Maurice Picow – Green Prophet Impact news for the Middle East Thu, 08 Dec 2016 11:56:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Maurice Picow – Green Prophet 32 32 Join the urban farming movement Thu, 08 Dec 2016 11:56:18 +0000 urban-farming-in-the-city
Urban farming, whether found in large urban cities like Chicago, or in a Palestinian refugee camp near Bethlehem, is rapidly becoming a worldwide movement. All it really takes is a small, available plot of ground, an accessible rooftop on a warehouse or other urban building; or even a large balcony in a private home for growing a wide variety of fresh garden produce.

City dwellers are now enjoying the pleasure and personal benefits of growing their own garden produce, which is often very expensive when purchased at local supermarkets and green grocers. Urban farmers who lack experience in growing their own veggies are receiving assistance from urban farming organizations, such as one called Urban Farming, a Michigan based NGO, which is making a big impact on turning American and other urban communities into active participants in the global urban farming food chain.

Urban Farming has helped establish local community farming projects in American urban locations such as Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco and St Louis. Besides giving local residents the opportunity to participate in growing their own garden produce, Urban Farming is also helping to bring people together into a stronger sense of working together as a community. Part of the produce grown in these community farming projects is given to local food banks for distribution to needy people.


In water and land scarce parts of the Middle East, urban farming is coming into its own. A good example is taking place in Cario Egypt (photo), where a number of urban farming projects are turning rooftops into blooming urban gardens.

Cairo suffers from a combination of extreme population density, combined with a chronic lack of available vegetable produce. Local urban organizations such as the Egyptian Food Sovereignty Project, has established successful urban farming projects in this city of more than 12 million people.

Another M.E. urban farming example is taking place in the West Bank, where Palestinian refugees are now growing vegetable produce in rooftop gardens in a Bethlehem refugee camp. It all goes to show that successful urban gardening projects are possible virtually anywhere. All it takes is a bit of available space and a willingness to be involved in helping to green the planet.

Read more on urban farming projects:

Chicago’s urban farming produces fresh veggies all year, 24/7

Brooklyn’s Gotham Greens builds world’s largest rooftop urban garden

Sow much good farmer a CNN hero for spreading her seeds at the urban farm

Photo of urban farming in the city by

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Pee power may be best alternative energy bet yet Mon, 14 Nov 2016 18:16:21 +0000 mechanicalen-pee-power

Finding a viable alternative energy source to create low cost bio energy may be closer than we think. Some of these sources include energy from trash and algae as fuel for our future energy needs. Another alternative energy source, comes from a “product” usually discarded as a waste substance: urine. The use of urine as a
fuel source was previously written about when a group of high school students in Lagos Nigeria created a practical way to separate hydrogen from urine and then use it to power a generator to create electricity.

Going one step further, a research engineer from the University of Sorona State in Northern Mexico has found a way to use urine’s natural ability as an electrolyte to separate to separate oxygen from hydrogen in common urine and create a viable biofuel.

The engineer, Gabriel Luna-Sandoval, claims to have invented a machine that transforms urine into a biogas that can be used to provide power to heat water in kitchens, bathrooms, and other household uses. The conversion process developed by Dr. Luna-Sandoval involves inserting electrodes into a square plastic container holding the urine. The charged electrodes then separate oxygen and hydrogen from the urine with the hydrogen being used as a biogas.

Luna-Sandoval’s prototype device creates enough biogas to provide His invention provides enough heat for a 15-minute hot shower, using only 15 to 20 millilitres of urine. Cooking food like beans for one hour requires only 70 to 130 millilitres of urine, he says.

He is also thinking about the oxygen separation process as being beneficial for astronauts in space travel. “An average adult person “produces” around 1.4 liters of urine a day, which normally is thrown away. Why not put this waste material to good use, he says. The device Luna-Sandoval created has received attention from the government’s National Science and Technology Council, which featured it in a recent article.

This is just another idea for making use of a waste substance that is normally flushed down the toilet.

