A Year After Quake, Israelis Still Helping Nepal Recover

Israeli NGOs were among the first to arrive after the disaster and are among the last to leave, running a variety of programs in stricken areas.

April 25, 2015, an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale devastated Nepal. Just over two weeks later, the country was rattled again by a magnitude 7.3 quake centered northeast of Kathmandu. Nearly 9,000 people were killed, 22,000 injured and hundreds of thousands of homes destroyed or damaged in the twin quakes.

As with most international disasters, Israel was among the first countries to send humanitarian aid in many forms. The lifesaving and rehabilitation activities of the Israeli government, military and various NGOs were so significant that the Nepalese came to see Israel as a source of inspiration.

Whether it was pulling survivors from the rubble, delivering babies and treating the injured, cheering traumatized children, teaching resilience techniques, rebuilding villages or introducing lifesaving innovations, Israelis were prominent in all aspects of relief work.

A year later, Israeli nonprofits Tevel b’Tzedek (The Earth in Justice) and IsraAID are still on the scene helping Nepali villagers get back on their feet, and expect to be there for some time to come.

The Earth in Justice

Tevel b’Tzedek, founded by Rabbi Micha Odenheimer with the goal of engaging young Jews and Israelis in the developing world, began its humanitarian work in Nepal in 2007. The original plan was to cycle volunteers to one impoverished district at a time.

“When the earthquake hit, we were in the second cycle,” Deputy Director Elana Kaminka tells ISRAEL21c. “But the quake hit the communities from the first cycle and we knew these people, so we redeployed to those communities in addition to continuing with the ones in the second cycle, which also was hit by the earthquake. In addition, we took on a third district that was affected.”

The organization’s connections and understanding of the region were of invaluable help to other NGOs arriving on the scene.

“The JDC [Jewish Joint Distribution Committee], which is one of our donors, showed up the day after the earthquake,” says Kaminka. “We’re not a disaster-relief organization and they have more expertise in that but had no knowledge of Nepal and no staff here, so we joined forces and have been working closely together.”

One of their joint projects is a youth service program modeled after the Israeli shnat sherut, year of national service, in earthquake-devastated villages. “We train and provide a small stipend to 40 youth leaders to take a role in rebuilding their own communities,” says Kaminka. “People always think about Israeli technology and agriculture, and we do introduce technologies such as drip irrigation, but Israeli social models are also interesting.”

Tevel helped an Israeli medical team from Natan International Humanitarian Aid with logistics immediately after the earthquake; and recently finished a project with Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency-response network, to distribute building supplies and food to 800 Nepali families.

With support from the Pears Foundation, Shusterman Foundation and Crown Foundation, Tevel has also worked with volunteers from the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, World Jewish Relief and others.

Bishnu Chapagain, the Nepali director of Tevel’s activities in Nepal, earned his doctorate in plant science in Israel at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. His agricultural training is critical to Tevel’s long-term project to introduce Nepali farmers to Israeli farming practices.

Currently, a variety of Tevel recovery programs in agriculture, education, disaster-risk reduction, resilience, crisis intervention and income generation are benefiting some 25,000 villagers in six of Nepal’s most impoverished regions.

Naomi Baum
Naomi Baum, retired founder-director of the Resilience Unit at theIsrael Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma of Jerusalem’s Herzog Hospital, teaching resilience techniques to Nepalese women on behalf of Tevel b’Tzedek. Photo via Facebook
The projects are run by 80 Nepali and 59 Israeli staff and volunteers working side by side, fulfilling a three-year commitment to the government of Nepal.

“We don’t come and tell them what to do,” stresses Kaminka. “They tell us what they need help with and we approach our work as a partnership with them. Our focus is not only giving out things but developing people in the community who can take on these projects long after we’re gone.”

This year, Tevel b’Tzedek was the first Israeli organization recognized in Nepal as an INGO (international NGO) among 127 others, including major players such as Save the Children and Care International. “This is a major accomplishment for the Israeli development world. The other NGOs see that there is an Israeli face at the table,” says Kaminka.

“We are now recruiting for the fall 2016 sessions of both our one-monthExchange for Change program and seven-month Tevel Fellowship program, which mixes pairs of Israeli and Nepali volunteers in some of the poorest and most remote villages. We need great people who want to help rebuild Nepal.”


IsraAID arrived in Nepal the second day after the earthquake to help rescue survivors and establish a temporary field clinic in northeast Nepal.

The organization now runs a variety of humanitarian projects in Nepal under the direction of 55 Nepali and five Israeli staffers, says IsraAID Global Partnership Director Yotam Polizer, who visits every other month and directs all the NGO’s activities in Asia. “We’ll be there at least three more years because these are all long-term initiatives,” he tells ISRAEL21c.

Polizer was quite familiar with the country before the earthquake through his previous positions at Tevel b’Tzedek and at the Israeli embassy in Kathmandu.

