Report: Israeli Watermelons Fueling the Future

July 27, 2020

by: Ilse Strauss

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An Israeli watermelon

Monday, 27 July 2020 | The Malali watermelon has things a bit backwards. With normal watermelons, you feast on the flesh and discard the seeds. However, with this Israeli watermelon named for Kfar Malal, the agricultural community in central Israel where it was first cultivated, you feast on the seeds as a crunchy, nutritious snack and discard the bland flesh and rind.

While the Malali watermelon contributes some 2,800 tons of seeds to the nut industry every year, growing a crop only to dispose of 97% of its total weight is not ideal. In fact, an estimated 56,000 tons of Malali watermelon pulp is discarded annually. “The wastage here is clear and glaring,” Yoram Gerchman, associate professor of the Department of Biology and Environment at the University of Haifa and the Oranim Academic College told ZAVIT Environment and Science News Agency.

However, a recent study conducted by one of Gerchman’s students found that the pulp can be used to produce ethanol, an alternative renewable biofuel for vehicles.

The benefits of biofuel are sung worldwide. Ethanol-based fuel reduces carbon monoxide emissions, harmful particulates, hydrocarbons and sulfates. Moreover, it also reduces the dependence on limited reserves of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.

The flipside is, however, that making ethanol requires land and resources, which means earmarking agricultural land to produce industrial and non-food crops. In tiny Israel where every inch is precious, this has been impossible, putting the Jewish state’s ethanol industry on the backburner—until now. Since the Malali watermelon is an existing crop, producing ethanol from the pulp means salvaging something that usually goes to waste without requiring additional agricultural land, ZAVIT Environment and Science News Agency reports.

Moreover, the Malali watermelon requires much less water than its edible counterparts, which makes it an ideal crop with a high yield for arid regions.

Gerchman has ample experience researching ethanol production from organic material such as pruning, olive and paper waste. He does, however, feel that the Malali watermelon holds particular promise for the ethanol industry. “It turns out that watermelons are fermenting very well. This is the easiest waste I have ever worked with.”

Posted on July 27, 2020

Source: (Bridges for Peace, July 27, 2020)

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