Read more on alternative energy ideas:
Algae returns as fuel for our future
Pee power is making electricity from urine in Africa
Energy from Trash to Become Reality with $17 Million Israeli Investment

Photos of Gabriel Luna-Sandova and his urine processing device by 

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Swallowing poop pills is good for your gut Mon, 14 Nov 2016 18:01:42 +0000 poop microbiome pills

The presence of poop and poop products in our daily lives has been receiving increasing attention for some time. News stories include the discoveries of meat products fed with faeces and pumped with toxic contaminates. From a product standpoint, creating recycled paper products from poop have also been covered. But swallowing a pill full of poop to maintain good health? Has this idea gone too far?

The use of microbiome therapy, literally transferring healthy human gut microbes from one person to another, is very beneficial to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in human intestines. This therapy, now being capitalized on by a company named Seres Therapeutics, literally involves taking human faeces from recognized “stool banks” and then cleaning and processing it into capsules of “poop pills” to be used to maintain the correct bacterial balance in human intestines. Human intestinal “bug balance” often decreases with age, or following over usage of antibiotics.

People having a severe bacteria imbalance in their intestines can be afflicted with severe intestinal ailments such as Clostridium difficile, a severe gut infection that can strike people after extensive use of antibiotics, which wipes out their existing gut bacterial levels. Although medications such as probiotics are often recommended in these cases, the poop pills being developed by Seres seem to be more directly connected to the source of the problems.

Scientifically, the process of transferring faecal bacteria from one person to another is known as a faecal microbiota transplant. The ability to do this by simply swallowing a pill or capsule is awesome. Seres’s main competitor is an actual stool bank called that provides stool samples of “pure poop” to medical practitioners for microbiota transplants. This idea does not sound good to most people, however. This is why a pill from a company like Seres may be a better alternative for people suffering from gut-related conditions like Clostridium difficile.

Read more about poop-related issues:
Israeli meat fed with feces and pumped with toxic contaminates
What recycled paper products from poo look like
Iron rich whale poop essential in Middle East habitats

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Experiencing New York’s High Line revision Thu, 06 Oct 2016 17:46:40 +0000 img_0020

Gotham’s green foliage projects in large urban communities like New York City and Chicago, not only produce year around vegetables; but also help preserve vestiges of former wild pastoral glory.

An excellent example of efforts made to put abandoned urban space to good use as a garden park is the High Line urban grasslands park in New York City’s Chelsea district. An abandoned above ground rail line has been converted into a public park and botanical garden, known locally as simply the “High Line”.

This green eco park stretches from West 12th and Ganesvoort Streets, all the way north to the Penn Central rail yards on West 34th Street. During a recent late summer visit to New York City, it was a pleasure to visit High Line and stroll along its long, winding route, interspersed with a multitude of trees, shrubs and prairie grassland plant species, many of which are nearly extinct in their native locales.

The various grasses, shrubs and other greenery planted there were indigenous to American prairies in states as far east as Ohio. Many of these prairie locations have long since disappeared, having been replaced by farmland and modern urbanization. For this reason, the idea of planting such greenery in the heart of America’s largest urban metropolis was conceived in the early 1990’s.

Walking through this modern day Garden of Eden, it’s easy to see that it offers something for everyone, including various art forms, food delights, scenic views of the Hudson River, pastoral greenery; and various views of New York City itself, especially the picturesque Chelsea neighborhood.


The High Line project is an excellent example of what can be done to utilize a now abandoned rail transportation structure, instead of tearing it down. Similar green projects are now being undertaken in other parts of the city; including the river port area and former warehouse districts. A Low Line project in Manhattan looks to create new food sources from space age technologies.

In the Middle East, urban greening and farming projects are nothing new. Urban Egyptians have been engaged in urban agriculture projects for years.  Hydroponic greening goes all the way back to ancient Babylonians with their legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Read more about greening and farming urban areas:

Japan rents out hydroponic gardens to busy city dwellers

Chicago’s urban farming produces fresh veggies all year 24/7

Brooklyn’s Gotham Greens builds world’s largest rooftop farm

Egypt’s Urban Agriculture Movement is Growing

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Solar powered plane (finally) completes round-the-world flight Tue, 16 Aug 2016 20:27:41 +0000 Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse, the world’s first intercontinental solar energy powered aircraft, finally touched down last month in Abu Dhabi after completing a round the world flight. The flight took more than a year to complete, after originally taking off from Abu Dhabi in March, 2015.