“I had gained knowledge of Nepal and its language and had many contacts there, so I was able to build a team quickly when IsraAID arrived,” Polizer tells ISRAEL21c.

Working in all six affected districts with support from the American Jewish Committee and Jewish Federation network, IsraAID brings in Israeli specialists to train local NGOs to run initiatives such as an emotional support hotline. “We have an office and training center in Kathmandu,” says Polizer.

Ahead of this past winter, IsraAID and a Korean NGO distributed more than 1,000 packages of warm clothing to Nepali children affected by the earthquake. Polizer points out that the goal was not only to protect the children from the cold but also to ensure their ability to attend school during the winter.

IsraAID in Nepal
IsraAID and a partner NGO distributed warm clothing to 1,000 children in earthquake-affected communities of Nepal. Photo courtesy of IsraAID Nepal

“We helped establish a factory that now employs 130 women and is expanding to employ 500 in the next year or so. They sell honey to local stores and to tourists in Nepal. Each woman receives one beehive stacked with a colony of local Himalayan bees to start her venture,” Polizer says.

Nepalese women in beekeeping jackets
IsraAID’s HoneyAID project equips and trains Nepalese women to be beekeepers. Photo courtesy of IsraAID Nepal

“Theater is an important part of the Nepali culture, and they don’t have electricity or Internet so it’s the best way to deliver messages,” explains Polizer. “Altogether, more than 70,000 people have taken part in our theater program, and the model is now being adopted by UNICEF.”

As IsraAID also continues to work actively in Japan five years after the tsunami (the only foreign organization still on the ground after arriving to help in relief efforts in March 2011), several partnerships have developed between its teams in Fukushima and Nepal.

The Japanese government is funding Disaster Specialist Education, a program where Israeli and Japanese experts who have worked with IsraAID in Fukushima are sent to a Nepali university to train a cadre of disaster-relief professionals such as social workers.

Polizer is especially excited about an exchange program involving five high school students from Nepal and five from Fukushima.

“The Nepali teens came to Japan and they learned from one another and created bonds,” says Polizer. “This was significant because it’s rare for victims of different disasters to make contact with one another. We hope to do more of this. We are fundraising for it now because it was really successful.”

(Originally published on Israel21c.org)

African, Asian Students Studying Agriculture Abroad in Israel

The Israeli desert isn’t just sprouting some unprecedented produce in the miracle soil across its plains; it’s growing some of the finest agriculturists and agronomists this generation has ever seen. In an attempt to spread the important knowledge that Israeli agro-technicians have discovered, AICAT is opening its doors to students from all over Africa and Asia, providing the kind of education that these kids could never get back home.

Stimulating the Minds of the Next Generation

The Arava International Center for Agricultural Training (AICAT) has developed a forward-thinking work-study program that allows undergraduates from Asia and Africa to come learn the basic principles of agriculture. They are teaching young minds how Israelis have used technology, biochemistry, and other sciences to enhance the productivity and output of these agricultural basic building blocks. To date, more than 10,000 students have gained from this initiative, and more keep coming each year.

The program was started with a simple mission: get the right information into the minds of people living in underdeveloped regions and provide effective help to the 25% of the world’s population that lives in poverty. The program matches farmers as mentors to the students for the year, and they are taken through the entire process from start to finish.

AICAT is located in Sapir, in the heart of a desert region known as the Arava Desert. Students hail from Indonesia, Nepal, South Sudan, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Laos, and East Timor, to name but a few.

Educating from A-to-Z

In an interview with ISRAEL21c, AICAT director Hanni Arnon playfully said “They come at plantation time and grow with the plants.” Most of the challenges that the Arava Desert faces are the same as the problems that these students are facing back home, so seeing the way in which technology is helping to combat these problems first-hand brings the whole experience to life.

Lack of water supply, geographic isolation, difficult weather conditions, unproductive soil, and other complicated conditions are some of the challenges African and Asian students are learning to combat throughout their stay in the program. The school teaches the undergraduates the importance of proper crop planning, research, and implementation. They discuss the benefits and need for technologies such as drip irrigation and water management to keep the crops hydrated despite frequent water shortages, and pest control to maximize the output of each crop season.

Even more impressive are the values that AICAT imparts to these kids. ”If you want it, you can make a change. We teach that a difficulty is a challenge and you need to find a solution,” comments Arnon.

AICAT currently has an international master’s degree run in cooperation with Tel Aviv University that lasts 18 months. The specialty is Plant Sciences, and it touches on food safety and security issues.

Life Is Better in Majuli Since An Israeli Came to Visit

She didn’t speak their language, but that didn’t stop Gili Navon from befriending and assisting the women of a remote island tribe in northeast India.

(Originally published on Israel21c.org)

Gili Navon didn’t intend to start a nonprofit organization when she traveled to Majuli, a remote island of about 200,000 in Assam, northeast India.

