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Natural Resources

Fresh greens grown in the middle of Tel Aviv. Photo by Mendi Falk

Fresh greens grown in the middle of Tel Aviv. Photo by Mendi Falk

Urban gardening is all the rage in busy Israeli urban areas including Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheva and Jerusalem.

by Viva Sarah Press

The upper parking lot of the Dizengoff Center shopping mall in Tel Aviv is a concrete maze of cars. There is also a hothouse up here with the freshest green vegetables you’ve ever seen.

While gardening on the roof of an urban parking garage may seem absurd, Yarok Ba’ir (Green in the City) is serving city dwellers – and restaurants within a 2-kilometer radius — straight-from-the-farm veggies.

Green in the City is a joint venture between LivinGreen, a company that pioneers hydroponic and aquaponic solutions, and the Dizengoff Center, opened in the 1970s as Israel’s first shopping mall.

A gardening workshop at Green in the City. Photo by Mendi Falk

“The main goal of Green in the City is to bring agriculture to the middle of the city, to be able to grow food right in the heart of the city,” Yoav Sharon, co-manager of Green in the City, tells ISRAEL21C.

“People can come here and buy their products, so that trucks don’t have to come into the city to deliver products to restaurants. You see buildings, cars, pollution and then here’s a nice green garden in the middle.”

The first commercial farm in Tel Aviv consists of a hothouse and areas for workshops where local residents can learn how to build urban mini farms at home or school.

The urban farm grows nearly two dozen varieties of veggies and herbs (among them lettuce, basil, tomatoes, mint, kale, cucumbers and green onions), producing some 15,000 heads of leafy greens each month.

Demand is so high that Green in the City now boasts three stands in the Dizengoff Center. All three operate on an honor system.

“There’s nobody at the stands to sell the vegetables. Everything is labeled. Customers pick what they want and deposit the right amount of money into the box,” he says, noting that Green in the City sells more than 1,500 products per week.

Farm stands at the Dizengoff Center sell rooftop veggies. Photo by Viva Sarah Press

Food security

Green in the City launched in the winter of 2015 to demonstrate urban farming and to show that growing greens in a city is not only possible but viable.

Today, 54 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. That number is expected to increase to 66% by 2050.

To feed the growing numbers of city-dwellers, urban farming is crucial. That’s why the hydroponics project in downtown Tel Aviv has garnered international interest.

Yoav Sharon in the Green in the City garden. Photo by Viva Sarah Press

Yoav Sharon in the Green in the City garden. Photo by Viva Sarah Press

The UN reports that 800 million people worldwide grow vegetables or fruits or raise animals in cities, producing 15-20% of the world’s food. This trend can make an important contribution to food security, especially in times of crisis or food shortages.

LivinGreen, one of the partners in Green in the City, runs two aquaponics projects in collaboration with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, in Ghana and Ethiopia.

Taste is fresh

Growing locally also means fresher veggies.

While air pollution in the city and in the parking facility under Green in the City can’t be good for the vegetables, Sharon says the mesh netting around the hothouse keeps most of the harmful pollutants at bay. He also notes that Green in the City has sent samples of its leafy greens to be checked in a lab.

Pesticides and other chemicals usually sprayed on rural farms, he notes, are absent from these greens. The vegetables are grown in beds filled with clean water, fertilizer and minerals. A fish aquaponics system cleans the water naturally.

Veggies grown without dirt or pesticides. Photo by Viva Sarah Press

Veggies grown without dirt or pesticides. Photo by Viva Sarah Press

“There’s no need to clean these vegetables,” says Sharon. “There are no pesticides on it, there’s no dirt or soil. There are no worms on the vegetables. There are also fewer bad leaves. Compared to a soil-grown vegetable, where restaurants throw away 40-50% of the vegetable, here you only throw away 10-20%.”

Israel, known for its agriculture technologies, is strong in the hydroponics field.

Greening and growing Israel

Green in the City is one of many urban green spots blooming around Israel.

The Society of the Protection of Nature in Israel has an ongoing grassroots project that helps residents build and maintain community gardens. In the past 15 years, some 300 community gardens have been planted around the country on formerly barren patches of land.

The Onya urban environment nursery of young eco-conscious visionaries grows greenery and offers urban gardening workshops in the concrete sprawl also known as the Tel Aviv New Bus Station.

At Totzeret Gimel-Urban Farmin one of Beersheva’s more neglected neighborhoods, farmers and volunteers grow seasonal vegetables to sell to neighbors and local restaurants. Totzeret Gimel also promotes a local and sustainable model of urban agriculture.

CityTree Tel Aviv and CityTree Haifa offer a slew of ecological-based programs including composting workshops and community garden outreach.

And the Muslala Arts Collective built its Gag Eden urban farm atop the Clal Building in downtown Jerusalem. Gag Eden hosts courses and workshops on container growing, green walls, hydroponics, the sustainable kitchen and medicinal herbs.



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Hydroponic Farm Sprouts on the Roof of a Shopping Mall

Lodologic’s team in Sao Paulo, from left, Gabriel Kainuma, Plinio Pimentel and Ayrton Junior. Photo: courtesy of Lodologic

Lodologic’s team in Sao Paulo, from left, Gabriel Kainuma, Plinio Pimentel and Ayrton Junior. Photo: courtesy of Lodologic

By next year, several Brazilian sewage plants will incorporate Lodologic systems to change sludge into odorless, pathogen-free fertilizer for crops.

By Abigail Klein Leichman

Ready for a really yucky statistic?

Sixty percent of the 6.8 million liters of daily sewage sludge generated in Brazil gets dumped back into nature untreated. And even that is a big improvement over the situation five years ago.

