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An Israeli innovation feeds the world with more fish protein; earns Kaye Innovation Award

27/06/2017

A new way to grow larger fish and feed the expanding world population earns Prof. Berta Levavi-Sivan a 2017 Kaye innovation Award

As the world faces a projected population increase from today’s 7.5 billion people to 9 billion people by 2050, the demand for sustainable food sources is on the rise. The answer to this looming dilemma may well reside within the booming field of aquaculture. While wild fisheries have been on the decline for the last 20 years, aquaculture, or fish farming, is the fastest growing food-producing sector in the world, and will play an increasingly vital role in our planet’s food resources in the years to come.

One of the challenges to aquaculture is that reproduction, as an energy intensive endeavor, makes fish grow more slowly. To solve this problem, Prof. Berta Levavi-Sivan at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem identified tiny molecules named Neurokinin B (NKB) and Neurokinin F (NKF) that are secreted by the brains of fish and play a crucial role in their reproduction. Prof. Levavi-Sivan, a specialist in aquaculture at the Hebrew University’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, then developed molecules that neutralize the effect of NKB and NKF.  The molecules inhibited fish reproduction and consequently led to increased growth rates.

Better Fish Growth, More Aquaculture Jobs

These inhibitors can now be included in fish feed to ensure better growth rates.  For example, young tilapia fed the inhibitors in their food supply for two months gained 25% more weight versus fish that did not receive the supplement. So far, NKB has been found in 20 different species of fish, indicating that this discovery could be effective in a wide variety of species.

The technology developed by Prof. Levavi-Sivan and her team was licensed by Yissum, the Technology Transfer company of the Hebrew University, to start-up AquiNovo Ltd., established and operating within the framework of The Trendlines Group. AquiNovo is further developing the technology to generate growth enhancers for farmed fish.

As the aquaculture industry obtains the tools to flourish, an increase in jobs is likely to follow. In Europe, aquaculture accounts for about 20% of fish production and directly employs some 85,000 people. The sector mainly benefits those living in coastal and rural areas, where jobs are most needed.

2017 Kaye innovation Award

In recognition of her work, Prof. Berta Levavi-Sivan was awarded the Kaye Innovation Award for 2017.

The Kaye Innovation Awards at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have been awarded annually since 1994. Isaac Kaye of England, a prominent industrialist in the pharmaceutical industry, established the awards to encourage faculty, staff and students of the Hebrew University to develop innovative methods and inventions with good commercial potential, which will benefit the university and society. For more information about the 2017 Kaye Innovations Awards, visit http://bit.ly/kaye2017.

Prof. Berta Levavi-Sivan earned her BSc degree in life science and her MSc and PhD in zoology from Tel Aviv University.  At the Hebrew University’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, where her work focuses on fish reproduction and growth, she has published over 100 articles in refereed journals and has won several prizes for her findings. As a specialist in aquaculture, she has worked extensively in Uganda to combat depleted fish supplies in Lake Victoria.

About the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel’s leading academic and research institution, is ranked among the top 100 universities in the world. Founded in 1918 by visionaries including Albert Einstein, the Hebrew University is a pluralistic institution where science and knowledge are advanced for the benefit of humankind. For more information, please visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en

Photos for download: http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170627_levavisivan.jpg - Kaye Innovation Award winner and Hebrew University aquaculture expert Prof. Berta Levavi-Sivan on the job. (Credit: Hebrew University)

 
An Israeli innovation feeds the world with more fish protein; earns Kaye Innovation Award
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Hebrew University Hosts Germany's Federal Minister of Nutrition and Agriculture

23/03/2017

Committed to cooperation with Israel; Ministries of Agriculture to identify and develop joint topics of interest

Hebrew University's Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment hosted a visit by Germany's Federal Minister of Nutrition and Agriculture, The Honorable Mr. Hans Christian Friedrich Schmidt.

