Agriculture 4.0: Israeli startup sets up smart urban farm for fresh green superfood
GreenOnyx has developed a sterile, fully autonomous modular tech farm to grow fresh ready-to-eat duckweed-based green superfood for daily intake
Sharon Wrobel is a tech reporter for The Times of Israel.
An Israeli agritech startup that set out on a mission to make highly nutritious superfoods as accessible to the masses as Diet Coke, on Thursday revealed what it called the first urban breeding farm to grow and produce fresh, affordable ready-to-eat duckweed-based green “caviar” all year round.
GreenOnyx has developed a sterile and fully autonomous AI-based cloud technology platform that uses advanced farming methods to bio-mimic the natural habitat conditions for growing highly nutritious crops from seed to plate in deep-tech modular farms. By using proprietary technology, the startup grows water-based lentil greens throughout the year in complete sterility without any human intervention, without requiring any agricultural land, and independent of weather conditions.
The startup is backed by a number of investors, including billionaire and serial entrepreneur Marius Nacht, the Granot Group, and Ruti Broudo, co-founder of the R2M hospitality and restaurant group. Aharon Fogel, former chairman of Migdal Insurance & Financial Holdings Ltd. serves as the chairman of GreenOnyx.
The startup’s co-founder and CEO Dr. Tsipi Shoham, a cancer research veteran a decade ago, embarked on a journey to find the healthiest vegetable in the belief that the adoption of a healthy and balanced daily diet is essential to strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of contracting diseases.
In the wild areas of Thailand, Shoham discovered wolffia arrhiza, a tiny water vegetable, also known as duckweed, that has a high nutritional value. The water-based lentil plant, which looks like green couscous or caviar, floats in ponds and grows under complex environmental conditions.
“My professional background in cancer research led to the recognition of the importance of wholesome fresh greens to promote cellular strength, prevent illness and disease, and promote longevity,” said Shoham. “Recognizing the tremendous potential health impact of greens phytonutrients, as well as the significant challenges, I changed my mission from oncology research to creating a breakthrough in the delivery and consumption of fresh greens.”
The Tel Aviv-based enclosed modular urban farm facility, which looks more like a data center with computer cabinets, can produce 40 tons a year of the tiny green grains which the startup has named Wanna Greens. The green superfood comes in pint-sized packaging, has a mild taste, and can be mixed with any dish or drink. They are richer in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other crucial phytonutrients than leafy green vegetables that are currently on the market as they are not exposed to industrialized farming or contamination.
With a six-week fresh shelf life, they provide more iron than spinach, contain more zinc than broccoli or kale, and have more potassium than any other green vegetable, according to GreenOnyx.
“Every spoon you scoop is like picking greens right from the field,” the startup said.
The startup has started selling the 200-gram Wanna Greens pint via its website to consumers for NIS 22 ($6.40) and is planning to sell the superfood for $30 a kilogram. That’s after its first product has already been marketed in a number of Michelin-starred restaurants around the world.
“Our vision is to bring about a revolution in the way we think about food production in urban areas by providing fresh, healthy, and sustainable food straight from the habitat to the plate and later, channeling the unique technology we possess to further develop our industry,” said Shoham.