Food- and agritech start-up CarobWay, Ltd., together with Israel’s oldest environmental arm, the Jewish National Fund (JNF-KKL), have kicked off a nationwide research initiative for carob trees. CarobWay also announced that it has sealed agreements with research and development (R&D) farms and local farming communities in Israel to optimise carob cultivation and innovate carob-derived products.
CarobWay currently harvests carobs from key JNF-owned carob forests in Israel. They also established its first 70-hectare (173 acre) modern carob grove in the Upper Galilee region in conjunction with two R&D farms, Hulata and Galilee Agricultural Co. and five other collective farms. The venture leads a 10-year joint project combining Israeli agricultural expertise and technology with the cultivation of high-yield carob trees. The project will adhere to sustainability and fair-trade ideals.
The team is conducting broadscale screening of native carob species. This will enable the start-up to develop carob-based products that are in line with food industry needs.
“We applied several analytical methods to attain a deeper understanding of various carob species and their unique characteristics specifically so that we can tailor our offerings more adroitly to our clients,” said Udi Alroy, co-founder and chief executive officer of Carobway. “For example, some carob species grow fruit with higher sugar content, albeit with a naturally low glycemic index. These can serve the needs of food and beverage companies seeking viable sugar alternatives. Other trees bear more seeds and so are more suited to the locust bean gum industry.”
Hulata runs a model grove dedicated to R&D, where local carob varieties and their cultivation methods are regularly analysed by CarobWay staff. The orchard is fully automated and computerised, effectively gathering all cultivation and meteorological data.
Carob innovation from orchard to table
The start-up also has made headway in creating innovative carob-centred food products in its private lab.
“Carob is a highly nutritious and flavorful fruit, yet its true potential has yet to be realised,” added Alroy. “We are continually striving to bring the best of this super crop back to the table and to boost the carob value chain.”
As part of the tree survey, CarobWay developed an agri-appfor aggregating pertinent field-level data of the various tree species and their attributes. It includes such data as geographical location, tree yield, and seed volumes per pod. Fruit samples are also taken for laboratory analysis to gain a detailed map of their compositional makeup in order to assess nutritional value and functionality for specific supplement and food applications.
Tree research with JNF
CarobWay also sealed an agreement with the JNF-KKL for a nationwide survey of carob trees. The venture has conducted extensive field research to attain a full analysis of domestic trees and identify the most fruitful carob varieties, as well as optimum growing conditions.
The researchers have mapped the country using a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) data collection format in which trees are assigned to the closest meteorological station. This enables the researchers to accrue location-based data on such key parameters as rain volumes and humidity levels (both in high and low temperature zones) to identify the most ideal regions for growing carob trees.
“There are five species of carob trees that grow throughout Israel,” explained Sohel Zedan, chief forest officer for the JNF and a leading global expert in carob cultivation and agriculture. “Some have been growing wild in forests for thousands of years and are well acclimatised, so have proven resilience to extreme weather conditions and other environmental changes. Most were planted in the 1950’s as part of a major afforestation campaign initiated by the JNF. Many of these deep-rooted perennial trees have long life spans, with the potential to live decades or even centuries. This makes them a highly sustainable, yet low-maintenance crop – traits we look for when selecting the best species to develop.”