Israeli ingenuity provides a lifeboat. Instead of searching below for solutions, Watergen found it above – in our atmosphere – and devised a way to ‘tap’ into this unlimited resource.

Watergen hopes to improve the quality of life of billions who suffer from poor water sanitation or accessibility to safe drinking water. “This is a humanitarian issue,” says Pasik. “We would like to maintain peace between people and save people’s lives. The project is priceless and is huge.”

Proud that “this solution comes from Israel,” he adds proudly “This is a Kiddush Hashem (Hebrew for sanctification of God’s name) and tikkun olam (Hebrew for repairing the world)”.

Which only goes to show that sometimes the solutions to problems are staring us right in the face!

Out Of Thin Air

By 2025, two-thirds of the world will face drinking water shortages.

Watergen’s systems can solve this problem and help sustain life moving forward.

If Moses brought forth water for the People of Israel in the desert by striking a stone, today’s Israelites are striking water from the air

 

 

 

 

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Israel Leading A Slaughter-Free Revolution For A Healthier World

The world’s first lab-grown steak is served up in Israel

By David E. Kaplan

For lovers of meat, the alluring sizzling aroma is all too familiar. It peaks as you enter a steakhouse; frequently even before entry -like a culinary aphrodisiac titillating the taste buds as you decide – T-bone, fillet, rump or sirloin.

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Steak Out. World’s first lab-grown steak is made from beef but slaughter-free

What a salivating choice!

What if that choice included a steak that hailed from a laboratory rather than a field?

Believing that meat is one of life’s pleasures to be celebrated and enjoyed without the downsides to health and the environment, Aleph Farms in Israel, aims to offer “superior, healthier, slaughter-free meat,” providing a new customer experience.

Aleph Farms was founded in 2017 by Israeli food-tech incubator The Kitchen, part of Israel’s food processing company Strauss Group Ltd., in collaboration with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

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LEADING THE SLAUGHTER-FREE MEAT REVOLUTION FOR A HEALTHIER WORLD

Made from cells that were isolated from a cow and grown into a 3-D structure, the first lab-grown steak was served up in Israel. The steak’s “chef” – Aleph Farms – says “it represents a benchmark in cellular meat production,” that could quite literally shape the future of food by producing cell-grown meat that resembles free range meat.

However, will it “meat” the expectations of steak lovers?

The image of a waiter walking towards your table about to serve a ‘laboratory concoction’ rather than a ‘kitchen creation’, might not titillate the taste buds at first, but then that can change.

It may well be that the ‘lab’ steak is no less “sumptuous”!

The proof will be in the proverbial ‘pudding’ – or steak!

In a world where meat production is increasingly under scrutiny from consumers and citizens who feel that certain practices are unethical and insensitive to farm-animal welfare, the announcement of slaughter-free meat has been welcomed. While there are other companies in the race to produce lab-grown meat, they are mostly burger patties, sausages and nuggets. Aleph Farms, on the other hand are going for a carnivore’s ‘gold’ –   STEAK.

This revelation has tongues not only wagging, but wanting to taste.

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Can You Spot The Difference? Aleph Farms’ Technology Will Change Cultured Meat.

Not Yet On The Menu

The steak will likely not become commercially available for at least three to four years, and while this writer has not tucked into one of Aleph’s steaks, a video shows a group of people – among them Aleph’s vice president of research and development, Neta Lavon, enjoying the steak alongside a tomato and zucchini pasta.

And to the obvious question of price – as volume increases, it should be on par with traditional meat within a few short years.

Most of the companies working to produce lab-cultured meat have focused on ground meat and nuggets. “Making a patty or a sausage from cells cultured outside the animal is challenging enough, imagine how difficult it is to create a whole-muscle steak,” said Didier Toubia, co-founder and CEO of Aleph Farms.

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Appetite For Creating A Better World. Didier Toubia, founder of the start-up Aleph Farms in Ashdod, Israel, aims to have its first products on the market in three years.

Toubia conceded that Aleph’s steaks are still “relatively thin” – only 5 mm thick.