The 2.3 tonne aircraft was piloted by Swiss adventurer Bertrand Picard and his associate André Borschberg, another Swiss adventurer, businessman and pilot. They managed to spend 23 days of actual flight time in the air by alternating piloting the craft, which has a wingspan of 72 meters (236.22 ft). Powered by 72,000 solar cells, the flight was challenged by adverse weather conditions, over heating storage batteries, and extreme cases of fatigue due to having to fly in a cramped, single seat cabin. But it was a landmark moment for history.

Solar Impulse 2 is a similar version of the previous solar powered plane, Solar Impulse, that made history when it flew a non-stop flght from Madrid, Spain to Rabat, Morroco and back again in July, 2012. This flight, part of which occurred during the night, helped to show that solar powered flight is possible under the right conditions. The Solar Impulse 2 flight, which also included night flying, often flew at an altitude of up to 29,000 feet during the daytime and glided at a lower altitude of 5,000 feet during the night to save energy.

The last leg of the journey, from Cairo to Abu Dhabi, was especially difficult due to a large amount of air turbulence: “It was very inspiring though as I neared my final destination, knowing this had been accomplished without the use of conventional fuel” says Picard.

Before the Solar Impulse project began, Picard, together with another adventurer, Brian Jones, made history by being the first persons to fly around in earth in a high altitude balloon. This journey, in March, 1999, lasted 19 days, 21 hours and 55 minutes.

The Solar Impulse 2 journey was plagued with difficulties: financial ones as well as mechanical difficulties. These included having to be grounded in Hawaii during the winter of 2015 to 16 because of overheating batteries. Flying the plane was often extremely difficult due to the cramped flight cabin and not having heating or pressurization. The single pilot seat also had a built-in toilet.

Despite these difficulties the flight gave the men a great sense of achievement of flying around the earth, powered only by the sun: “Now I really want to leverage this demonstration and create a world council for clean technologies,” says Picard, who hopes this feat will help bring the contribution of alternative energy to help combat the ravages of climate change.

“This is a historic day for humanity,” said UN Secretary Ban K. Moon.

Indeed says Green Prophet!

More articles on solar powered flight:

Would You Fly by Sun and a Solar Impulse?

World’s First Solar-Powered Transcontinental Flight in Pictures

Solar Impulse Plane Finally Conquers the Atlas Mountains

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Amazing birdmen jet fly over Dubai Thu, 28 Jul 2016 10:47:59 +0000

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s birdmen Yves Rosset and Vince Reffet flying their jet propelled wingsuits over and through one of world’s most futuristic cities, Dubai. The two air daredevils, each strapped into specially designed and constructed wing suits staged a 10 minute acrobatic jet flight at a location best known for its edifice audacities; including the world’s current tallest building, 2,716 foot Burj Khalifa. (It’s also the world’s largest poop-producing tower!)


The jet propelled wing suits, which first passed successful flight tests in Finland in October, 2005, propelled the two aeronauts at heights well above Burj Kahalia and at speeds of up to 120 mph. Their amazing test flight and air acrobatics is shown here in the following video:

 Each specially fitted wingsuit has two small turbo jet engines attached to it. According to test data from previous jetmen flights, each jet engine provides around 16kgs of thrust, and is primed with a mix of butane and propane. Once ignited, the engines operate on a steady supply of kerosene based A1 Jet fuel.

This jet fuel burns at around the rate of 0.5 litres per minute, on full power, for each jet engine.Judging from the amount of exhaust smoke being expelled from these jetpacks, this extravagant air show display does not appear to be very environmentally friendly, to say the least.

