Carob cultivation project to stimulate alternatives to sugar and locust bean gum

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November 10, 2021 — Agro-tech start-up CarobWay has teamed up with Israel’s oldest environmental arm, the Jewish National Fund, to launch a national carob tree research initiative.

The start-up has also entered into agreements with R&D farms and local farming communities in Israel to optimize carob cultivation and develop innovative products derived from carob.

CarobWay is currently harvesting carob from key carob forests in several parts of Israel, owned by the JNF. The start-up also established its first modern 70-hectare (173-acre) carob orchard in the Upper Galilee region.

The move was in collaboration with two R&D farms, Hulata and Galilee Agricultural Co., and five other collective farms.

The company is spearheading a 10-year joint project to combine Israeli agricultural know-how with innovative technology to cultivate high-yielding carob trees. The project will adhere to the ideals of sustainability and fair trade.

Bring the carob back to the table
The team is carrying out a large-scale screening of native carob species, which will allow the start-up to develop carob-based products that meet the needs of the food industry.

“We have applied several analytical methods to better understand the different carob species and their unique characteristics so that we can tailor our offerings more skillfully to our customers,” said Udi Alroy, co-founder and CEO of Carobway.

“For example, some species of carob trees grow fruits with a higher sugar content, although with a naturally low glycemic index. These can meet the needs of agribusiness companies looking for viable alternatives to sugar. Other trees bear more seeds and are therefore more suited to the locust bean gum industry.

Hulata manages a model grove dedicated to R&D, in which local varieties of carob and their cultivation methods such as irrigation and pollination technologies are regularly analyzed by CarobWay staff.

The orchard is fully automated and computerized, efficiently gathering all crop and weather data.The orchard is fully automated and computerized.

Carob innovation
The start-up has also made progress in creating innovative carob-based food products in its private laboratory. “Carob is a very nutritious and tasty fruit, but its true potential has not yet been realized,” adds Alroy. “We are continually striving to bring back the best of this super crop and to boost the carob value chain.

CarobWay has developed an agri-application to aggregate relevant field data on various tree species and their attributes as part of the tree survey. It includes data such as geographic location, tree yield, and seed volumes per pod.

Fruit samples are taken for laboratory analysis to obtain a detailed map of their composition to assess nutritional value and functionality for specific supplement and food applications.

Tree research with JNF
CarobWay also sealed a deal with the JNF-KKL for a national carob tree survey. The company conducted extensive field research to obtain a comprehensive analysis of domestic trees and identify the most successful carob varieties and optimal growing conditions.

The researchers mapped the country using a geographic information systems (GIS) data collection format in which trees are assigned to the nearest weather station.

This allows researchers to accumulate geotagged data on critical parameters such as rainfall volumes and humidity to identify ideal regions for carob tree growth.

“There are five species of carob trees that grow across Israel,” says Sohel Zedan, JNF forestry director and a leading global expert in carob cultivation and agriculture.

“Some have grown wild in forests for thousands of years and are well acclimatized, so they have proven to be resistant to extreme weather conditions and other environmental changes.”

“Most were planted in the 1950s as part of a major afforestation campaign initiated by the FNJ. Many of these deep-rooted perennial trees have a long lifespan, with the potential to live for decades, if not centuries. This makes for a highly sustainable, yet low-maintenance crop, characteristics we look for when selecting the best species to grow. “

Edited by Gaynor Selby

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