CarobWay delivers an ancient crop with a modern twist and snacks potential
Israeli-based FoodTech and agriTech start-up CarobWay is seeking to bring the ancient Biblical carob fruit to the modern table as a super-nutritious, highly sustainable food crop with snacks and confectionery potential, writes Neill Barston.
The company cultivates locally grown carob trees to boost the development of a wide range of products, with the recently formed enterprise paving the way for environmentally friendly, advanced agriculture, while guaranteeing fair-trade return to the growers. The result is a resilient food system that is beneficial to all partners in the supply chain.
Global warming, environmental stresses, and other limitations demand increased attention to minor or neglected crops, especially a multifunctional crop such as carob (Ceratonia siliqua L.).
Carob is a highly resilient species of tree that flourishes in arid climates, mostly in Africa and Asia. Genotypes of the carob tree demonstrate great tolerance to drought, low soil fertility, brackish water, pollution, and high temperatures (up to 50°C).
“The key ingredient in developing a sustainable carob crop is using advanced agriTech knowhow to grow the trees more intensively and efficiently,” explains Udi Alroy, CEO and Co-founder of CarobWay.
“Today, most carob trees are grown in forests and require intensive human labor. We optimise the cultivation process from the seedling stage through harvest, using less labor, refined irrigation, and mechanical harvesting.” CarobWay will employ industrialised harvesting via a variety of technologies developed from other crops cultivated in the region.
Carob can grow on non-arable land—including deserts—where no other crops can grow without significant, often unsustainable investments. “We can potentially grow this super-crop on arid land, which covers 46 percent of the surface of the planet,” states Alroy, who set up the business in 2020, after seeking a sustainable super-crop that can grow in dry weather with almost no water to address the strained resources of our climate-stressed planet.
Working on daily basis with growers and agriculture organisations, he found the holy grail – carob crop. Carob tree is an ancient crop, cultivated for millennia in the Mediterranean. With his partners, he founded CarobWay last year.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team went full-steam ahead with the establishment, on a small plot of land in the Upper Galilee region, of the first modern carob grove. It combines Israeli agricultural know-how and innovative technology for an intensive, high-yield cultivation of carob trees optimising land use, applying mechanised harvesting methods.
“CarobWay takes its eco-supportive model even further. The company’s business model is founded on long-term business relationships. “Growers should get a safe, stable income as they invest in the future of food,” explains Alroy (pictured).
“With climate change, increasing wildfires, and diminishing water supplies, farmers are on the frontline, taking all the responsibility in the supply chain. We’re going to change that, by creating a complete value chain that is beneficial to all partners involved from grove to table. We are currently establishing long-term business arrangements with global partners.”
The business engages in multi-annual supply agreements to enable a stable and secure supply chain of a variety of healthy ingredients derived from carob for food and supplement manufacturers around the world.
“This focus on ownership of the whole-value chain from farm to fork enables us to provide fully controlled, sustainable products on a continuous basis,” Guido Schaer, Co-founder and CTO.
A fruit known in antiquity and celebrated in the Bible, the carob fruit pod consists of about 90% pulp and 10% seeds by weight at full maturity. Carob seeds have, in fact been the most valuable part of the pods exploited industrially for the production of locust bean gum (LBG), a common natural ingredient. Carob sugars and fibers are widely used in the food industry mainly in the form of carob powder.
CarobWay will utilise the whole carob and market each ingredient toward different food applications and uses. For example, carob provides a natural sweetener suitable for beverages.
The sugar is low glycemic index (GI), very sweet, provides energy, and is a good fit for people with diabetes or digestive health issues. Carob also contains high-value, functional protein that can enhance a variety of food and beverage products. Carob fibres can be used to excellent effect in cereals and bars. This super fruit contains high nutritional value, is gluten-free and non-allergic. It is extensively researched around the world and has no regulatory barriers.