from the May 2009 issue

Israeli technology to increase mango yield

India will soon adopt an Israeli technology to rejuvenate mango trees that will increase the productivity of the crop.

The National Horticultural Board has placed orders for two Israeli machines Canopy Management Pruning Machine that can mechanically rejuvenate trees in large areas, NHB Managing Director, Mr. Vijay Kumar said.

"Even as the area under mango production is increasing every year, the productivity has not gone up as there is an urgent need for rejuvenation of the trees, but farmers are averse to cut or prune their plants, which is affecting productivity," he said.

The machines are a set of five equipments, which can pluck fruits that reduce post harvest losses and can also be used for spraying, Mr. Kumar said. "We can also use the machines for plucking and spraying on coconut and areca nut trees," Mr. Kumar said.

"The first machine will arrive within a month and we will give it to the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (Bangalore). The other will arrive in June and it would be given to the Central Institute for Subtropical Horticulture (Luck now) for better acclimation, he said.

Economic crisis cost $3.9b in exports
Manufacturers Association Economics Division director Ruby Ginel reporte that the Israeli economy suffered $3.9 billion in lost exports between October 2008 and February 2009, due to a 10% drop in orders. said, "It should be remembered that exports are one the economy's primary locomotives for job creation. Each $1 billion loss in exports costs 10,000 jobs."

The Manufacturers Association says that industrial exports fell 5% in real terms in January-February, compared with the monthly average in the fourth quarter of 2008. Industrial exports totaled $4.9 billion in the first two months of the year.

Mixed high-tech exports fell 25% in real terms in January-February, after rising just 0.4% in the fourth quarter of last year. Most of the drop was due to a 17% fall in chemicals and refined oil products.

High-tech exports bucked the trend, with a 15% increase in exports in January-February, after falling 6% in the fourth quarter. Avionics exports rose by 50%, pharmaceuticals exports rose 13%, electronics components exports rose 4%, and exports of communications, control and supervision equipment rose by 5%.

How brain cells work together to react
An interdisciplinary team of scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has developed a new analytical tool to answer the question of how our brain cells record outside stimuli and react to them.

Although much progress has been made in understanding the brain in recent decades, scientists still know relatively little about how these processes function. The two key problems in making progress in this field are that there will never be enough real data in terms of measuring what the brain actually does, and even if there were, there haven't been enough methods for analyzing such data and using them to answer the question of how neural coding actually takes place.

The analytical method developed by the Hebrew University researchers should be able to provide an indication, for example, of how many neurons encode a given stimulus such as reactions to a face or a movement and how they collaborate to do it.

Current technology allows researchers only a very partial view of brain activity. For example, one cannot record the activity of more than a few hundred nerve cells from the cortex of a behaving animal. Methods like MRI imaging can map larger brain areas, but cannot be used to measure single neurons. A key question then remains of what one can learn from such a partial view.

The Hebrew University researchers, headed by Dr. Amir Globerson of the Rachel and Selim Benin School of Computer Science and Engineering, have formulated the novel principle of Minimum Mutual Information (MinMI) to tackle the issue. An article detailing their findings has been published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in the US.

In the article, the researchers provide analyses of both real and simulated data. Their method permits quantification of information in the brain about behavior, given sets of very partial measurements. The key insight to obtaining such results is to consider, via computer simulations, a set of "hypothetical brains" that could have generated the combination of the observed measurements, and then drawing conclusions that are valid for all the brains in this set.

Although this seems like a daunting computational task, the researchers have shown that it can be achieved in some cases.

The real data was recorded from monkeys in the laboratory of Prof. Eilon Vaadia, who is the Jack H. Skirball Professor of Brain Research at the Hebrew University- Hadassah Medical School and the Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation at the Hebrew University.

As experimental tools develop, the researchers are looking forward to obtaining access to actual brain measurements on a larger scale. Methods such as the ones they have developed will be applied to help analyze such data and gain even more far-reaching conclusions as to how brain cells process information.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report May 2009

Click HERE to request further information.
Click HERE to go BACK.