In meetings with scientists from the Department of Soil and Water Science, the Institute of Plant Science & Genetics in Agriculture, and the I-CORE High-Throughput Physiological Greenhouse on campus, the Minister learned about projects funded by the German Ministry of Nutrition and Agriculture, and the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Minister Schmidt announced that his Ministry is committed to cooperation with Israel and that both Ministries of Agriculture will now identify and develop joint topics of interest, for example in such fields as veterinary medicine, food security and food safety, plant production and use of soil. Minister Schmidt also expressed interest in possible formats of regional cooperation.

The Minister was accompanied by the Director General of the Ministry, Dr. Josef Jeub, as well as the Deputy Director General, Martin Köhler, the Vice-President of the German farmer`s Association, Erwin Heinrich Werner Hilse, and the Vice-President of the Julius Kühne Institute, Prof. Frank Ordon.

The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment is the only institute of higher education in Israel offering university degrees in agriculture, and is also home to the only Schools of Nutritional Sciences and of Veterinary Medicine. Established in 1942 as the Institute for Agricultural Sciences with 21 masters students, the Faculty today has a student body of 2,300 students. Research at the Faculty has improved and increased yields of fruits, vegetables, grain crops, flowers and cotton; helped overcome problems of pest damage and soil contamination; led to the most efficient use of water for agriculture; produced ground-breaking innovations in irrigation techniques; helped develop Israel's annual flower export from almost nil in the 1960's, to its current status as one of the largest exporters of flowers in the world, and much more. For more information, visit http://www.agri.huji.ac.il/english.

Hebrew University Hosts Germany's Federal Minister of Nutrition and Agriculture
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Hebrew University Ranked #1 in Israel, #148 Worldwide in QS World University Rankings

06/09/2016

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has retained its leading position in the new QS World University Rankings. Published today, the 2016-2017 rankings place the university first in Israel and 148th in the world, further cementing the university’s reputation as a leader in research and academia.

Of the 7 institutions evaluated within Israel, the Hebrew University was ranked highest for Academic Reputation and Overall. In the QS World University Rankings by Subject, published in March, the Hebrew University was ranked among the world's top 100 institutions in History, Anthropology, and Agriculture & Forestry.

Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said: "We’re delighted that the Hebrew University continues to receive international recognition as a world academic leader. The University’s academic and research reputation is a direct result of the hard work and commitment to excellence displayed by our faculty members, administrative staff, and students. Our investment in recent years in attracting the best researchers and equipping them with the tools to succeed is paying dividends.”

First compiled in 2004, the QS World University Rankings rate the world’s best-performing higher education institutions, considering over 4,000 for inclusion and evaluating over 900. The ranking considers universities’ performance across six indicators, selected to reflect research impact, commitment to high-quality teaching, internationalization, and global reputation amongst both academics and employers. Published by QS Intelligence Unit, the rankings are online at www.topuniversities.com.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading university and premier research institution. Founded in 1918 by such innovative thinkers as Albert Einstein, Martin Buber and Sigmund Freud, the Hebrew University is a pluralistic institution where science and knowledge are advanced for the benefit of humankind. Serving 23,000 students from 85 countries, the Hebrew University produces a third of Israel’s civilian research, and its faculty are at the forefront of the international academic and scientific communities. For more information, please visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

Hebrew University Ranked #1 in Israel, #148 Worldwide in QS World University Rankings
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Winemaking Degree: Hebrew University Launches Israel’s First Academic Degree Program in Viticulture and Enology

17/08/2016

Innovative, boutique winemaking program provides professional training in the growth, production and analysis of wine, as well as wineries management

In recent years Israel has experienced significant maturation in its wine industry and a surging local and international demand for its outstanding wines. In response to the growing need for skills and professionalism in the industry, the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has opened Israel’s first academic degree program in wine: the International MSc in Viticulture and Enology. The four-semester MSc program begins on March 2, 2017.

