Israeli Innovations in Agrotech Resource Kit

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Agriculture played a central role in the life of ancient Israel: Each of the three major pilgrimage festivals - Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot – are linked to agriculture, and an entire section (“Seeds”) of the Mishnah, the 3rd-century compilation of oral traditions, is devoted to agricultural laws. Agriculture regained a place of prominence in Jewish life with the emergence of Zionism, which emphasized settling the land and self-sufficiency. Young Zionists, inspired by ideologues like A.D. Gordon, aspired to reconnect to nature and strike roots in the soil as members of rural communal settlements (kibbutzim and moshavim).

These new farmers faced difficult conditions: a scarcity of water and arable land. This spurred a continual effort to develop innovative methods and technology for agriculture – agrotechnology (agrotech). In fact, agricultural research already began in the late 19th century at the Mikveh Israel agricultural school, founded in 1870. The Agricultural Experiment Station was established in Tel Aviv in 1921 and later developed into the Agricultural Research Organization (also known as the Volcani Institute), which is today Israel's major institution of agrotech research and development.

In this short guide, we will outline some of the major achievements in Israeli agrotech that have allowed Israel to become self-sufficient in food supplies and export some $1.5 billion of agricultural produce each year (mainly premium quality fruits, vegetables and flowers to Western Europe.) In particular, we will note Israel’s developments in water technology and crop enhancement, as well as its efforts to share its agrotech know-how with developing countries.

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Israeli Innovations in Agrotech Resource Kit

  1. 1. 1 The Israel Project Jerusalem Office Tel: 972 2 623-6427 Fax: 972 2 623-6439 www.theisraelproject.org Twitter: @israelproject Facebook: www.facebook.com/theisraelproject Youtube: www.youtube.com/tipinfo Israeli Innovations in Agrotech Resource Kit
  2. 2. 2 ABOUT TIP The Israel Project (TIP) is a non-profit educational organization that gets facts about Israel and the Middle East to press, public officials and the public. The Israel Project is not affiliated with any government or government entity. Our team of trusted Middle East multi-lingual experts and former reporters provides journalists and leaders with fact sheets, backgrounders and sources. TIP regularly hosts press briefings featuring leading Israeli spokespeople and analysts that give journalists and members of the diplomatic community an opportunity to get information and answers to their questions face-to-face. By providing journalists with the facts, context and visuals they need, TIP enables hundreds of millions of people around the world to see a more positive public face of Israel. This helps protect Israel, reduce anti-Semitism and increase pride in Israel. The Jerusalem Office The Israel Project's (TIP) Jerusalem Office is a non-governmental resource working with foreign journalists and leaders based in Israel. It provides reporters and members of the diplomatic community with needed facts and information before they file their stories and reports. TIP's Jerusalem team features several Middle East experts and former journalists. TIP's Israel team, led by Marcus Sheff, includes experts who are fluent in English, Hebrew, Arabic, French, German, Farsi and Russian. Contacts Marcus Sheff Executive Director Tel: 972 2-623-6427 Cell: 972 54-807-9177 E-mail: marcuss@theisraelproject.org David Harris Director of Research and Content Tel: 972 2-623-6427 Cell: 972 54-807-9498 E-mail: davidh@theisraelproject.org Eli Ovits Director of Communications Tel: 972 2 623-6427 Cell: 972 54-807-9093 E-mail: elio@theisraelproject.org Shimrit Meir-Gilboa Director of Arabic Media Program Tel: 972 2-623-6427 Cell: 972 54-801-5982 E-mail: shimritm@theistraelproject.org Sharon Segel Communications Associate Cell: 972 54-807-9078 E-mail: sharons@theisraelproject.org Ronit Shebson Senior Communications Associate Cell: 972 54-807-9065 E-mail: ronits@theisraelproject.org Shai Oseran Media Tours Coordinator Cell: 972 54-803-3471 E-mail: shaio@theisraelproject.org Michal Shmulovich Research and Content Associate Cell: 972 54-807-9522 E-mail: michals@theisraelproject.org Stephane Cohen Communications Associate - Leaders Cell: 972 54-807-0423 E-mail: stephanec@theisraelproject.org Arik Agassi Communications Specialist - Tours, Events Cell: 972 54-551-7376 E-mail: arika@theisraelproject.org Dor Kaidar Communications Associate – Media Cell: 972 54-7004812 E-mail: Dorka@theisraelproject.org
  3. 3. 3 TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction 3 Water Technology 3 Smart Irrigation Solutions 3 Desalination 4 Improving Farm Produce 5 Innovative and Enhanced Varieties 5 Crop Protection 6 Greenhouses, Animals and More 6 Biofuel and Biomass 7 International Cooperation 9 MASHAV, Israel’s Center for International Cooperation 9 BARD, U.S.-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund 9 Cover photo: A seedling at an Israeli greenhouse. Updated November 2011
