The 8th greenXchange seminar was held, for the very first time, in Eastern Germany. From 24 to 30 September 2018, nineteen young and very skilled professionals explored Berlin and its surrounding State of Brandenburg. Main topics investigated and discussed were the periphery, processes of structural changes, social and sustainable innovations and environmental restoration, food waste, and urban gardening and farming.
At the first excursion of the 2016 greenXchange program, 28 young professionals from Israel and Germany visited the Forschungszentrum Jülich (Jülich Research Center – FZJ). The FZJ is part of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers, the largest scientific organization in Germany. Forschungszentrum Jülich was founded in 1956 as an "atomic research establishment" by the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). Nowadays the research center with an annual revenue of over half a billion Euros is funded by the German Federal government, the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia and third party collaborations and research grants.
During their tour, the participants received an introduction into the research that is done at FZJ and can be clustered into two themes: energy and environment, and information and the brain. The introduction was followed by a discussion about international cooperation at FZJ and new technologies that have been developed at the center. Participants were particularly impressed by the plethora of high-tech applications that have resulted from basic research such as environmental sensors, a supercomputer, and brain electrodes to treat conditions like tinnitus.
The focus of the second part of the visit was to learn more about the research environment and the current state of two projects at the intersection at bioeconomy and biotechnology: the cultivation of algae for bio-jet fuels and tools for soil analysis.
The cultivation of algae for the production of jet fuels takes place at the Plant Sciences division of the Institute of Bio- and Geosciences. Doctoral researcher Charlotte Dietrich explained her research to the participants and introduced them to the cultivation facilities including proprietary technologies at FZJ, such as high-tech seeding robots and novel phenotyping systems using rhizotrons for tracking plant root development non-invasively.
Doctoral researcher Anne Klosterhalfen explained tools for soil analysis of the IBG-3 modeling project that have been developed to measure a wide set of parameters of soil properties to understand how to improve the soil to a maximum of efficiency for plant cultivation. The “HPSC” and “lysimeter” machines measure soil quality, the flux of water and CO-2 content, and thereby help researchers to establish an understanding to soil preservation. In the future, agronomists will be able to optimize their crop selection according to soil quality and adapt it to climate change.
Forschungszentrum Jülich inspired greenXchange participants to further improve their knowledge about the current state of basic research in bioscience and to look for opportunities of cooperation between scientific research institutions and the greenXchange network with the aim of introducing innovative technologies for sustainability.
In September 2016, the sixth greenXchange seminar was hosted in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia – a region formerly known as Germany’s industrial center, which is now shifting towards green innovation. From September 11th until September 19th, this year’s participants toured Cologne, Jülich, Düsseldorf, Essen and Hamm visiting organizations as diverse as green start-ups, research facilities, city planning initiatives and a hard-coal power plant.
Find the detailed programme brochure here and read more about the seminar.
This year’s on-site seminar started at the “Natürlich für Israel” Congress, where the greenXchange participants had the chance to present their program to the public in a panel discussion and learn about various other activities in the field of German-Israeli cooperation. After welcoming the new participants and getting to know each other, the group set out on their first excursion to the Research Centre Jülich, a member of the Helmholtz Association. The participants were introduced to the broad spectrum of research conducted by the center and got a deeper insight into plant and agrology research. In the media center of Cologne, greenXchange participants met with the CEO and the nutritional scientist of Food Loop. The start-up aims to cut food waste in retail by integrating the grocery inventory systems into an application, which then offers discounts to customers for products that are about to expire.
In Düsseldorf, the greenXchangers were invited to the city planning department, where they discussed structural obstacles that the city of Düsseldorf has to tackle when coping with the growing number of inhabitants. Measures such as revitalizing neighbourhoods, maintaining attractive housing standards, cooperating with other European cities and improved waste management were introduced to the participants.
A tour through the city’s Media Harbor completed the visit and provided the participants with a practical example of the city’s development. Another green start-up, the Bug Foundation, gave greenXchangers a chance to question their eating habits. The Bug Foundation is working towards overcoming the stigma of eating insects in Europe, which could potentially help to alleviate sustainability issues in meat production. Up until now the Bug Foundation has already started to sell its insect-based products on the Belgian and Dutch markets, and explained how it was preparing to enter the German market in 2018.
