BMI webinar: Celebrating the Food Planet Prize



Prof. Milette Shamir, Vice-President, TAU

The Curt Bergfors Foundation

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Continuing BMI’s series of webinars, this webinar is a particularly important one, focusing on various scientific projects that combine science and its practical applications in the field. This webinar covers various projects revolving around the general topic of sustainable development, water and food security, ecosystem preservation and agriculture. Due to climate change, a growing global population and a globalized economy, the capacity to preserve the basic human right to food and water is compromised. Land and water degradation due to global warming attribute to a very unsustainable direction that the world is going in. The result is that combatting this challenge requires substantial knowledge and massive projects, as this is truly a matter of survival. On that note, both Prof. Shamir and The Curt Bergfors Foundation would like to congratulate all of the 2020 Food Planet Prize recipients – ICIPE, Blue Ventures, Sanergy and the Land Institute.

Research and Practice for a Better World: Insects for Food and Feed

Dr. Chrysantus Tanga, Research Scientist, icipe

Dr. Tanga is a research scientist with the Insect for Food, Feed and Other Uses (INSEFF) program at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe). He and his partners were the first in Africa to successfully engage policymakers in the creation of an enabling environment for the rapid adoption of insect-based protein feed technologies. This led to the development of standards in support of legislations and policies that approve the use of insect-based protein ingredients in compounding animal feeds in Kenya and Uganda. Dr. Tanga is also working closely with the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) to finalize standards that allow the use of insects and insect products in human food.To keep up with the growing demand for alternatives to the expensive fishmeal and soya bean protein sources, Dr. Tanga is training small- and medium-scale farmers as well as private companies in the industrial mass production of insects. The result is an eco-friendly source of high-quality protein for resource-poor farmers rearing fish, poultry, pigs and other livestock. Using various organic wastes to feed the insects and sustainably produce animal feeds is co-shaping the transformation towards resource-sufficient agriculture, creating employment and improving livelihoods.

ICIPE – BMI Collaboration

Dr. Segenet Kelemu, Director General and CEO, icipe

Prof. Itai Sened, Dean of the Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences and Head of the Boris Mints Institute, TAU

The main reason for the success of the ongoing BMI – ICIPE collaboration has been the institutes’ common purpose, mutual respect and vision. BMI and icipe have collaborated on two projects, focusing on combatting two of the most notorious insects when it comes to agricultural damage: fruit flies (this project was funded by the Matanel Foundation) and Fall armyworm, funded by the Gates Foundation. In the time of the pandemic there needs to be more of such projects – promoting the concept behind science without borders. Making great international partnerships with the public, academics, policy makers and regulatory bodies is essential to fighting poverty, inequality and attributing to the field of sustainable development, while guarding biodiversity.

Taking care of the world’s Fish

Rebuilding fisheries with coastal communities

Dr. Alasdair Harris, Executive Director, Blue Ventures

Blue Ventures is a conservation organization that exists to protect the life in the ocean. The organization recognizes that this venture cannot be up-scaled without first engaging and mobilizing the communities that live alongside − and depend upon − marine biodiversity. They believe that fixing overfishing is the single most powerful thing the world can do to reverse marine extinction and safeguard the food security of over one billion people. They also believe that humanity’s overwhelming dependence on oceans is the solution that has been hiding in plain sight. The organization develops locally led approaches to marine conservation that benefit people and nature alike. Blue Ventures helps fishers in low-income countries throughout the tropics undertake concrete actions so that they themselves can tackle overfishing and safeguard food security, shifting the system from a downward spiral to an upward or stable trajectory. Through local fisher organizations, they deliver a novel and holistic response in a simple model that coherently addresses the underlying causes of overfishing. It moves fishers from a position of scarcity to one of stability and food security, where they are able to manage for the long term. Their model has four elements: Securing small-scale fishers’ rights to their fisheries; Community-based fisheries management; Fisher savings and loans; and Better return on fishing.

The global epidemic of a new virus – the story of TiLV

Prof. Eran Bacharach, Faculty of Life Sciences, TAU

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The Tilapia fish species is one of the most important groups of farmed fish, contributing to domestic and global food security. Over the last decade, significant mortality of wild and cultured tilapia has been observed in Israel and other countries. The researchers have identified the etiological agent of this disease as a novel virus and named it ‘Tilapia Lake Virus (TiLV)”. TiLV shares almost no homology with other known viruses and Prof. Bacharach and his team developed means to detect it. Such means revealed the global distribution of TiLV and the threat that it imposes to the food security of millions of people. Currently, the team investigates the biology of this virus and develops vaccination approaches to fight this pathogen.