However, the steak is said to have the same texture as conventional meat, and it gives off that familiar beef smell when cooking.

Easy Eater

It will ease many a consumer knowing their favourite food on their plate did not come from an abattoir.

Toubia believes that products like Aleph Meats’ steak can help bridge the divide between people who are unwilling to give up meat entirely and the need to reduce global meat consumption in the fight against climate change. “Today, over 90 percent of consumers do eat meat,” says Toubia, “and we think the percentage of vegetarians will not grow significantly despite many launches of plant-based products.”

Lab-grown meats are a welcome alternative to animal-sourced meats.

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Bon Appétit. The steak was made using a variety of cells extracted from a cow

While this development is unlikely to convert die-hard vegans as these products include starter cells derived from animals, they may recognise the positive benefits. Even Louise Davies of the UK’s Vegan Society noted “the potential that lab-grown meat can have in reducing animal suffering and the environmental impact of animal agriculture.”

So, even if it still “isn’t vegan”, Lab-grown meat may prove a sustainable alternative requiring significantly less land, water, and feed than traditional beef farming.

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Worth Waiting. This thinly-sliced steak prototype took between two and three weeks to produce.

It remains to be seen what impact lab-grown steaks can have on the world. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping an eye on what’s ‘sizzling’ over at Israel’s Aleph Farms.

 

 

Turning Non-Arable Lands Into Fruitful Fields

With Israel in the vanguard of making deserts bloom, read latest report from Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry how it has literally planted the seeds of its AgTech success.  This may well be of Interest to South African farmers as the Israel Trade Office will  be hosting an AgriTech RoadShow from March 25-28 in Pretoria, Limpopo and Stellenbosch. Charles Abelsohn contributed to this report by the Ministry of  Economy & Industry.

 

 

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Field Of Dreams. Technology in Israel Spans Multiple Sectors.

 

Even prior to statehood, Israel’s pioneers set out to cultivate the land, tackling the challenges posed by limited natural resources by setting up agricultural communities such as kibbutzim and other farming cooperatives to ensure that any future state would flourish. The country also took it upon itself to fulfill the dream of its first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, by making the desert bloom, developing agricultural techniques for arid regions which would turn non-arable lands into fruitful fields.

Over 70 years later, Israel is now tackling some of the 21st century’s biggest global challenges – including feeding a planet with an ever-growing population – with a thriving AgTech sector that is carrying on the country’s longstanding tradition of integrating ingenuity and innovation with cutting-edge agricultural techniques.

What helps explain Israel’s global renown as an AgTech powerhouse? Israel’s strong tech ecosystem, coupled with its deep historical focus on agricultural resourcefulness, has provided the perfect setting for the AgTech sector to flourish. Underscoring the Israeli government’s commitment to supporting AgTech innovation, the Israel Innovation Authority offers R&D support for promising AgTech companies, granting between 20%t to 50% of approved R&D budgets to aid the development of new products and technologies.

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Fertile Ground

One of Israel’s greatest success stories in the field is Netafim, a company founded in the Negev Desert in 1965. The company rocketed to international prominence with the introduction of the world’s first commercial drip irrigation system. Now the world’s foremost irrigation company, Netafim remains a global leader in sustainable farming and crop management solutions, operating in 110 countries with 4,300 employees, 29 subsidiaries, and 17 manufacturing plants. Netafim’s innovative solutions played a pivotal role in putting Israeli AgTech on the map, setting the stage for a slew of new companies in the field, including 750 active startups and other firms in the food tech and AgTech sectors, with $189 millionin food tech and AgTech investments in 2017. With a focus on biotech, crop protection and irrigation methods, AgTech investors see the Startup Nation as fertile ground for some of the most inventive technologies and solutions in the sector.