Students will gain knowledge and skills at an academic level, consistent with leading programs in other wine-producing countries such as France, the United States and Australia, with special emphasis on the Israeli industry. Upon completion, the students will earn a world-recognized MSc degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This is the first MSc level degree in viticulture and enology to be approved by the National Council for Higher Education (CHE) in Israel.

Program leader Prof. Zohar Kerem said: "Following the success of Israel’s wine industry, I’m excited to open a program that puts Israeli research and academia on the international map of winemaking. The program covers topics of a spectrum similar to programs around the world, and has been tailored to fit Israel's dry conditions. The program is innovative and unique, and the participants will receive training and guidance from leading academics and professionals.

"The program will provide students from around the world an opportunity to obtain a practical Master's of Science degree, in a fascinating industry that started here 5000 years ago, from one of the world's top 100 universities. This will be a great opportunity to meet people from around the world, to form an international network, and to taste and produce some delicious wines," added Prof. Kerem.

FACULTY: Heading the program, and chairman of its academic committee, is Prof. Zohar Kerem, an Associate Professor at the Robert H. Smith Faculty and a world-renowned researcher in food chemistry, wine quality and olive oil. The program's professional coordinator is Mr. Yotam Sharon, a postgraduate with honors in Enology from the University of Montpellier in France, an MSc graduate of the Smith Faculty, and a leading winemaker at one of Israel's premier wineries. Other distinguished members of the teaching staff are Prof. Ben-Ami Bravdo, Prof. Oded Shoseyov and Dr. Ron Shapira. Esteemed guest lecturers from abroad will teach various topics.

CURRICULUM: The MSc is an 18-month academic program that spans four semesters, with classes held two full days per week on Thursdays and Fridays. The program includes theory; practice in a wine-tasting room on the Smith Faculty campus; an internship in cooperation with Soreq Winery, one of Israel’s leading wine producers; and a workshop to be held in Italy or France. Study subjects include:

—The Vineyard: Planning and cultivating; design; grapevine stocks and types; plot preparation; propagation; planting; trellising; pruning; irrigation; fertilization; mechanization; grape quality treatments.

—Wine Production: Equipment and winery management; micro-vinification; chemistry and stability; microbiology; distillation technology; fermentation science.

—Analysis of grape juice and wine: Biosynthesis of taste and odor factors; sensory evaluation of types of wine and defects in wine; sensory evaluation of wines from Israel and the world.

—Additional Courses: Economics, management and marketing in the wine industry; wine workshop and reading seminar in grapevine and wine production (to be conducted abroad).

ELIGIBILITY: Candidates must have a full BSc degree from a recognized institution in a related field, such as biology, chemistry or agriculture. Candidates whose background is lacking in specific subjects will be required to complete an individualized Preparatory Program either before or in conjunction with the beginning of the Enology program.

REGISTRATION: Early registration until September 15, 2016. Last date to apply for the Rehovot preparatory studies is October 5, 2016. Beginning of Preparatory Program in Rehovot is November 3, 2016. The four-semester MSc program begins on March 2, 2017. The program will hold a Launch Event on Tuesday, September 20, 2016. For information and registration: Mrs. Rakefet Kalev, rakefetk [at] savion.huji.ac.il, +972-8-9489991.

About the Faculty of Agriculture

The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment is the only institute of higher education in Israel offering university degrees in agriculture, and is also home to the only School of Veterinary Medicine in the country. Established in 1942, the Faculty today has a student body of over 2,300 from Israel and around the world. Research at the Faculty has improved and increased yields of fruits, vegetables, grain crops, flowers and cotton; helped overcome problems of pest damage and soil contamination; led to the most efficient use of water for agriculture; produced groundbreaking innovations in irrigation technologies; helped develop Israel's annual flower export from almost nil in the 1960's, to its current status as one of the largest exporters of flowers in the world, and much more. For more information, visit http://intschool.agri.huji.ac.il.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading academic and research institution, producing one-third of all civilian research in Israel. For more information, visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