  4. 4. 4 Water technology at NaanDanJain Introduction Agriculture played a central role in the life of ancient Israel: Each of the three major pilgrimage festivals - Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot – are linked to agriculture, and an entire section (“Seeds”) of the Mishnah, the 3 rd -century compilation of oral traditions, is devoted to agricultural laws. Agriculture regained a place of prominence in Jewish life with the emergence of Zionism, which emphasized settling the land and self- sufficiency. Young Zionists, inspired by ideologues like A.D. Gordon, aspired to reconnect to nature and strike roots in the soil as members of rural communal settlements (kibbutzim and moshavim). These new farmers faced difficult conditions: a scarcity of water and arable land. This spurred a continual effort to develop innovative methods and technology for agriculture – agrotechnology (agrotech). In fact, agricultural research already began in the late 19 th century at the Mikveh Israel agricultural school, founded in 1870. The Agricultural Experiment Station was established in Tel Aviv in 1921 and later developed into the Agricultural Research Organization (also known as the Volcani Institute), which is today Israel's major institution of agrotech research and development. In this short guide, we will outline some of the major achievements in Israeli agrotech that have allowed Israel to become self-sufficient in food supplies and export some $1.5 billion of agricultural produce each year (mainly premium quality fruits, vegetables and flowers to Western Europe.) In particular, we will note Israel’s developments in water technology and crop enhancement, as well as its efforts to share its agrotech know-how with developing countries. Water Technology
  5. 5. 5 Israeli Agro-tech company Netafim’s FDS™ (Family Drip System) specially adapted to small-holder farm needs in South Africa Israel may be a land of milk and honey, but it is not blessed with an abundance of fresh water resources. In fact, the Sea of Galilee is the country’s only natural lake and the rivers in Israel are quite modest in scale. Much of the southern half of Israel is desert and receives a meager amount of rainfall. The need for water resources was already a subject of discussion in 1898 when the visionary of the Zionist movement, Theodor Herzl, met with the German emperor in the Holy Land. And in 1937, more than a decade prior to statehood, the Mekorot national water company was created. In the following decades, as part of Israel’s efforts to address its water needs, Israeli companies have become world leaders in irrigation technology, water management and treatment, and desalination. Israeli water tech exports totaled about $1.5 billion in 2010. Israel is the world’s leader in wastewater recovery, with a water recycling rate of about 75 percent. (Spain is the next largest water recycler with a rate of only 12 percent.) The recovered wastewater is used primarily for agriculture. This effort to reuse water has helped to spawn a large number of Israeli companies specializing in water filtration and purification, including Aqwise, Amiad Filtration Systems, Arkal Filtration Systems, Emecy and Nitron. Smart Irrigation Solutions Founded at Kibbutz Hatzerim in 1965, Netafim launched the drip irrigation revolution and is now a global company operating in over 100 countries, with annual sales of over $500 million. An earlier version of drip irrigation was actually used in the Middle East centuries ago: Farmers planted unglazed pots adjacent to trees and periodically filled the pots with water, which gradually dripped through the pots to irrigate the trees. Advances in plastics and micro-tubing enabled Netafim to produce a modern drip irrigation system that offers 70-80 percent water efficiency (versus 40 percent efficiency with open irrigation). Another Israeli firm, Plastro Irrigation Systems, soon became Netafim’s major competitor in this field, and was acquired by John Deere in 2007. Israeli R&D also contributed to subsequent improvements in irrigation technology, including sub- surface irrigation (delivering water directly to the plant’s roots, thus further reducing evaporation), fertigation (distributing fertilizers through drip irrigation systems), methods to prevent salt accumulation at the plant’s roots, and a new generation of drippers for hydroponics. NaanDanJain Irrigation, for example, offers a smart irrigation management system that measures the crop root environment, calculates the crop’s needs and automatically activates irrigation and fertilization in real time. Other Israeli firms offering advanced irrigation solutions include: Galcon, Sadot Irrigation Systems and Queengil. Israeli-developed products now account for about 50 percent of the global market for drip irrigation.
