As Earth Day approaches, here’s a look forward exploring the ways in which Israel is developing technologies to help our planet reach a better, brighter and greener future.
Here are the top Israeli technologies that are addressing acute issues from the world’s declining bee population to dirty diapers and everything in between.
As any parent knows, bringing offspring into the world is not the most environmentally friendly thing you can do. We’re not talking about the future jet-setters’ carbon footprint (although that too is a thing), but about the more immediate, never-ending piles of disposable diaper trash for which they’re responsible. When Alon Cohen became a father a few years ago, he decided to make cloth diapers a lot easier to handle by creating the PIKA mini diaper-cleaning machine that stores and washes soiled nappies with the push of a button using a patent-pending tablet. Now, you can help reduce the estimated 258 billion diapers added to landfills worldwide every year.
HomeBiogas is a system that converts food leftovers into natural gas for cooking and into garden fertilizer. It’s pretty easy to use: Simply dispose of food leftovers into a tank where bacteria digest and convert them into biogas that is channeled to the stovetop. Those really into biogas can take things a step further, installing the company’s Bio-Toilet kit. Operating in a similar manner to the food-waste system, this off-grid solution turns toilet waste into cooking gas in a process that requires zero human intervention.
This tech is a great one for those who love a steak dinner but are lesser fans of the environmental impact of the animal agriculture industry — the one responsible for a large chunk of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and water use. Israeli food-tech startup Aleph Farms has come up with a technology that creates cultivated meat using cellular agriculture in which biotechnological engineering replaces natural growing processes, using cow cells instead of slaughtering one. While it won’t be ready for a few years yet, we’re looking forward.
Vertical Field is an Israeli ag-tech company that specializes in vertical growing systems. Vertical farming, it says, uses 90 percent less water than regular field farming, produces plants much quicker and is pest- and weather resistant, meaning that more food can be grown more easily. In Israel, the technology is being used at several supermarkets to grow leafy greens such as kale, basil and peppermint, cutting down quite a number of stages in farm-to-table.
SupraPulp is a packaging product made of sugarcane fiber. Unlike other molded fiber packaging, it is leak-resistant without the additions of spray or wax thanks to a polymer-based additive that’s inserted into the sugarcane pulp during the manufacturing process. This means that the sugarcane pulp packaging can withstand the freezer, oven or microwave, and could replace harmful CPET products. W-Cycle, the Israeli startup that developed SupraPulp, aims its product at the catering and food-delivery industries, and we hope it will help reduce all the plastic waste we create.
As any office worker knows, it’s always so tempting to print things at the office. The fact that it’s free, easy and accessible often clouds the fact that it’s also wasteful, not always necessary and most definitely not green. This is where Israeli company ePaper comes in. Its technology provides solutions for increased security and control in organizations, meaning that printing becomes monitored, quantifiable and identifiable, and making employees more aware of their printer-happy fingers. The system also generates reports of the amount of wood that was cut down and energy consumed in the printing that took place in a given period. According to ePaper, its customers report saving an average 35 percent in paper.
While more and more buildings across the world are adorning themselves in greenery and green solutions, the fact remains that the materials from which they are built — stone, steel and concrete — are resources whose extraction and use take their toll on the environment. A new addition to the world of construction is kenaf, a hibiscus-like plant that’s easy to grow, requires little water and absorbs more carbon dioxide than other plant-based construction materials. It’s being used by Israeli company Kenaf Ventures to develop eco-friendly technology and products such as thermal insulating plaster, blocks and walls, all of which are now in the final stages of patent approval.
Although separating trash has become a household habit across Israel and the world, the plastics that we so carefully store away often end up as rubbish. The reason? They’re dirty, and as such not suitable for regular recycling. Israeli company Alkemy has managed to develop a way to turn dirty plastics into plastic sheeting used to seal surfaces in construction. And with Alkemy’s sheets now being used in Israeli highway tunnels, there’s good chance that we’re whizzing past our old shampoo bottle.
Salt from flooding or rising seawater causes high salinity in around 20 percent of agricultural fields worldwide, causing crops not to grow properly. This contributes to what is feared to be an imminent food crisis. Israeli startup SaliCrop is trying to mitigate the problem with its seed treatment that enables crops to grow well even in high-salinity soil using a wet chemistry process that stimulates an epigenetic reaction to saline conditions — meaning that the DNA of the crop is altered without genetic engineering. SaliCrop now has several pilot projects in Israel and India, and users are reporting increased yield.
Netafim is famous worldwide for inventing commercial drip irrigation. Now it also providing water-efficient drip irrigation for rice fields. Traditionally, rice is grown by flooding fields with water. With the grain being the staple food of about half of the world’s population, it comes as no surprise that rice farming uses up to 40 percent of fresh water and is responsible for 10 percent of manmade methane emission. Netafim’s drip system for rice paddies reduces water usage by 70 percent and nearly eliminates methane emission. The new system is now in pilot stage, but Netafim says that even if only 10 percent of rice farmers were to switch to its technology, the drop in methane emission would be equal to taking 40 million cars off the road.
The Atlantic Sargassum Belt, patches of seaweed bloom that stretch from off the coast of western Africa all the way to the Caribbean and Latin America, makes life difficult for some marine animals, for fishermen and for tourist industries that rely on pristine waters. When the head of Y.A. Maof, an Israeli company specializing in waste disposal, vacationed in the Dominican Republic and encountered the phenomenon, he decided to tackle it. He and his team came up with a process to combine the algae with organic waste in a biogas facility, which in turn generates electricity. The project is still in the works, but the plan is to power local hotels using the locally produced power and to maximize impact for the community.
Blue-green algal blooms are toxic bacteria that occur when a water ecosystem becomes contaminated and turns lakes and reservoirs into dead aquatic zones — very bad news for the surrounding communities that can no longer use them as a resource. Usually, these blooms are treated with large amounts of chemicals that aren’t so great for the environment, but Israeli startup BlueGreen Water Technologies has devised a way to treat them with nano-covered pellets that release far less harmful toxins into the water in a more effective manner.
Recent years have seen numerous endeavors to rehabilitate the world’s bee population, whose dying out due to modern demand, climate change and illness is endangering our diets and well-being. Israeli startup Beewise is leading these efforts with its Beehome, a unique autonomous beehive that can house up to 2 million bees and take care of their health and upkeep using computer vision, artificial intelligence and precision robotics. The company aims to replace all the beehives in the world in a bid to ensure that bees stick around for centuries to come.
It’s no secret that manure is a great fertilizer, but the growing waste being produced by the huge livestock industry means that dung is accumulating and getting absorbed in the soil and water, posing a serious health risk. Israeli startup Paulee CleanTec has come up with a seemingly simple technology that converts manure into an odor- and pathogen-free powder that can be safely stored and used as fertilizer, minus the risk of leaks and health risks. While the company’s focusing on livestock, its technology can also be applied in the future to human waste and help reach sustainable sanitation goals for the world.