Winemaking Degree: Hebrew University Launches Israel’s First Academic Degree Program in Viticulture and Enology
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12,000-Year-Old Funeral Feast Brings Ancient Burial Rituals to Life

06/07/2016

One of the earliest funeral banquets ever to be discovered reveals a preplanned, carefully constructed event that reflects social changes at the beginning of the transition to agriculture in the Natufian period

The woman was laid on a bed of specially selected materials, including gazelle horn cores, fragments of chalk, fresh clay, limestone blocks and sediment. Tortoise shells were placed under and around her body, 86 in total. Sea shells, an eagle's wing, a leopard's pelvis, a forearm of a wild boar and even a human foot were placed on the body of the mysterious 1.5 meter-tall woman. Atop her body, a large stone was laid to seal the burial space.

It was not an ordinary funeral, said the Hebrew University archaeologist who discovered the grave in a cave site on the bank of the Hilazon river in the western Galilee region of northern Israel back in 2008 (LINK). Three other grave pits have been found at the site of Hilazon Tachtit since 1995, and most contained bones of several humans. Nevertheless, the unusual objects found inside the grave, measuring approximately 0.70 m x 1.00 m x 0.45 m, point to the uniqueness of the event and the woman at its center.

Eight years after the discovery, Prof. Leore Grosman from the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Prof. Natalie Munro from the University of Connecticut, have identified the sequence of events of the mysterious funeral ritual that took place 12,000 years ago.

"We've assigned the event to stages based on field notes, digitized maps, stones, architecture and artifact frequency distributions and concentrations," said Prof. Grosman, adding that, "The high quality of preservation and recovery of a well-preserved grave of an unusual woman, probably a shaman, enabled the identification of six stages of a funerary ritual."

The research, published in the journal Current Anthropology (LINK), details the order of the six-step sequence and its ritual and ideological importance for the people who enacted it.

It began with the excavation of an oval grave pit in the cave floor. Next, a layer of objects was cached between large stones, including seashells, a broken basalt palette, red ochre, chalk, and several complete tortoise shells. These were covered by a layer of sediment containing ashes, and garbage composed of flint and animal bones. About halfway through the ritual, the woman was laid inside the pit in a child-bearing position, and special items including many more tortoise shells were placed on top of and around her. This was followed by another layer of filling and limestones of various sizes that were placed directly on the body. The ritual concluded with the sealing of the grave with a large, heavy stone.  

A wide range of activities took place in preparation for the funerary event. This included the collection of materials required for grave construction, and the capture and preparation of animals for the feast, particularly the 86 tortoises, which must have been time-consuming.

"The significant pre-planning implies that there was a defined 'to do' list, and a working plan of ritual actions and their order," said Prof. Grosman.

The study of funerary ritual in the archaeological record becomes possible only after humans began to routinely bury their dead in archaeologically visible locations. The Natufian period (15,000-11,500 years ago) in the southern Levant marks an increase in the frequency and concentration of human burials.

"The remnants of a ritual event at this site provide a rare opportunity to reconstruct the dynamics of ritual performance at a time when funerary ritual was becoming an increasingly important social mediator at a crucial juncture deep in human history," the researchers said.

This unusual Late Natufian funerary event in Hilazon Tachtit Cave in northern Israel provides strong evidence for community engagement in ritual practice, and its analysis contributes to the growing picture of social complexity in the Natufian period as a predecessor for increasingly public ritual and social transformations in the early Neolithic period that follows.

The unprecedented scale and extent of social change in the Natufian, especially in terms of ritual activities, make this period central to current debates regarding the origin and significance of social and ritual processes in the agricultural transition.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading academic and research institution, producing one-third of all civilian research in Israel. For more information, visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

Citation: Leore Grosman and Natalie D. Munro, "A Natufian Ritual Event," Current Anthropology57, no. 3 (June 2016); DOI: 10.1086/686563. Link to Current Anthropology: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/686563.

