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As Food Supply Concerns Grow, Israel Explores Desert Agriculture, Aquaculture

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JERUSALEM, Israel – Water and fish are powerful symbols throughout the Bible, often centering around life and sustenance.  These days, both are important as ever, especially when it comes to the world’s food supply.

Israel is stepping up to do its part, exploring aquaculture and desert agriculture as a potential solution to the growing need for food security.

One of the world’s most popular supplements is Spirulina, algae that grows in both fresh and saltwater and is full of nutrients and antioxidants.

“Basically, what we do is we convert this energy, solar energy, into the best and ultimate protein you can find on Earth,” said Lior Shalev, CEO and Co-founder of SIMPLiiGOOD, a company helping expand the field of Aquaculture, a key priority for Israel.

“We don't need a lot of electricity. We don't need a lot of water. We don't need a lot of anything, actually. Okay? And what we grow is a bacteria called, spirulina,” Shalev told reporters.

“Aquaculture is a field that produces food and actually animal protein in case of fish or shrimp, with the lowest ecological price,” explained Noam Moses, head of the Marine Aquaculture Department at Israel’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“It takes almost very little area, if at all. It doesn't take fresh water. It produces very low CO2 and consumes very little energy compared to other animal source protein,” Moses told CBN News.

This focus helped lead to “Agrisrael-Sea the Future” the first international summit on sea and desert food technologies, held recently in Eilat. Its goal is to gather some of the world’s best minds to promote cooperation and innovation in aquaculture to address food security.

Israel already works with Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, and the UAE on expanding this technology It also expanded the group by signing an agreement with Bahrain during the summit.

“We hope to be the hub of the Mediterranean and the Middle East for innovation and sustainable solution for this sector,” said Moses.

That’s what led SIMPLiiGOOD to pursue becoming the first commercial producer of fresh spirulina as a good source.

“Spirulina is not new to the world. But 99% of our market produces dry spirulina for food supplements, which is an inferior – kind of like – area. What we produce is fresh spirulina for the food industry,” Shalev explained.

The company produces products such as spirulina schnitzel, burgers, and even tasty spirulina popsicles!

“We firstly believe that food has to be tasty. If it's not tasty, it's inadequate. 1:31 We can talk about different things that we can do and how we want to change the world. It's all fine, but no one will buy that produce as long as it's not tasty,” Shalev said.

“Secondarily. It has to be very good for you. Thirdly, we believe that every single food has to be good for the planet, not only for people,” he added.

At Hebrew University’s Tel Aviv campus, Professor Lior David, of the Animal Sciences Department of the Agriculture Faculty, heads an experimental fish farm where new lines of fish are being created to increase sustainability.

“What we are trying to do also for aquaculture, and you can see it here, is to reduce our environmental footprint to produce more food while destroying or while affecting less negatively the environment, reducing the environmental consequences,” David said.

Vertical Field is a company developing technologies for urban farming – growing produce in any indoor or outdoor urban space.

“We grow our crops attached to soil, a plug of soil, which gives us several advantages. First of all it’s as similar as possible to real nature,” said Ronen Redel, Vice President of Business Development at Vertical Field. 

“We do enjoy different advantages; extended shelf-life would be one of them. The important thing is that within our environment, our closed, controlled environment, you will not see any chemicals or any pesticides at all in the process,” Redel explained.

The vertical urban farm approach can grow more than 200 types of crops in a grocery store parking lot or other urban settings.

“You would see a cluster, a farm of farms in a distribution center within the urban area, so still eliminating 90 percent of the logistics involved but providing local, healthy daily produce,” said Redel.

According to Redel, this idea would especially benefit northern Europe, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates, which all need solutions like this and are interested in Vertical Field.

Dubai currently has the largest vertical farm in the world. Dubbed ECO-1, the 333,000-square-foot facility grows lettuce, arugula, spinach, and mixed greens. 

The US and Austria also have Vertical Field farms they are trying out. 

So, whether it’s the desert or the sea, Israel is aiming to be a world leader in feeding the world.

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About The Author

Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel fulltime for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN – first as a graduate student in Journalism; then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91; and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. As a correspondent for CBN News, Julie has covered Israel’s wars with Gaza, rocket attacks on Israeli communities, stories on the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and