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Simcha Blass

Simcha Blass is more than deserving of the title “Father of Modern Drip Irrigation”. Simcha Blass (November 27, 1897 – July 18, 1982) was a Polish-Israeli engineer and inventor who developed the modern drip irrigation system with his son Yeshayahu. Instead of releasing water through tiny holes easily blocked by tiny particles, water was released through larger and longer passageways by using velocity to slow water inside a plastic emitter. The first experimental system of this type was established in 1959 by Blass who partnered later (1964) with Kibbutz Hatzerim to create an irrigation company called Netafim. Together they developed and patented the first practical surface drip irrigation emitter.

Modern drip irrigation has arguably become the world’s most valued innovation in agriculture since the invention in the 1930s of the impact sprinkler, which offered the first practical alternative to surface irrigation.

Today, Netafim manufactures and distributes crop management technologies, including monitoring and control systems, worldwide. To put things into perspective, Netafim controls over 30% of the global drip irrigation market in the world and the company’s recorded revenues were over $822 million in 2015.

Says South African farmer Bruce Nicholson, “I’m new to Netafim Drip system; I’m actually got a passion for it now. Where before my average yield was 87 tons per hectare, now, the same sugar cane fields are yielding  over 110 tons per hectare – this is a huge inspiration for anyone.” Furthermore,  using special probes with the system “it tells you when your profile is full, so that if you go over the profile you are wasting energy. With this system our energy savings is pretty on-the-nail.”

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Among the country’s hundreds of cutting-edge companies:

  • Taranis is a leading AI-powered precision agriculture intelligence platform that uses sophisticated computer vision, data science and deep learning algorithms to identify crop threats on a granular level, enabling farmers to effectively monitor fields. The system allows farmers to increase crop yields and create a more sustainable farming ecosystem through intelligent insights and oversees millions of acres in Argentina, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States.
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The Young And The Smart. Going places is Israeli precision farming company Taranis.

Evogene is a biotechnology company aimed at improving crop performance using a unique computational predictive biology platform. The company’s platform leverages big data analytics to generate deep insights to help improve crop yields, combat diseases, and protect against pests. Clients include Syngenta, DuPont, Monsanto, and Bayer.
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ADAMA Agricultural Solutions is a global crop protection company, with an innovative fungicide mixture for soybean rust. The company is the first global crop protection company to be publicly traded on the Chinese stock market.

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The Middle And Far East Connection. The new R&D Center complements ADAMA’s operational hub in China, which includes its new formulation facility in Huai’An and Sanonda facilities in Jingzhou. Together with ADAMA’s advanced operational hub in Israel, the new Center is a cornerstone for positioning ADAMA as the world’s leading Global-China crop protection company. ADAMA’s customers will benefit from the best of Chinese and Israeli R&D, formulation and manufacturing, which will allow the Company to bring differentiated products to farmers around the world quickly and efficiently.

While Israel’s AgTech success has played a key role in supporting the country’s growth and development, its benefits are borne out around the world: from Africa, where farmers are harnessing Israeli drip irrigation technology, to China, which inked a $300 million trade agreement that will boost exports of Israeli energy and agricultural technologies, and beyond. China isn’t the only country looking toward Israel to make great leaps forward in agricultural solutions: Israel has also built partnerships with developing countries including India and Vietnam, leveraging the country’s deep expertise in the sector to integrate AgTech solutions and train local farmers in efficient, sustainable methods of crop production and irrigation. In Africa, the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry, in cooperation with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, recently launched an initiative, Tikkun Olam Ventures, that will link local communities to Israeli AgTech solutions, with an eye toward aiding 5,000 farmers over the next five years.

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Sustainable Sudan. Mashav, Israel’s international development agency is helping to provide African nations with sustainable agriculture.

With a robust innovation ecosystem and a storied history of creative agricultural solutions, there’s no telling what new Israeli AgTech solutions will take root in the years to come.

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Drip Irrigation. Helping to grow food in parched globe.

 

The Trade Office will be hosting an AgriTech RoadShow from March 25-28 in Pretoria, Limpopo and Stellenbosch. For more information, please email Johannesburg@israeltrade.gov.il

 

Southern Comfort. Israel’s Netafim Drip system explained by South African farmer Bruce Nicholson and revealing his experience with the system. “Even our fertilizer is put through the drip system.”

 

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