12,000-Year-Old Funeral Feast Brings Ancient Burial Rituals to Life
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Bees Diversify Diet to Take the Sting Out of Nutritional Deficiencies

13/04/2016
New research shows that honey bees forage for a diet that balances their colony’s specific nutritional deficits

While pesticides and pathogens pose clear threats to honey bee health, the need of bee colonies for balanced nutrition is gaining increasing appreciation. As colonies are kept in agricultural areas for crop pollination, they may encounter nutritional deficits when foraging predominantly on one pollen source. In California almond orchards for instance, 1.6 million colonies are kept every year, despite the risk of low floral diversity, which can reduce the life expectancy of bees.

In light of the challenge that agricultural intensification poses for pollinator habitats, Dr. Harmen Hendriksma and Prof. Sharoni Shafir from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem report that honey bee colonies are astoundingly resilient to nutritional stress. In new research reported in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, they found that bees can shift their foraging effort towards resources that complement nutritional deficits.

The research was conducted at the B. Triwaks Bee Research Center, Department of Entomology, The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In their experiment, eight honey bee colonies were kept in screened enclosures and fed pollen substitute diets that were deficient in particular essential amino acids. Subsequently, the bees were tested for their dietary choice, between the same diet previously fed, a different diet that was similarly deficient, or a diet that complemented the deficiency. The foragers preferred the complementary diet over the same or similar diets.

This result indicates that honey bee colonies not only attempt to diversify their diet, but that they bias their foraging effort towards a diet that specifically balances nutritional deficits of the colony. How bees perceive and evaluate nutrient composition needs further elucidation. This new-found ability of honey bees to counter deficient nutrition contributes to mechanisms that social insects use to sustain homeostasis at the colony level.

“This research indicates that honey bee colonies strive to balance their nutrition if appropriate floral resources are available. Bee colonies can benefit by this type of resilience when food options are sparse, for instance at certain sites or in seasons of dearth. Since alternative floral resources can help bees to balance their nutritional needs, this should serve as an incentive for everyone to plant flowers, wherever and whenever they can,” said Dr. Harmen Hendriksma.

“Our research with bees continues to reveal their remarkable abilities. Honey bee colonies must maintain a balanced diet for optimal health, and bee foragers seem to have evolved the sophisticated ability to bias their efforts towards finding food that balances the colony’s nutritional deficiencies. In so doing they remind us that in nutrition, as in many other things, maintaining the proper balance is key,” said Prof. Sharoni Shafir.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading academic and research institution, producing one-third of all civilian research in Israel. For more information, visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

VIDEO 1: https://youtu.be/WqbDrAJjRkQ - Honey bee workers in this video hover over feeding dishes with different diets. While flying, bees may distinguish differences by sight and by scent. Here, bees were given a choice between 34 different diets. Notably, protein content was found least explanatory for their choice behavior, while their preference was best explained by the foods color intensity and caloric contents (please see the supplements to the paper).  (Video credit: Harmen P Hendriksma)

VIDEO 2: https://youtu.be/YyTKbRd2uWQ - Honey bee workers in this video are collecting diet from feeding dishes. Bees touch the diet with their antennas, their feet, and mouth parts. Bees have receptors on these body parts, and it is likely that bees are probing the diet for taste, smell and texture. (Video credit: Harmen P Hendriksma)

FUNDING: The research was funded jointly by a grant from the BBSRC, NERC, the Wellcome Trust, Defra, and the Scottish Government under the Insect Pollinators Initiative (grant no: BB/I000968/1), and with partial support from the Orion Foundation.

REFERENCE: Harmen P. Hendriksma , Sharoni Shafir. Honey bee foragers balance colony nutritional deficiencies. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. April 2016, Volume 70, Issue 4, pp 509-517.  doi:10.1007/s00265-016-2067-5 (link: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00265-016-2067-5)

Bees Diversify Diet to Take the Sting Out of Nutritional Deficiencies
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