It was 2007, and she came with a photographer friend to explore arural culture she’d heard about from a yoga teacher during her yearlong backpacking trek through India after her army discharge in 2005.

Something about the place attracted her intensely. Though she did not speak Assamese or any local dialects, Navon bonded with the families – and particularly the women — of Majuli’s peaceful Mising tribe.

She accompanied them to the jungle to pick herbs and helped with household chores. She watched them spin raw silk and cotton into colorful garments. She saw the struggle for sustenance in this low-caste subsistence-farming society where tourists rarely venture and river erosion has caused mass relocation.

River erosion is a serious threat to the Mising tribe of Majuli. Photo by Mitu Khataniar
River erosion is a serious threat to the Mising tribe of Majuli. Photo by Mitu Khataniar


“We came to have a real relationship. Slowly I learned the language and visited many times. They knew I cared about them,” Navon tells ISRAEL21c.

That caring led her to do a four-month internship in Majuli during her studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Glocal  (“global” and “local”) Community Development Studies master’s degree program.

“Coming in with an Israeli education, where you continually search for ways to improve and innovate, together with my love and appreciation of the local culture and way of life, I felt I have something to contribute.”

Navon organized 24 tribal women into a weaving cooperative in 2011 to help them turn their cultural tradition into a more viable source of income from marketable items such as table runners, scarves, wallets and yoga bags.

One project led to another, one trip to another. In 2013, Navon and fellow Glocal student Shaked Avizedek partnered with local youth and women to establish Amar Majuli (“Our Majuli”), a grassroots not-for-profit organization. In Israel, Amar Majuli now functions within Tevel b’Tzedek, a nonprofit that runs long-term volunteer projects to enhance the livelihood and wellbeing of communities in developing countries.

The heart of Amar Majuli’s community work is the Rengam (United) Women Weavers Cooperative, whose goal is to provide members and their families with independent sustainable livelihoods from handloom work and eco-tourism while gaining leadership skills.

The weaving cooperative today includes about 100 women, ages 18 to 60, from 20 villages. The project’s headquarters doubles as a meeting place for educational lectures on topics such as women’s health, and has also become an informal hostel for unmarried women who otherwise have no place in society.

To enhance the mobility and independence of the members, Amar Majuli established two bicycle banks. Navon explains that Majuli’s villages are far from infrastructure such as markets and hospitals, necessitating many hours of walking. Since Majuli is flat, cycling provides an easy solution. An innovative system allows each woman gradually to buy her own bike by paying pennies per use.

Mising women can get around more easily due to the Amar Majuli bike bank. Photo by Aviv Naveh
Mising women can get around more easily due to the Amar Majuli bike bank. Photo by Aviv Naveh

In addition, Amar Majuli runs a sustainable agriculture program in cooperation with the Farm2Food Foundation. The program provides practical tools for poor farmers of both genders, aiming to increase sustainable agro-economic productivity in an environmentally friendly manner.

“The main part of our work evolved around the establishment and operation of five demonstration plots equipped with drip-irrigation systems donated by Netafim,” Navon says.

Mising farmers learning to use Israeli drip-irrigation methods. Photo courtesy of Gili Navon
Mising farmers learning to use Israeli drip-irrigation methods. Photo courtesy of Gili Navon

During the monsoon season, the island suffers from floods and Amar Majuli shifts into relief mode, organizing medical clinics and giving out water filters. “This is a very hard period of the year. Roads are blocked, there are sanitary problems and shortages of drinking water, and many people get sick without access to medical treatment,” says Navon, 32.

Since its inception, the organization has worked alongside the local community without a formal budget or paid staff, developing solutions for social and economic problems. This year, Navon is curtailing her visits in a conscious effort to turn the leadership reins over to the local three staff members and eight board members.

A volunteer advisory board in Israel provides professional assistance in areas such as fundraising, branding and strategic planning. “We are in search of partners who want to support us and help us further reach out and ensure the sustainability of our community work in Majuli,” Navon says.

Gili Navon became close with the women in Majuli. Photo by Aviv Naveh
Gili Navon became close with the women in Majuli. Photo by Aviv Naveh

“People sometimes wonder what is the motive for someone to do something for a community outside her own,” says Navon, who lives with photographer Aviv Naveh in the Jerusalem suburb of Nataf.

“In Majuli I met a completely different way of life and a kind of poverty we don’t see here. I saw a need and an opportunity for development. The people have a complete lack of financial security, especially women. If someone gets sick and they already sold their cow, there is no way to save that person’s life. They lack the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty because of discrimination, social exclusion and lack of access.”

For Majuli, Navon adapted and modified the ABCD (Assets Based for Community Development) approach she learned in the Glocal master’s program. Rather than focusing on needs and problems, ABCD identifies and builds on the existing strengths and assets in a community. Navon writes and lectures on how ABCD can be adapted to various disadvantaged communities.