Of course, there is some excitement to this kind of flying, if you take into account that these birdmen are realizing their dream of actual uninhibited human flight. Maybe the next step will be doing such a feat using renewable energy instead of polluting A1 jet fuel. The damage to Dubai’s environmental habitats, due to so much construction and the artificial islands in the Arab Gulf, is very sad indeed. Areoacrobatic displays like jet powered wingsuits do not appear to offer much of a contribution to improving the local enviromental scene there.

Read more on un-green issues affecting the Arab Gulf region and the world at large:
It’s not the tide. It’s not the wind. It’s us.
Crazy heat dome will mean no one can live in Arab Gulf by 2100
Amazing “Atlas” tracks Arab world habitat destruction over time


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Chicago’s urban farming produces fresh veggies all year, 24/7 Wed, 22 Jun 2016 06:11:06 +0000 Farmed Here special hydroponic growing project

Hydroponics and new, high-tech urban agricultural techniques are now growing fresh food in the middle of Manhattan and other large metropolitan centers globally. People are catching onto the taste and business opportunities of urban agriculture: find it growing in Middle Eastern cities such as Cairo, Egypt too!

Urban farming in midwestern American cities like Chicago has had its limitations due to adverse winter weather conditions at least 9 months a year. New indoor farming techniques use vertical farming, special indoor LED lighting and hydroponic systems that pump soybean and kelp-infused water through a temperature and humidity-controlled system, nearly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

This unique hydroponic farming system is at Bedford Park, about 15 miles (25 km) southwest of Chicago. The Bedford Park project, being carried out by a company known as Farmed Here is housed in a 90,000 square foot warehouse. The project produces a number of green vegetables and herbs; including basil, baby greens, broccoli, and kale.

Farmed Here is just one of more than 821 agricultural projects found under the Chicago Urban Center Agriculture Mapping Project  that includes anything from small private urban projects to multi-acre urban agricultural farms.

Farmed Here’s CEO Nate Laurel, a venture capital investor in his own right, put $13 million into the project that has a combined investment of more than $50 million USD. He says that this investment is worthwhile, considering the demand for fresh vegetable produce in the Chicago metro area alone.

“The greens market for Chicago alone is $400 million dollars,” he says. “Given the market is so big, it’s so top of mind for people to know where their food came from and how it was grown”, he adds.

Urban faming projects have also gone big-time by a rival company, Brooklyn based Gotham Greens, which opened a 75,000 sq. ft. rooftop farm in Chicago’s Pullman Park quarter in November 2015. In contrast to the LED lighting used by Farmed Here, the Gotham Greens project also uses natural sunlight, that is absorbed through a translucent roof. This idea is more in line with the traditional greenhouse lighting idea.

Dallas, Texas is also getting into the urban farming business: it has opened the office for Flux Farm, Inc., a company (founded and co-owned by Green Prophet’s Karin Kloosterman) to bring space-age artificial intelligence to predict and optimize the growth of plants in controlled environment growing. This company aims to connect urban farms everywhere for data, community and eventually selling produce grown. The company is piloting its technology at an urban indoor hydroponics park in Massachusetts.

Michelle Obama urban gardening

The idea of urban farming has also been promoted by Michelle Obama, wife of US President Barack Obama, and who also hails from Chicago. The First Lady launched an urban gardening project in a section of the White House grounds in the Spring of 2012. Her urban gardening project has given her the title of First Lady of Urban Gardens.

More articles on urban agriculture projects:

Grow fresh food in the middle of Manhattan? Meet Henry
Brooklyn’s Gotham Greens builds world’s largest rooftop urban farm
Egypt’s urban agriculture movement is growing!

Photo of Farmed Here urban agriculture project by Fast CoExist; Photo of Michelle Obama in urban garden by NPR.Org

]]> 2 Japan rents out hydroponic gardens to busy city workers Thu, 09 Jun 2016 07:22:06 +0000 hidroponic lettuce farms

What do you do if you live in a cramped, workaholic country like Japan and still want to grow veggies in your precious, quality leisure time? This desire to be a weekend urban farmer is relevant for other locations too. Hydroponic farming projects are fast becoming popular everywhere, including Egypt and other parts of the Middle East.