  6. 6. 6 NaanDanJain irrigation systems Desalination Some 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water, but 97.5 percent of this is saltwater. The idea of removing the salt from seawater is not new – the proponents of desalination include Aristotle, Francis Bacon and Thomas Jefferson. In fact, there is even a biblical precedent for desalination: The book of Exodus tells how Moses was able to turn the “bitter” water at Marah into potable water. The founding father of the State of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, also recognized the potential of desalination and encouraged R&D investment in this field. By the mid- 1950s, desalination was already being used to provide drinking water in Eilat. In the 1960s, Israel began exporting various desalination technologies, including the Vacuum Freezing Vapor Compression (VFVC) process devised by Prof. Alexander Zarchin’s R&D group. This group of scientists became the nucleus of the government- owned Israel Desalination Engineering (Zarchin Process) company, which is now privately held as IDE Technologies. IDE (Israel Desalination Enterprises) Technologies has certainly proved its salt in the field of desalination: The company has deployed some 400 plants in 40 countries, with a total output of 2 million cubic meters of potable water per day. In Israel, IDE launched the world’s largest SWRO (sea water reverse osmosis) plant in Ashkelon in 2005 and inaugurated an even bigger SWRO facility in Hadera in 2010. (The two plants have an annual capacity of 118 million cubic meters and 127 million cubic meters, respectively.) The company has also won a tender to build a 150 million cubic meter SWRO plant in Soreq. IDE’s overseas activity includes a project to build China’s largest desalination facility. Desalitech aims to take SWRO desalination to the next level with its patented hydrostatic Closed Circuit Desalination (CCD) technology. The company says its modular and scalable system can cut water production costs by over 25 percent through energy savings and lower outlays for equipment and maintenance. Desalitech completed a successful pilot project in 2010 and is conducting joint research with General Electric, funded by the U.S.-Israel BIRD Foundation. ROTEC (Reverse Osmosis Technologies) is a water treatment company developing novel technologies for improving desalination of brackish groundwater. The company’s patented Flow Reversal (FR) technology is used to prevent scaling and bio-fouling (unwanted build-up of algae, microorganisms, etc.) in membrane desalination systems. Based on research originally conducted at Ben-Gurion University, the technology was chosen for two pilot desalination plants in Israel and Jordan under a NATO grant. By the year 2013, desalination is slated to provide for about 70 percent of Israel’s domestic water consumption.