Sustainable Agriculture

Rachel Sroer, Acting President, Land Institute

Tim Crews, Director of Ecological Intensification, Land Institute

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Tim Crews and Rachel Stroer of the Land Institute described their vision for an agricultural future built on the necessity to feed humanity within ecological limits. Central to that vision are the integration of perennial and diverse crops - two prominent features that underlie the productivity and sustainability of almost all natural ecosystems but are largely absent from grain agriculture. Crews and Stroer have stated the potential impact of perennial grains on the landscape and how these new grains are being developed. The Land Institute representatives shared various methods on how to accelerate perennial grain development and how that will help with land and ecosystem preservation.

The Challenge of World Food

Dr. Ram Fishman, Head of the NITSAN Lab, Department of Public Policy, TAU

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The main challenge in regards to world’s food has been described by Dr. Fishman using an interesting comparison between the academic goals of the 20th and 21st centuries respectively. In the 20th century – the focus lied upon reducing hunger & poverty, growing more calories to feed a growing population, growing more food with more resources, focusing on small-scale producers. Moreover, from an academic standpoint, it has revolved around public research, high yielding varieties of crops, industrial approach to agriculture, subsidizing inputs (water, fertilizer), putting much of the attention on small holders. In the 21st century, however – the idea is to end hunger & poverty, grow more diverse foods to feed a growing economy, produce as much food with less impact, and focus on small and large producers. Moreover, academia focused on the private sector, ecological approach to agriculture, breeding and engineering resilient and efficient varieties. New technologies and practices need not only to perform well, they need to be adopted at scale, which poses economic, behavioral, institutional challenges – especially for small-scale producers in less economically developed regions. The evergreen revolution is coming in the 21st century, focusing on the use of renewable energy, precise application of water and fertilizers. Yet, the challenge exists in regards to the academic research, as some pointed out that it is not sufficiently focused on smallholder farmers, thus this is where the academic world needs to step up.

Water and Sanitation

David Auerbach, Co-Founder, Sanergy Ltd.

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Cities are growing faster than ever. Currently, 60 million new residents move to urban areas every year. 25% live in slums, amounting to 1 billion people with inadequate housing and limited access to basic services. This number is expected to double to 2 billion by 2030. In Kenya, loss of productivity due to illness costs the country 2% of its GDP every year and at current rates, complete sanitation coverage will take 150 years. Sanergy provides non-sewer sanitation solutions that serve all urban residents and are 5 times cheaper than sewers. Sanergy builds affordable sanitation products designed specifically for urban slums, and franchise them to community members to serve all residents. The company professionally collects sanitation waste from the community by handcarts and trucks. Handcarts ensure that it is possible to install toilets deep in slums. The waste is then converted at a centralized facility into valuable end-products such as organic fertilizer and insect -based animal feed.

Development of UV LED water off grid water disinfection systems

Prof. Hadas Mamane, Head of the Environmental Engineering Program, Faculty of Engineering, TAU

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the global attention to the critical importance of water, sanitation and hygiene, for protecting public health. At least 2 billion people around the world use a drinking water source that is contaminated with faces (WHO 2019), which contains bacteria, protozoa, and viruses causing a variety of diseases. Specifically in India, 128M households live in rural areas, where there is no proper infrastructure and resources to support continuous water treatment against bacteria and viruses. i.e., inadequate or no piping systems, intermittent or no electricity, unskilled personnel for maintenance, and broken supply chain. Therefore, there is a need for a scalable and highly effective, off-grid water treatment solution, with low maintenance and low in consumables, in an affordable price. Pathogenic viruses in water results in disease and mortality as viruses are transmitted through contaminated water and can create large-scale pandemics. The current technologies vary: filtration followed by chlorination or either of them separately, are the most common removal or disinfection technology in the village level, while boiling, settling and chlorine tabs are prevalent at the home-level. The goal of this talk it to survey implementation of UV disinfection technologies in the community level in villages, and suggest recommendations for adaptation and design of UV based disinfection technologies.