Japan, in particular, has an acute land availability problem for people who cannot afford traditional weekend countryside retreats for gardening due to being confined to high-rise urban environments.

To help make gardening a reality for more city dwellers, a Japanese company Tanabatake Sukusuku now offers rental hydroponic growing containers on a monthly basis.

Opened in 2014 by Kajima Tatemono Sogo Kanri Co., a Tokyo based building and maintenance company, individuals and families can rent small hydroponic growing containers or “beds” and choose from 51 kinds of vegetable seeds; or bring their own.

“A cityscape becomes dark when the number of vacant buildings increases. Lights for gardening can illuminate the city, and I hope the greenery of the vegetables is like a downtown oasis and refreshes passers-by,” says Tsuneaki Ihana, who works in the company’s technical information section.

The rental space idea appears to be gaining popularity as more people are becoming involved. Staff advisors are on hand to assist with various aspects of hydroponic gardening, including humidity and temperature control and measuring the correct amount of fertilizer required.

American companies like flux are building the “brains” for hydroponic gardens and farms, to make it easy and hassle-free, and tell Green Prophet that multi-billion companies from Japan have contacted them to see how urban farming can go wide in Japan: Hydroponics can green city rooftops and grow high quality food for the discerning Japanese, but it’s also is a great hobby for Japan’s growing senior population. The government wants them engaged but they can’t bend over to tend to regular soil gardens. Hydroponic gardens can be raised on tables or built on walls on solve this problem.

One part-time gardener in Japan growing food this way said that it would be much harder to look after such a project if done from home and enjoys the flexibility community-style farming allows: “Here, I can casually enjoy farming when I have time,” she says.

Read more on urban and hydroponic agriculture:
Gaza produce on the menu at swanky American event in Jerusalem
Saving our food and planet requires bubbles
Khalifa hydroponic farms paying off

Photo of hydroponic lettuce farms by Pengertian Hodroponik

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US supports hydroponics to revitalize Mideast food, water and security Mon, 06 Jun 2016 06:45:00 +0000 Visit to an hydroponic bell pepper farm

Growing crops without soil, otherwise known as hydroponic agriculture, is not a recent innovation. In fact, it can be traced back to ancient times and kingdoms like Babylonia, whose Hanging Gardens were said to have been created and nurtured by use of hydroponics.

The modern day Middle East, especially water-deprived countries like Jordan and Syria, has had on-going problems in that local agriculture cannot provide sufficient amounts of local food due to lack of sufficient water and arable land to grow crops. Other resource-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates see hydroponics as the only solution for providing hyper local, fresh, nutritious food.


As a result of this water scarcity problem, Jordan sees potential in hydroponic agricultural projects, which are said to use as much as 90 percent less water over conventional soil-based agriculture.

The Kingdom of Jordan is seeing commercial opportunities for local hydroponic farming and is getting some help from the USAID Hydroponic Green Farming Initiative (HGFI). Hydroponic agricultural projects growing vegetables by both hydroponic and organic methods were the subject of an event held in May 2015, where US Ambassador to Jordan Alice Wells featured these vegetables in an event with Jordanian governmental officials and local producers.

The event was aimed at showing how use of hydroponic growing techniques not only saves water resources but produces high quality yields as well. Ambassador Wells told the participants:

“The future of hydroponic farming techniques is bright in Jordan. Hydroponic farming techniques are well-suited toward maximizing Jordan’s scarce supply of water. From my visits to hydroponic farms in the Jordan Valley, I’ve seen that the potential to grow more produce through hydroponic techniques is significant, given the minimal additional investment required to implement them.”


She added that hydroponic agriculture maximizes Jordan’s scarce water supplies. Her visits to hydroponic projects in the Jordan Valley indicate a good potential for this type of agriculture, with just a minimal additional investment required.

Chefs who attended the event were able to see the quality of the hydroponically-grown produce, which often uses no pesticides. Um Ali, who heads a woman’s agricultural cooperative in the north of Jordan, told the gathering that production of herbs like thyme is much better using hydroponic agriculture than by traditional soil methods:

“Our thyme production from hydroponic farming is far better than traditional soil farming. It uses much less water, which is scarce in Jordan. Our production is clean from soil diseases,” she said.

