A Jaunt to Israel

Published: March 3rd 2010

Prof. Berta Levavi-Sivan at a fish farm in Uganda.
Pic: Hebrew U. of Jerusalem
Prof. David Lichtstein
Pic: Hebrew U. of Jerusalem
The Hebrew U of Jerusalem logo
Pic: Hebrew U. of Jerusalem

University of Alberta’s Dr. James Shapiro is a world-renowned researcher in islet transplantation for diabetes. Dr. Shapiro’s partnership with IMRIC’s Dr. Yuval Dor and team lead to a groundbreaking discovery that beta cells can in fact regenerate, which translates to leading the way for radical new treatments for diabetes.


And McGill’s Dr. Moshe Szyf and IMRIC’s own Professor Howard Cedar are paving the way towards customized cancer treatment. This partnership will shed light on the genetic defects that can lead to cancer.


At the Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences, Dean and Professor Aharon Friedman discussed the impact the Universities research has had in Israel and abroad. Through their External Studies programs, they engage students from developing countries worldwide, as well as neighbouring Arab countries and the Palestinian Authority. Their vision is to assist countries wishing to develop their agricultural technology – a critical tool in the battle to alleviate poverty and to reduce hunger.


Hebrew University researcher Professor Berta Levavi-Sivan (of the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment) created fish farms for Ugandans to help combat the depleted fish count in Lake Victoria. In her presentation, she shared how the partnership with Makerere University in Kampala established these ‘boutique’ fish farms to increase the local population’s main source of protein, the Nile Perch. Through investigation and research, they established large ponds in small villages around the shores of Lake Victoria. They found a way to spawn several species of the African carp, then cultivated them in fish farms nearby. The nutrients in the soil are rich enough for the fish to feed off of. Some five years later, 14 villages are benefitting from this remarkable initiative.


During my visit, I also learned that some of the faculties’ research achievements and innovations include methods of drip irrigation and fertigation (also used in other countries); tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables bred with long shelf life; intensive arid-zone agriculture; use of natural biofertilizers and biocontrol by biofungicides and parasitic insects, to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides; recycling technologies for waste-water reclamation and composting of solid municipal and agricultural wastes; using plants to purify water polluted by heavy metals.


The research at the Faculty has improved and increased yields of fruits, vegetables, grain crops, flowers and cotton. They have helped develop Israel's annual flower export from basically nothing (in the 1960s), to its current status as one of the largest exporters of flowers in the world, and much more.


Stay tuned for my one-on-one interviews with the people behind this cutting-edge research.


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