In Essen, greenXchange visited the Business Angels Netzwerk Deutschland e. V. (BAND) – an umbrella organization for business angels, i.e. informal risk investors who invest between €50.000 and €500.000 on average in early-stage companies. BAND representative talked in particular about the challenges faced by green tech start-ups and its approaches to match them with their associated investors
At a hard-coal power plant run by RWE, the biggest German energy provider, greenXchangers also had an opportunity to experience the more “traditional” side of the Ruhr area. During a presentation and a visit of this impressive industrial site, which has a conversion rate of up to 46 %, an employee explained the processes and obstacles the plant has had to face up until now. This also fueled a discussion about different energy scenarios for Europe, the role of renewable energy, its impact on fossil-fuel power plants, and the risks and opportunities of a possible coal phase-out.
To get the most out of every visit, an Israeli-German team presented each project beforehand, giving the group some background knowledge and a chance to prepare questions. A daily recap session ensured that participants could share their views on the day’s schedule, give feedback and exchange opinions. The seminar also included a greenXchange lab and mini-workshops to work on participant’s own ideas and the further development of the greenXchange program. From time to time, the group also had a chance to appreciate the touristic attractions of the region, mostly during a guided tour of the Cologne Cathedral and Shabbat dinner barbecue on the shore of the picturesque Sorpesee.
Discussing urban planning at Tel Aviv municipality, learning on food forests, being inspired by research centers in the Negev Desert - and much more. The fifth seminar of greenxchange brought together young professionals from Germany and Israel to learn and exchange their ideas and knowledge on sustainability and the environment. 28 participants took part in the seminar that started on October 6 and continued for 8 days.
Starting point after the first meeting and mingling was the Dizengoff Center's Green in the City, where the participants learned on urban Rooftop Farming and hydroponic agriculture. Later that day, the new greenxchangers met KKL-JNF representatives for a nice Israeli dinner in the old train station of Jaffa.
The next day started at the Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection, where the group learned on the Israeli policy to enhance the use or renewable energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Later on, the group visited the Ariel Sharon Park, which was once an open landfill and today is a new park where visitors can learn about recycling and sustainability. At the end of the day the group visited a pilot site at Kfar Saba where runoff water is filtered and infiltrated into the groundwater reservoir.
South into the Negev Desert
After two days in the city, the greenxchange group made its way south
to the Negev Desert. On the way south, the group visited the community forest in Shoham, which engage the nearby citizens with nature. Later that day, the group participants visited Ashdod municipality and the Bedouin village Um Batim, where it learned about Home-Biogas initiative to produce cooking gas from animal manure.
On the next day the group cycled through Yatir Forest, planted by KKL, and later that day, visited KKL project to rehabilitate the Beer Sheva River and create an urban park around it. In Beer Sheva the group also visited the community garden Shvuat Haadama. In the evening the group had a nice Shabbat dinner in Kibbutz Mashabei Sade.
On Saturday the group spent the day in the kibbutz enjoying the sun and the swimming pool and yet also discussing entrepreneurship and environmental collaborations between Israel and Germany. Dinner was held in a small hotel in Nahal Boker in the middle of the desert.
The next day the group visited the Midreshet Sde Boker, a research center for the desert and the environment. The group stopped in the beautiful view point near the research center for a group picture and then went on to the spectacular Kibbutz Neot Smadar to visit their school for building with mud. Later on the group visited the Paran Lookout to the Arava Valley and had a Bedouin Dinner at "Desert Days".
On the day after the greenxchangers visited the Vidor Center and the Yair Research and Development Center – both dealing with agriculture in the desert. Later the group learned on the acacia tree and its ecological importance in the Israeli desert, and the research being done to learn how to preserve those trees in Israel. On that day the group also visited the Arava International Center for Agricultural Training, and then went all the way north to Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem, towards the end of the seminar the group visited KKL headquarters for meetings and discussions. Later that day the group had a big farewell dinner in the botanical gardens.
The last day the group departed back to Tel Aviv, where it met at Porter School for Environmental Studies a representative from the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and from HeinrichBoell Stiftung. The group finished the seminar at the WATEC convention, one of the world biggest conventions of water technologies, held every year in Tel Aviv.