Building reliable markets for hydroponically-grown produce is equally important. The USAID program is designed to build greater awareness of the advantages of hydroponically-grown produce, and the chefs in attendance at the reception were able to experience first-hand the quality of produce from hydroponic fields. Developing strong domestic markets for produce will assist farmers in balancing the cyclical nature of produce grown for export.

Developing tools and an industry for hydroponics in the Middle East is just as important. Consider this super cool American company flux from New York powering up the entire industry by providing powerful monitors and controls for hydroponic farms, in the same way that Mobileye enables self-driving Tesla cars. The global market flux is tapping into will grow from about $19 billion today to $27 billion in 4 years. It’s a massive opportunity since there are few global players with no dominant, affordable solution for new businesses.

Jordan can and should be a part of that.

More about hydroponic agriculture in the Middle East:
Hydroponics in Qatar
Saudi Arabia’s OAXIS hydroponic food belt
Khalifa hydroponic farms paying off
Grow fresh food in the middle of Manhattan?
Hanging gardens of Babylon inspire water farming called hydroponics

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Has Zika virus come to Israel? Fri, 03 Jun 2016 06:29:04 +0000 833px-Aedes_aegypti_feeding

The sheer horror of it was understandable when the first photos of deformed infants began appearing in local and international news reports. Perhaps not as deadly as Ebola, which was considered to be “out of control” in parts of West Africa in 2014, the Zika virus, said to be carried by a once common mosquito, Aedes aegypti (photo above), has now spread to many countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Concern about the Zika virus at the upcoming Olympic Games in Brazil, considered to be the “epicenter” of the Zika outbreak, has reached a stage that an international group of doctors are now urging that the games either be moved to another location or postponed.

Although still not positively linked to Aedes aegypti, the Zika virus, named after a forest in Uganda Africa, is suspected as being the cause of a steep rise in birth defects from a condition known as microcephaly. The deformity causes babies to be born with unusually small heads and brains.

Israel and neighboring countries such as Jordan and Lebanon are not  yet high on the list of countries where the Zika virus could spread, due to the Aedes aegypti mosquito being considered to be extinct there. The one case of Zika virus, that has occurred so far in Israel to a two year old child, was attributed to the child being exposed to it in Columbia. There is a possibility though of the virus being carried by another mosquito, the Aedes Asian Tiger mosquito.

According to Israel’s Health Ministry, Israel and 17 European countries have a “moderate risk” of having cases of Zika virus from Asian Tiger mosquitos, which are said to have come from Egypt’s Nile Delta region.

The Zika virus, although known in Africa for over 60 years, was not considered to be deadly; and has symptoms similar to cases of the flu. The steep rise of cases of infant deformities in South American countries like Columbia and Brazil, which are now strongly suspected to be caused by Zika, has caused the World Health Organization to issue an alarm warning about the spread of the Zika Virus to both Europe and North America.  The heart rending photos like this one of a South American mother and her microcephaly stricken child are enough to make fears of the Zika virus all the more real.

epa05156298 A picture made available on 12 February 2016 of Leticia de Araujo (L) holding her daughter, one-month-old Manuelly Araujo da Cruz, who was born with microcephaly after being exposed to the zika virus during her mother's pregnancy, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 11 February 2016. The mother Leticia de Araujo, who caught the Zika virus during her third month of pregnancy, says that it is possible to raise her daughter in a completely normal way. 'The only difference is that Manuelly has a time when she cries a lot and gets very nervous waving her arms' but 'beyond that is normal'. EPA/ANTONIO LACERDA

Read more on viruses and other diseases that have caused concern in the Middle East:

How fast can Africa’s Ebola outbreak move to the Middle East
Deadly MERS virus spreading fast out of Sudi Arabia, raising panic before Hajj
Swine flu and other challenges to Hajj pilgrimage in 2009

Photo of Aedes aegypti feeding, by

Photo of woman with microcephaly stricken child by EPA/Antonio Lacerda

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