Now the South American country is poised to clean up its sewage problem using an Israeli invention for transforming human waste into odor-free, sterilized farm fertilizer.

Incorporated in February, Lodologic was established by a group of Brazilian companies in partnership with Paulee CleanTec in Israel. (“Lodo” means “sludge” in Portuguese.)

“Paulee CleanTec has a proprietary process to oxidate organic residue. We’re going to apply that process to sludge,” Lodologic CEO Gabriel Kainuma tells ISRAEL21c from his office in Sao Paulo.

“We mix a chemical reagent with the sludge and blend this mix in a high-speed chamber that eliminates all pathogens in the sludge, transforming it into safe, affordable, effective fertilizer,” he says.

“By 2018 we expect to be operating in at least six plants. There are over 400 sewage treatment plants in Brazil, so we have a huge market here to explore.”

A sewage treatment plant in Brazil. Photo courtesy of Lodologic

A sewage treatment plant in Brazil. Photo courtesy of Lodologic

Sludge (biosolids) is a byproduct of sewage treatment plants -- the waste removed from wastewater. While the treated water can be safely discharged to waterways or reused for other purposes, sludge has to be disposed of or treated separately onsite. An environmentally friendly option is composting, but this takes a lot of time and space. And it smells bad.

“Decades ago, when sewage treatment was only taking its first steps, sludge was dumped into international waters,” Paulee CleanTec CEO Ilan Levy tells ISRAEL21c.

In many Latin American countries, he says, dumping sludge into the ocean still is standard practice, and even happens unintentionally in places such as California when heavy rain causes sewage systems to overflow.

“Nobody knows what to do with the enormous amount of sludge generated every day,” says Levy. “The general solution is to send it to landfills. We are changing the logic by turning sludge into something of value.”

Wastewater treatment in Brazil, where Lodologic is changing the paradigm. Photo: courtesy of Lodologic

Wastewater treatment in Brazil, where Lodologic is changing the paradigm. Photo: courtesy of Lodologic

One technology, three uses

Paulee CleanTec is the Tel Aviv company that developed an invention by Hebrew University Prof. Oded Shoseyov for turning dog dung into sterile, odorless fertilizer pellets on the spot, using a pooper-scooper with an oxidation unit attached. This innovation is now going into production through a partnership with Ohio-based OurPets.

In 2014, Paulee CleanTec partnered with San Francisco-based CB Engineers to create Epic CleanTec,  which will soon install a unique system in a San Francisco high-rise apartment house to treat sewage and use the resulting fertilizer for onsite landscaping. The system will redirect the used water for toilets, irrigation and cooling towers; and will reuse the output heat for the building’s hot-water supply.

Lodologic, Paulee’s second affiliate company, “is a different application, on the municipal level, using totally different machinery,” Levy explains. “Sewage systems are overloaded and new approaches are needed. We need to increase the number of people they can serve. So we attack the problem from different angles.”

Lodologic machinery is designed to convert all types of sludge from sewage treatment plants or biogas plants into odorless, organic, low-cost agricultural fertilizer within minutes.

The Brazilian company, self-financed for now, also will offer its customers a distribution structure for the fertilizer.

“We’re developing equipment to retrofit existing sewage treatment facilities,” says Kainuma. “Usually a conveyor puts the sludge into a truck to take it away. We’re going to position our equipment to receive the sludge from the conveyor in the same place where the truck would have been. So there is very little modification needed to the plant.”

The first operation is expected to go live by the end of 2017.

“We have a team of four and are hiring more to accelerate development,” says Kainuma, a Brazilian robotics engineer who formerly worked in the automotive industry.

Other countries are likely to be watching the project in Brazil closely. While Brazil produces 2.5 million tons of sludge per year, the amounts are much higher in countries such as China (9 million tons per year) and the United States (8 million tons). The European Union generates about 12 million tons of sludge every year.

Lodologic >  

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Brazil Looks to Israeli Tech to Solve a Stinky Problem

Noble Energy and Transocean's rig in the Tamar gas field. Photo courtesy Transocean Ltd. via  Creative Commons License .

Noble Energy and Transocean's rig in the Tamar gas field. Photo courtesy Transocean Ltd. via Creative Commons License.

The economic balance of power in the Middle East teeters, often uneasily, on the region’s fuel reserves. Until recently, Israel was not part of that delicate equation. In 2009, however, about fifty miles off the coast of Haifa, a massive natural gas reserve was discovered at what is known as Tamar field. That was followed in 2010 by the discovery, not far from Tamar, of another field—it was at the time the largest natural gas find in more than a decade. It was dubbed Leviathan.

Energy independence is a status much to be desired, and these reserves, if all goes well, will ensure it for Israel. If all goes marvelously, Israel will be in a position to help supply its neighbors—even those as far away as Europe—with gas. As the country’s energy minister, Yuval Steinitz, put it in January of this year: “Suddenly, we are an energy player.”

These are uncertain times, and of course the discovery of energy reserves does not guarantee peace, at home or abroad—history has shown us this in countless ways. But there are reasons to be optimistic. A recent New York Times article notes that “the potential for enhancing Israel’s relations with its neighbors is alluring.” New connections have already been forged with Jordan (which has agreed to purchase $10 billion in natural gas from Israel over the next fifteen years), and Israel is hoping for new alliances with Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, and beyond.

At home, Israeli gas now produces more than half of the country’s electricity, and the economy has received a welcome boost. Its new position as an “energy player” may win Israel new friends in the energy game.

Israel’s Gas Reserves Might Improve Relations in the Region