“Coming in with an Israeli education, where you continually search for ways to improve and innovate, together with my love and appreciation of the local culture and way of life, I felt I have something to contribute — and of course to learn, as well,”she says.

Navon was deeply influenced and inspired by the stories of her grandfather Moshe Nachshon (Lipson), who fought to bring Jewish refugees to Israel from Europe and was one of the founders of Flotilla Shayetet 13 navy seals unit.

“I grew up on those amazing, heroic stories, so finding a meaningful project was important to me,” she says. “I wanted to follow that example of dedicating myself to others.”

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7 Israeli Robots That Are Transforming Surgery

The rapidly emerging field of robot-assisted surgery promises to revolutionize how doctors operate. Israel is one of the world leaders in this field.

(Originally published on Israel21c.org)

Robotic or robot-assisted surgery can give doctors better vision, precision, flexibility and control when performing complex minimally invasive procedures. Someday, surgeons will even use robotic tools to operate through the Internet, bringing modern medical techniques to remote parts of the world.

Only a handful of surgical robots currently are approved for use, and Israelis developed three of them.

“This really puts us in the center of the field,” says Prof. Alon Wolf, founding director of the Biorobotics and Biomechanics Lab at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and chair of the Robotics in Healthcare session at the upcoming 2016 IATI-BioMed conference in Tel Aviv, May 24-26.

Wolf was studying for his doctorate under robotics pioneer Moshe Shoham of the Technion when they started developing SpineAssist (see below) for minimally invasive spinal surgery. This revolutionary device later formed the basis for Shoham’s Mazor Robotics.

“Many countries are putting a lot of money into developing these technologies, yet they have not been as successful as we are,” Wolf tells ISRAEL21c. “Israel is very respected around the world in this area.”

The “snake” robot for search-and-rescue that Wolf presented to President Obama on his 2013 visit to Israel was the inspiration for the Flex Robotic System (see below).

Prof. Alon Wolf showing the snake robot to President Obama at the Technion in 2013. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO
Prof. Alon Wolf showing the snake robot to President Obama at the Technion in 2013. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO

Wolf explains that surgical robotics began as a vision of the US army to deliver immediate treatment on the battlefield without exposing the surgeon to danger. A medic would put the robot into place and the surgeon would operate it remotely from a bunker.

“This vision is not completely realized yet, but we do have enabling technologies that allow you to do things in the operating room that you could not do before, and that’s crucial,” says Wolf. “In addition, improved remote capabilities allow a surgeon to log into cameras in other cities and control the view in real time via computer.”

Israel also used military experience as the basis of its robotics advances, says serial entrepreneur Ziv Tamir, the original distributor in Israel for Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci, the American product that broke the ground for robotic surgical systems in 1999. He went on to found a few Israeli companies in this space through ZDev Medical.

“The technologies from Israel are based on knowledge from the military. This is a critical difference because all the surgical robotics projects in other countries are coming from universities so the technology is not always needs-based,” Tamir tells ISRAEL21c.

At BioMed, Wolf will discuss how medical robotics involves innovation from many disciplines. “I’ll try to show how this puzzle of tools and Internet and users is coming together to create a new reality, and why high-tech companies like Google, IBM and Apple are investing in technologies out of the scope of their core technology, including robotics,” says Wolf.

“I believe the future is in robotics,” agrees Tamir. “All the big companies such as J&J have projects in robotic surgery.”

Here’s a look at seven significant Israeli surgical robotics companies.

1. Mazor Robotics of Caesarea is a global innovator in robotic spine and brain surgery products based on technology pioneered by Prof. Moshe Shoham of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s Kahn Medical Robotics Laboratory for Research and Instruction.

The first product, SpineAssist, was approved by the FDA in 2004. Mazor’s next-generation Renaissance Guidance System is now installed in about 100 medical centers around the world (more than half of them in the United States) for biopsies, reconstructive surgery, scoliosis correction, spinal fusion and other delicate operations.

The Renaissance 3D planning software helps surgeons map procedures for each patient and guides the tools according to the predetermined blueprint during the operation.

2. MedRobotics’ Flex Robotic System, based on Alon Wolf’s snake robot, can reach body cavities beyond the surgeon’s direct line of sight, especially head and neck structures.

“You lock it into location and operate through the snake, introducing portfolio tools we developed,” says Wolf. “It’s a single-port surgery because the system is flexible, enabling surgeons to do things they couldn’t do before.”

The Flex Robotic System was approved for medical robotics assistive surgery in Europe in 2014 and in the United States in July 2015. Wolf cofounded MedRobotics 10 years ago with colleagues he worked with at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It’s headquartered in Massachusetts.

3. MST (Medical Surgery Technologies) of Yokneam makes AutoLap, an image-guided laparoscope positioning system to orient the surgeon and stabilize the surgeon’s motions — without a human assistant – in minimally invasive surgery.