  7. 7. 7 Seedlings at Hishtil, an Israeli global nursery corporation that specializes in the production and sales of vegetables, herbs, seedlings and young plants Improving Farm Produce Israel invests heavily in agrotech R&D: Some $150 million is invested annually via the Agricultural Research Organization, with a similar sum allocated via other government entities. This work has led to innovative produce (cherry tomatoes, for example), improved quality and yield (pomegranates, cotton, flowers and more) and longer shelf-life. Here we will provide a short “taste” of some of these achievements. Innovative and Enhanced Varieties The BonTom Tomato Breeding Group, based at Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot, has been conducting research since 1950 and is today recognized as one of the largest and leading tomato breeding groups worldwide. In the early 1990s, BonTom’s researchers revolutionized the tomato market by introducing the first extended shelf-life tomato varieties, and later upgraded the status of cherry tomatoes, introduced cluster tomatoes, and developed varieties characterized by enhanced flavor, better color, improved firmness and built-in resistances to soil-borne and airborne diseases and viruses. BonTom is able to develop new varieties that are better suited to a wide range of environments by utilizing genes for particular adaptation to specific conditions. However, BonTom made a policy decision not to employ GMO (genetically modified organism) methods in its breeding activities. Tomato varieties developed by BonTom are produced by American, European, South American and Israeli seed companies, and are exported to many countries worldwide. In total, more than $50 million worth of BonTom seeds are sold each year throughout the world. Hazera Genetics is an Israeli company that traces its history to 1939, when a group of young farmers gathered to address regional seed shortages caused by World War II. Hazera later established a number of experimental farms in different parts of the country. The company’s major breakthrough came in the early 1990s with the development of the Daniela tomato variety in collaboration with BonTom. Other innovative products include mini-watermelons and hybrid cotton seed. Today Hazera is a world leader in the breeding, production and marketing of vegetable and field crop hybrid seeds, with operations in about 60 countries. About one-third of the company’s employees are engaged in research, with as much as 12 percent of annual turnover directed to R&D. Ongoing projects include the development of robust varieties that will resist disease and enable growers to economize on agrochemicals. Zeraim Gedera, founded in 1952, produces hybrid varieties of tomato, cherry, pepper, cucumber, watermelon, melon, and squash seeds; exports account for about 80 percent of the company’s sales. It specializes in tomato, pepper and squash varieties that provide maximum yield and high-quality, including
  8. 8. 8 Hishtil specializes in agrotech solutions. Its expertise is in energy-saving, plant and environmental protection, as well as climate, water and fertilizer control systems. a wide range of genetic adaptability to different growing conditions and with resistances that allow farmers to use a minimum of pesticides. The company was acquired by Syngenta AG in 2007. Rosetta Green uses unique genes called microRNAs to develop improved plant traits for the agriculture and biofuel industries in major crops such as corn, wheat, rice, soybean, cotton, canola and algae. The company explains that it combines “computational biology, molecular biology, plant tissue culture, plant transformation and high throughput trait screening to identify the most promising microRNAs that could potentially be used to improve key plant traits in major crops.” Based in Rehovot, Rosetta Green is a spin-off of the agro-biotechnology division of Rosetta Genomics and completed an IPO on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in February 2011. Soon after the IPO, the company announced success in a preliminary trial of drought-resistant potatoes. The potatoes were enhanced with a micro-RNA gene that can potentially improve the potatoes' resistance to drought and severe environmental conditions. Evogene, also based in Rehovot and publicly traded on the Tel Aviv bourse, develops improved plants for the agriculture and biofuel industries through the use of plant genomics. Founding in 2002 by breeders seeking to combine agricultural know-how with advanced computational plant genomic analysis, Evogene holds pending IP rights to over 1,500 novel genes discoved via its unique ATHLETE (Agro Trait Harvest Leads Technology) platform. Crop Protection Makhteshim Agan, one of Israel’s largest conglomerates, focuses primarily on manufacturing and distributing off-patent crop protection products, which account for nearly 90 percent of the group’s revenues. The group's extensive product lines include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides that enhance the quality and quantity of yields by protecting them against harmful weeds, insects and fungi. Makhteshim Agan group ranks No. 1 in the world in off-patent crop protection products and seventh overall in the global crop protection market, with a global market share of over 5 percent. The group includes over 3,000 employees working to manufacture, market, and distribute its off-patent crop protection products in over 100 countries. AgroGreen, based in Ashdod, specializes in developing, producing and marketing biological pesticides designed to make crop farming more sustainable, reduce harmful pesticide residues and contribute to a safer environment. As the company explains, “Phytopathogenic nematodes [roundworms] cost farmers billions of dollars in damage. Farmers also spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually on chemical pesticides to limit this damage… AgroGreen alters this cycle by successfully treating the root causes of such infestations while protecting the commercial value of the final produce.” In commercial use and in extensive field trials conducted over several years in Israel, Italy, Turkey, Greece and the U.S., AgroGreen’s biological pesticides have been shown to match or exceed chemical pesticides in performance, while offering clear safety and environmental advantages, the company says.
