In the fields of Moshav Sharona in northern Galilee, an Israeli start-up is growing the next generation of super-crops.
Kaiima Bio-Agritech uses genome multiplication to grow more resilient crops and increase yields, helping to ensure that farmers will be able to meet the growing demand for food in the coming years.
Currently the world population stands at nearly 7.2 billion, a number that is expected to swell to 8.3 billion by 2030. Experts at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate this population boom will demand that world food production increase by 50 percent during the next two decades to keep up demands and prevent hunger worldwide.
At the same time, changing weather patterns are already forcing agriculturalists to seek out new, more resilient crops, capable of weathering the growing incidences of drought conditions expected in the decades to come.
To meet the world’s growing food needs head-on, Kaiima is experimenting with rice and other grain crops in the moshav’s fields, hoping to find just the right plants to meet growing demands for climate-resilient, high-yield crops.
Doron Gal, CEO of Kaiima, which means “sustainability” in Hebrew, explained the current research being conducted by his team will “position Kaiima to become an outstanding participant in the global fight against hunger.”
To meet this goal, his team’s researchers are working to speed up the plant’s natural evolution in its labs.
“The aim is to boost crop yields, [by] speeding up by thousands of years the way plants naturally multiply their own DNA,” Gal said.
Not all methods of increasing crop productivity pioneered by the team, however, are so high-tech. The Kaiima researchers also use castor, a plant that is widespread through the region and is often thought of an invasive species that grows on poor soil, to help increase crop yields of other food crops planted later in the same fields.
“Castor is really good as a rotation crop with a deep and fast-developing root system that brings up nutrients other plants can’t access,” Gal said. “When we grow corn or wheat after castor, the yield increases substantially.”
While not edible, the castor grown by Kaiima can be used as biomass, providing farmers a fast cash crop that also helps increase future yields of important food staples such as wheat and corn.
“In any of these crops, a yield increase of just 10 percent is revolutionary,” Gal added, noting his team’s experimental methods have already increased test yields from 15 to 50 percent.