The surgeon wears a wireless ring-like device that interfaces with the AutoLap system. The proprietary software captures and interprets visual data from the laparoscope and maneuvers it in coordination with the surgeon’s actions in real time, according to CEO Motti Frimer.

“We compare it to Xbox in the clinical domain, where the system understands individual gestures,” he says.

Last June, MST received $12.5 million in an investment round led by Haisco Pharmaceutical Group of China, earmarked for expanding marketing and sales of AutoLap in the United States, Europe and China. The system is already used in a dozen medical centers in Europe and at the first US site.

“We are addressing a real need in computer-assisted robotic surgery, because most robotics must be commanded by joysticks or other devices while the MST image-analysis platform responds to the surgeon’s actions. We aim to be the gold standard for all laparoscopic surgery, and also hope to expand MST’s image-based artificial intelligence technology into additional medical robot and computer-assisted surgical domains.”

MST’s AutoLap image-guided laparoscopic positioning system. Photo: courtesy
MST’s AutoLap image-guided laparoscopic positioning system. Photo: courtesy

4. Human Extensions in Netanya is awaiting FDA (US) and CE (Europe) approvals for its ergonomic, bionic surgical glove designed as a robotized brain to enable smooth and precise movements.

Founder and CEO Tami Frenkel explains that Human Extensions’ disruptive technology is modular for use in a wide variety of complex minimally invasive operations and can be tailored to a surgeon’s skill level and specific task.

“This novel solution will allow surgeons — for the first time — to access a patient’s anatomy in a manner resembling open surgery,” Frenkel tells ISRAEL21c. “It’s as if their hands are inside the patient’s body.”

She says the Human Extensions platform represents a big step forward as “the only smart multifunctional handheld system on the horizon for minimally invasive surgery of all kinds.”

The Human Extensions tool. Photo: courtesy
The Human Extensions tool. Photo: courtesy

5. Microbot Medical was cofounded in 2010 by Moshe Shoham with Yossi Bornstein and Harel Gadot, leveraging two technologies from Shoham’s mechanical engineering lab: ViRob and TipCAT. Advanced prototypes are in development.

ViRob is a revolutionary autonomous crawling micro-robot that acts as a “submarine” allowing surgeons to send a camera, medication or shunts to narrow, twisting parts of the body (such as blood vessels and digestive and respiratory organs) and to do minimally invasive operations on those areas guided by MRI and CT scanners. Prof. Nir Shvalb, now head of the Kinematics & Computational Geometry Multidisciplinary Laboratory at Ariel University, worked on ViRob as Shoham’s PhD student.

TipCAT is a proprietary flexible, self-propelled endoscope for use in the colon, blood vessels and urinary tract. A series of balloons sequentially inflate and deflate to create safe, fast and gentle locomotion inside body structures. Like ViRob, TipCAT supports functional tools.

Prototype of the tiny ViRob from Microbot, which will allow surgeons to send a camera, medication or shunts into narrow, twisting parts of the body.Photo courtesy of Technion
Prototype of the tiny ViRob from Microbot, which will allow surgeons to send a camera, medication or shunts into narrow, twisting parts of the body.Photo courtesy of Technion

6. XACT Robotics is developing a novel platform robotic technology for accurately inserting and steering the needle in minimally invasive CT-guided procedures such as lung biopsies.

It consists of a robot, a control unit connected to the CT and to the robot, and a workstation where the interventional radiologist can plan and observe the procedure. Any deviation from the planned pathway can be detected and corrected immediately without reinserting the needle or repositioning the patient.

The company hasraised $5 million in a round led by MEDX Ventures Group, which founded the firm based on technology from the Technion. The American National Health Institute will conduct joint trials with XACT on animals and later on humans.The CEO of the company, based in Shoham, is Chen Levine.

7. MemicInnovative Surgery “is dedicated to developing and delivering innovative robotic surgical solutions that enable surgical procedures currently considered infeasible,” says CEO Dvir Cohen, who has mechanical engineering degrees from the Technion and an MBA from Tel Aviv University.

“Memic’s surgical robotic system is based on a unique design that enables a novel and intuitive surgical approach for laparoscopic procedures,” says company cofounder Nir Shvalb.

Based in Kfar Saba, Memic is now moving forward with clinical trials and regulatory clearances.


NAMPO 2016 – Israeli Agro-Technologies Solving South African Farmer Woes

Israel is no stranger to drought, famine, and other issues that come from living in a desert climate with little room for improvement. As such, Israeli agribusiness are constantly developing better and more advanced technologies to help mitigate the topographical and meteorological hurdles that are central to the region, making Israel the ideal partner to help African countries that are struggling with these same serious problems. The Embassy of Israel in South Africa is one of the many prosperous partnerships that is helping bring Israeli technologies to African farmers and seeing outstanding success.

This year, the Embassy will be featuring some of the most up-to-date agro-technology companies at the NAMPO Harvest Day convention, and African businesses and citizens are invited to sit and discuss some exciting innovations for future development.