  9. 9. 9 Israeli greenhouses Greenhouses, Animals and More Israel has also harnessed technology to boost agricultural production in many other ways. Here are a few brief examples: • Israeli-designed greenhouse systems, including specialized plastic films and heating, ventilation and structure systems, enable farmers to grow more than three million roses per hectare per season and an average of 300 tons of tomatoes per hectare per season, four times the yields of open fields. • Dairy product and technology exports include computerized milking and feeding systems, cooling systems which reduce heat stress on cows, embryos for transplant and milk processing equipment. • Israel has boosted the milk production of its prize-winning Holstein cows and Assaf sheep. The latter is the result of crossbreeding of the improved Israeli Awassi and German East Friesian breeds. Most importantly, the Assaf has three lambings every two years, which is 50 percent higher than in regular Awassis.
  10. 10. 10 Cowshed technology at Meimad, a unique union of two dairy farms which specialize in dairy product technologies, including computerized milking, feeding systems and cooling systems. Meimad works with Afimilk, a global leader in computerized systems for the modern dairy farm. • CollPlant, based in Rehovot, has employed genetic engineering to generate human collagen in tobacco plants. Much of the human body's skin, ligaments, and bone tissues is collagen. The protein is also used in over 1,000 medical techniques, mostly sourced from pigs or cows. Pfizer and Edwards are working with CollPlant to develop its tobacco plant collagen for orthopedic and cardio use, respectively. • Beeologics, with offices and labs in Rehovot and Miami, aims “to become the guardian of bee health worldwide.” Its RNAi-based Remebee drug helps honey bees overcome the IAVP virus, which is believed to be associated with colony collapses, thus strengthening the colonies for highly effective crop pollination. Remembee has completed successful clinical trials on millions of bees in North America. • Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev are developing intelligent sensing and manipulation algorithms for robots that can detect the ripest fruits and vegetables in a crop, allowing farmers to pick a harvest that will yield the highest value. The project is part of the European Union’s Clever Robots for Crops program, designed to develop prototype systems to harvest greenhouse peppers, orchard fruits and premium wine grapes. Biofuel and Biomass Israeli companies are also active in efforts to produce greener fuels derived from algae and other plants. In addition, as part of the process of cultivating fast-growing algae, CO2 emissions from existing power plants are being pumped into the algae farms instead of the atmosphere. The founding director of the Institute for Renewable Energy Policy in Herzliya, Isaac Berzin, was recognized by Time magazine in 2008 as one of the world's 100 most influential people for his pioneering work in the field. A number of companies are involved in biomass and biogas projects, generating electricity from agricultural and municipal waste. Opportunities for Israeli-Arab cooperation are also being pursued in this field. TransAlgae At its R&D center at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, TransAlgae is working to develop and commercialize genetically engineered algae that can be used to produce both energy and animal feed. The company, founded in 2008, says that its technology promises to "decouple quality of life from dependence on foreign oil imports and carbon dioxide emissions." TransAlgae has completed its first generation of genetically engineered algae, and has established a field research site at a natural gas power station. Since the algae consume over two times their weight in CO2, any CO2 released when the algae-derived biofuel is later burned is offset by the CO2 used in the algae
  11. 11. 11 Seambiotic's state- of-the-art water system growth cycle. In this way, the company explains, the modest algae plant can make a significant contribution in the fight against global warming. TransAlgae is mainly focusing on domesticating marine algae that grow on seawater, but algae cultivation could also be conducted on non-arable land located near the sea. The biofuel extraction process also yields another valuable byproduct – biomass that can be marketed as a high-protein concentrate for animal feed. TransAlgae suggests that the value of this feed may be significant enough to offset a large part of the cost of algae production, which would make algae-derived biofuel cost-competitive much earlier than currently anticipated. Seambiotic Founded in 2003 and based in Ashkelon, Seambiotic originally focused on producing and selling Omega-3 fatty acid products from marine microalgae, but soon broadened its scope to include the production of biofuel products. The company says it was the first in the world to extract gallons of biodiesel and bioethanol from marine microalgae cultivated using smokestack flue gas. Seambiotic conducted a five-year pilot study at the Israeli Electric Corp.'s coal-fired power plant in Ashkelon, with CO2 emissions from the smokestacks piped directly to Seambiotic's open ponds. In a joint venture with a major Chinese power producer, the company is now building large-scale facilities for commercial algae cultivation in Yantai, China. The company is also collaborating with Rosetta Green to develop algal strains with improved genetic traits for biofuel production. Also, the company's Seambiotic USA subsidiary is working with NASA's Glenn Research Center to optimize growth processes for microalgae to be used as feedstock for aviation biofuel. Algaenesis Headquartered in Jerusalem, Algaenesis says it has developed technological innovations that represent a "paradigm shift" in the cultivation of microalgae and dramatically lower the price of production. This includes identifying optimal light intensities for maximizing algal growth and a patented "light distribution" system that can collect all available sunlight throughout the day in order to deliver these optimal intensities. The company is initially targeting the Omega-3 supplement market.