NAMPO 2016

The NAMPO Harvest Day show is an agricultural trade show that brings representatives from across the agricultural sector together. This year, several prominent Israeli agro-technologies are being introduced into the mix.

Israeli Agro-Technologies on Site

Here are a few innovative ideas in-the-making with the potential to aid African farmers in new and incredible ways.

  • Haifa Group (Haifa Chemicals Ltd.) is an industry leader, providing water-soluble fertilizers and plant nutrition supplements to enhance crop productivity in the open field. Currently, Haifa SA is working in the greenhouse sectors with control-released fertilizers across Africa including Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, and RSA. With the help of these plant nutritional solutions, Haifa Group is helping South African farmers increase their crop output in both quality and quantity, significantly decreasing the widespread famine that is a deep-seated issue in the region.
  • Metzerplas Agriplas is a manufacturer of irrigation equipment, so in essence, they are the conduit that lets farmers utilize the technologies that Israeli companies are bringing over. In addition to delivering these technologies, Agriplas has set up offices in Africa itself, providing over 100 job opportunities for the locals. Other irrigation systems that will be represented at the convention include NaandanJain and Netafim Ltd.
  • Mottes Tensiometers is a company that has developed and is currently utilizing tension lysimeters to measure the amount of nutrients in the roots of plants, really getting to the root of the agricultural problems.
  • Schneor Seeds CC is a developer that has germinated high-resilience fruit and vegetable seeds that are resistant to disease and infestation. These seeds can be a real breakthrough for global agriculture as they will eliminate one of the most troublesome barriers against solving world hunger.

The convention is being held in Bothaville, South Africa this year on May 17-20, and African businesses and citizens are invited to come witness some of the greatest agricultural technologies that are changing the world today.

Israeli Non-Profit is Saving Lives by the Millions

We all want to make a difference in the world, and Sivan Borowich Ya’ari is no different. That’s why when, on a business trip to the denim district of Africa, she saw an opportunity to help the suffering people in the African community, she knew what she had to do.

From that initial desire to help, Innovation: Africa was born, and they have been making this world a better place ever since. Who is Innovation: Africa? What do they do? And why are they making such a difference to the world? Find out this and more as we explore this humanitarian aid group that seems to know exactly how to get the job done.

How Innovation: Africa is Changing the World

Innovation: Africa has only been around since 2008, but they’ve managed to do a whole lot of good in that short time. They have launched over 100 individual projects across Africa and helped close to 1 million African citizens with their relief efforts.

Various projects have been launched to promote better living conditions for those suffering from poverty, hunger, poor medical treatments, and rampant diseases caused by unsanitary water supplies. The initiatives have brought clean water, solar energy, food supplies, and much needed medical care to those in need. One meaningful project that was launched involved bringing light to schools and orphanages that were living in the dark until then.

Innovation: Africa’s reach has covered the continent, spanning countries including Ethiopia, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, and Uganda.


Sharing the Wealth

As an Israeli-launched and run firm, Innovation: Africa knows the dramatic breakthroughs that Israelis have made in the fields of technology and agriculture. This non-profit organization is responsible for bringing popular Israeli agricultural technologies that have successfully transformed a dried out desert wasteland into a flourishing center for produce, vegetation, and of course technology.

Using solar-powered water pumps, drip irrigation, and other innovations, Ya’ari has increased agricultural productivity in the region, created more jobs for farmers, and provided an ecosystem for stronger, healthier economic growth. This solar pump technology that the Israelis are sharing with Africa takes advantage of the vast supply of water hidden under the ground. There is as much as 5,000 gallons of water sitting below the earth’s surface, and these pumps are collecting the water for use in the fields via the latest drip irrigation systems that have been installed.

Promoting Better Health Standards

Another powerful initiative launched by Innovation: Africa brought more vaccinations to the children of Africa. Currently, more than 300,000 African children have received vaccines from life-threatening diseases such as tuberculosis, diphtheria, and tetanus. Innovation: Africa used to be called the Jewish Heart for Africa, and while the name has changed, clearly the message remains the same.

App Uses Adapted Israeli Airforce Imaging Tech to Detect Skin Cancer

Every child gets a vision and hearing check in school on a regular basis. Dr. Moshe Fried, an Israeli plastic surgeon, believes an annual skin check is necessary as well, starting in the teens.

This is why he agreed to be the medical consultant for Emerald Medical Applications’ DermaCompare, a free smartphone app that uses image processing and predictive analytics to detect changes in marks and moles over time. The app alerts the user to changes that ought to be screened for cancer.

“The skin is the biggest organ in the body,” says Fried. “The need for this comparative system came from the concept that as dermatologists and plastic surgeons we have to check everyone throughout life to look for changes in moles – the medical term is ‘nevi’ — for signs of skin cancer. This is quite difficult to do. We think that together with this application we can accomplish this goal.”