  12. 12. 12 Galten Jatropha, rather than algae, is Galten's plant of choice. The low-growing Jatropha tree is native to South America but is also widely cultivated throughout Central America, Africa and Asia, mainly to protect crops from grazing animals. The seeds of this inedible plant have an oil content of over 30 percent and Galten is converting this vegetable oil into biodiesel. According to Galten, Jatropha can produce three times the amount of oil per acre than crops such as corn or soy beans. In addition, the sturdy plant can grow on arid land where food crops are not feasible. Founded in 2006, Galten conducted a pilot program at a 250-acre site in Ghana and is now growing Jatropha on a much larger plantation in this African country. Nearly 250,000 acres are in the pipeline, the company says. Galten is working with agricultural experts to improve Jatropha's yield and is also conducting R&D to explore the use of the plant's stalks and other biomass to produce biofuel. Genova Genova, founded in 2004 and part of the Misgav Technology Center, has developed innovative and cost- effective technologies to generate heat and electric power from waste biomass. While large and costly facilities are available for generating power from biomass, Genova's patented innovation produces energy and electricity with a compact, table-sized unit. These units can be placed and used in the vicinity where waste biomass is created, such as olive oil processing mills and wine manufacturing plants. The biomass fed into the power-generation unit undergoes a high-temperature conversion into gas, which is then burned to drive an electricity-generating turbine. No greenhouse gases are released in this process. Genova has successfully conducted feasibility tests on a unit with a 30-kilowatt capacity, using olive and grape waste as feedstock, and plans to develop power-generation units with capacity of 0.5 to 5 megawatts. The company is targeting Europe’s olive-producing countries – Italy, Spain and Greece – whose large olive presses can supply the biomass for electricity production. International Cooperation Mashav – Israel's Center for International Cooperation Despite the emphasis on agriculture in the Zionist ethos, Israel’s agricultural production was insufficient to support its population during the early years of the state and food rationing was instituted. However, only a decade after the founding of the state, the agricultural sector had developed to the point where it could already share its know-how with other developing countries. MASHAV, the Hebrew acronym for the Center for International Cooperation, was established in 1958 as a division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its agricultural program, managed by the Center for International Agricultural Development Cooperation (CINADCO), is based on the belief that Israel’s agricultural miracle can be replicated in other countries facing severe food security challenges. According to MASHAV, “Israel’s own tested solutions for problems such as water, capital and land shortages can help the countries of the developing world transform their agriculture from traditional subsistence to sophisticated market-oriented production. It is for this reason that many countries of the developing world have sought partnership with Israel in addressing their own agricultural challenges.”
  13. 13. 13 Visiting ambassadors tour MASHAV to learn about Israeli agrotech and water resources that are applicable to countries that face water shortages or whose economies depend on agriculture. Since 1958, MASHAV has trained almost 200,000 course participants from approximately 140 countries in Israel and abroad, and has developed dozens of demonstration projects worldwide in fields of Israeli expertise. BARD – U.S.-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund During its 30 years of operation, BARD has funded over 1,000 projects with a total investment of more than $250 million. 1 It is also facilitating collaborative research between agricultural scientists in Israel and their colleagues in Canada and Australia. BARD also established the MARD (Multinational Agricultural R&D) program to promote cooperative agricultural research and development activities between scientists in Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and the United States. During its five years of operation, MARD has funded numerous successful regional workshops, mutual visits, training seminars and similar activities that have enhanced the spirit of collaboration between Palestinian, Jordanian, Israeli and U.S. scientists. 1 http://www.bard-isus.com/

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