The public company, founded in Petah Tikva in 2013, has distribution agreements in Israel, Sweden, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Brazil, New Zealand and Australia (in Australia, one out of seven people get skin cancer). In April, the Brazil Chamber of Commerce selected DermaCompare as the Israeli technology “most likely to succeed in Brazil.”

A Spanish version of the app was recently launched for Puerto Rico, Mexico and Argentina, with more South American locations to come.

“There is no other product like ours,” Emerald founder and CEO Lior Wayn tells ISRAEL21c. “Our competitors use manual diagnostics and don’t use algorithms to compare images.

“This is a proprietary technology that we adapted from the Israeli Air Force, using aerial photos to track enemy moves. Our enemy is moles and we know how to track them.”

Last year, Wayn gave a TEDx Talk in Berlin about how he decided to adapt Israeli military technology into a lifesaving medical solution after his own father was diagnosed with melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.


To use the free iOS or Android app, you strip down to your underwear and have someone take smartphone or digital camera photos of your moles and lesions according to instructions explained by a friendly avatar.

DermaCompare’s algorithm then analyzes the photos. If any suspicious moles or changes are found, the app recommends contacting a doctor for evaluation, and can automatically link you to a dermatologist near your location.

“The system knows how to distinguish between benign and malignant and tells us if there is a change that could be malignant,” says Fried. “The aim is to find melanoma in the earliest stages. This offers great advantages in terms of saving money and treatment time.”

Approximately 420 million people worldwide have a high risk of getting melanoma, particularly those with fair skin. Annual treatment expenditures for melanoma in the US alone total $8 billion.

The DermaCompare system identifies and classifies moles and lesions. Image courtesy of Emerald Medical Applications
The DermaCompare system identifies and classifies moles and lesions. Image courtesy of Emerald Medical Applications

Fried says that thousands of pictures of volunteers taken for the development of the DermaCompare app demonstrated that changes in moles could clearly be detected over the course of the three-year trial period.

He envisions everyone, starting in their teens, using the app at regular intervals to build a cloud-based medical file providing physicians with real-time data on skin history and changes. If a user is concerned about a particular spot, a photo can be transmitted directly to his or her dermatologist.

DermaCompare can also be used as a follow-up at home to professional total body photography, which more and more people are using for early detection of skin cancer.

The app harnesses the power of the crowd, Wayn explains. As users upload photos of their skin to the cloud, they are building a database toward more accurate identification and comparison of moles and lesions.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence can use this crowdsourced data to predict which kinds of moles are most likely to become cancerous, “and by using that we can prevent melanoma in advance,” says Wayn.

Emerald Medical, a 16-employee company that has raised about $2 million and now seeks another $2.5 million in a Series B round, intends DermaCompare as a tool to document changes in many skin conditions beyond moles and cancer.

“This is a screening device for anything on the body that you can track with images, such as acne, bedsores and psoriasis,” says Wayn.

The business model is a fee charged to the participating physician based on the particular country’s insurance scheme.

For more information, click here.

(Originally Published on Israel21c.org by Abigail Klein Leichman)

How Israeli Startup Sight Diagnostics is Mending Malaria

In 2015, there were 214 million recorded cases of malaria across the globe. Of those infected, approximately 483,000 victims died of the disease. Since infection is spread by mosquitoes, malaria is extremely easy to contract. To make matters worse, diagnosing the disease has proven difficult, and many cases have gone misdiagnosed because of the complexity of the procedure. For decades, the medical world has been desperately attempting to generate a vaccine for this deadly disease, but all efforts have yielded negative results.

A glimmer of hope begins to light the way, though, as researchers at Sight Diagnostics, an Israeli medical device developer, has discovered a way to diagnose the disease in its earliest stages before it has had time to claim lives. With their newly developed technology, medical leaders are hopeful for a brighter future, one that doesn’t contain malaria.

Sight Diagnostics Sheds Light on Malaria Epidemic

Sight Diagnostics is a company that specializes in developing medical devices which use computer vision technology to effectively diagnose blood diseases. This innovative computer technology has lead to some astounding breakthroughs, the possible solution to Malaria being just one of them. The malaria device is called the Parasite Platform, and it’s so simple to use, medical professionals are surprised that someone didn’t come up with it sooner!

The Device to Diagnose the Disease

The Parasite Platform is currently being used by medical professionals all over the world to diagnose malaria. The significant breakthrough here is that it can diagnose the disease quickly and in a cost-efficient way. Since so many cases of malaria have gone untreated because of the costly, timely, and inaccurate diagnoses process, this device could well change the course of the malaria epidemic completely. The Parasite Platform is easy to use and has the most accurate results to date.

To see how the Parasite Platform works, check out this video:

A Global Solution

Africa has been hit hard by malaria, recording a $12 million annual loss due to the negative impact it’s had on tourism, increased medical care costs, and lost work force. Additionally, 90% of the deaths cited above were within Africa, so naturally Sight has geared much of their product distribution towards this region of the world. The devices are currently being sold and used successfully across India, Africa, and Europe, and according to Sight, this could be the biggest innovation for malaria development since the introduction of PCR.

On the heels of the Parasite Platform success, Sight has continued to develop their technology so they can develop and market a point-of-care complete blood count device that can be used in ordinary hospitals and doctors’ offices. Other innovations are in the research stages, and Sight Diagnostics may unveil more groundbreaking and life-saving measures in the near future.

Tel Aviv Startup Empowering South African Women

Even in our all-accepting and gender-equivalent society, woman are still struggling to show doubters that they have every bit as much to offer the world – in particular, the scientific world – as their male counterparts. Fortunately, Start-Up Tel Aviv has got these ladies’ backs because their tremendous international competition is focusing its attention on promising South African women in high-tech this year.

israel in south africa

Start-Up Tel Aviv Invites Women to Compete

The competition has broad parameters, allowing any woman in senior or founding positions within a South African high-tech startup to apply. While this is always the case for the exciting competition, this year has a particular focus on the women of the industry, and it promises to reward individuals who show innovation and unique leadership qualities.

Judging Fairly

The respected judges will choose between the many applicants to find the women with some of the most unique and innovative technologies that can be both scalable and sustainable for the future. Among the judges themselves are several prominent women including Noluthando Gosa, Hillary Joffe, and Tanya Kovarsky. Gosa is known as being a significant and active voice in various projects including the Institute of Directors of South Africa, the Black Business Council, and the Business Women’s Association of South Africa. Joffe is a major player in the financial journalism field in South Africa, and Kovarsky is currently the PR and Communications Lead of Core Group. Other judges include Toby Shapshack, Stuff Magazine publisher, and Arthur Goldstuck, World Wide Worx founder and acclaimed writer.

Competition: Rules & Requirements

Start-Up Tel Aviv is currently running its third competition. The contest works in two stages. First startups from all over the world compete to be one of the finalists. The cream of the crop are chosen from the various startups spanning 21 different countries. From there, these companies will compete for the coveted prize.

What is the competition prize? Winners are awarded with an all-expenses paid trip to Tel Aviv, where they will spend almost a week in the vastly knowledgeable startup communities within this tech hub. Tech startups are eager to win because they know how much they can learn from this experience-rich atmosphere. Winners will also be introduced to several prominent members in various fields including investors, scientists, and cultural leaders, all individuals who could potentially change the course of development for these startups.

The only requirements are that the contestants must be a part of a tech company that is currently in the seed stage of development. Oh, and they had better be coming in with some major innovations because the competition is fierce.

Kaiima – AgriTech’s Pick for Solving World Hunger

World hunger is a serious problem, and one that scientists, farmers, politicians, and world leaders are constantly struggling to overcome. This is why when Israeli company Kaiima turned out a bumper crop of experimental produce, the entire world stopped to listen. And they had some pretty fascinating things to say.

The Kaiima Method

Kaiima is a successful agro-biotech that is tackling the world’s hunger problem by making crop production a more efficient and productive process. The science behind their methods is known as Clean Genome Multiplication (CGM) technology and it effectively enhances the crop’s production levels, by dramatically encouraging the vegetation to increase the chromosome production in the plants.

This is actually a natural process that is already occurring in the plants, so the CGM is simply giving it a boost in order to do its job better. The Kaiima method is a further development of this process that they’ve termed EP (Enhanced Ploidy) for the greater ploidy genomes that are produced without damaging quality.

According to Doron Gal, CEO of Kaiima, “In agriculture, this is considered a game-changing technology…Kaiima is the first since the green revolution that has an interesting yield-enhancement technology.” And that technology is really making waves in the agricultural communities across the world.

Seeing Resounding Results

So is the Kaima method as good as they say it is? Their 2014 numbers for corn, soy, wheat, and rice closed near $30 billion, a real bumper crop if ever there was one! These specific crops are in tremendous demand globally, with a 90% increase over the last 30 years. Overall, Kaiima has been able to increase crop production by 10-50%, a development that hasn’t been seen since the beginning of the “green revolution”.

With production levels like this, when the seeds go to market in a few weeks, everyone is hopeful that the rising global hunger problems will be significantly reduced.

Kaiima’s Global Aid

Kaiima has gained global recognition over the past few years for its tremendous strides made in struggling countries across the world. In 2013, the bio-agritech company teamed up with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in India in an attempt to breed new types of rice that would have greater biomass and grain yield, effectively feeding more people with less. Their efforts in Africa to establish stronger vegetation were equally successful.

Investors such as Horizon, The World Bank Group, the International Financial Corporation, and Infinity Group are all backing this noble project. Currently Kaiima has subsidiaries in North America and Israel, and the company plans to expand their operations for further research and development. Kaiima means sustainable, and that is certainly something that they are helping to achieve!