The latest pilot from agTech play Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies has successfully increased the winter yield of basil by 66 per cent — a feat not just for the pesto fans.

The shares (ASX:ROO) gained 14 per cent to 49c by 12.30pm AEDT Monday following the announcement.

Basil – usually a summer crop – was planted in an Israeli greenhouse during the winter. Its root zone was heated by up to 5 degrees using the company’s Root Zone Temperature Optimisation (RZTO) system.

After 39 days, the results showed that not only the overall yield increased by 66 per cent, but the average plant size increased by more than a third.

Basil grown in the winter attracts premium pricing from the market and makes use of greenhouses usually left vacant in cold weather, Roots chief Dr Sharon Devir told Stockhead.  

“Where ordinary infrastructure type system or greenhouses have an estimated five to seven year return on investment, the results we produce can cut that time down to two to four years instead,” Dr Devir said.

“You cannot find this type of dramatic increase with any other technology in the sector.”

Untreated basil plants (L) compared to heated plants (R)
Untreated basil plants (L) compared to heated plants (R)

Technology heating up

In the pilot, ambient temperature in the local region dropped as low as 6.5 degrees, but the treated roots were kept at 18.5 to 20 degrees – prime temperature for basil.

An organic farmer who undertook the pilot had not grown basil for three years because of the high cost to heat his greenhouse. 

“The machine that we have built together within the ground is at least three times more efficient in terms of energy,” Dr Devir said.

“Compare that to when a farmer grows basil in a conventional system and you could save anywhere from 60 to 70 or even 80 per cent on the energy.”

The farmer was so impressed by the system he’s trialling the same set-up to cool his next crop of tomatoes.

Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies executive chairman, Sharon Devir, and his co-founding partner Boaz Wachtel.
Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies executive chairman, Sharon Devir, and his co-founding partner Boaz Wachtel.

Experienced team

Co-founders Dr Devir and Boaz Wachtel head an experienced team which keeps them ahead of the competition.

“What we sell is not just the plastics or controllers but our gained experience over the last year and how to do it in every type of soil or crop,” Dr Devir said.

“Our uniqueness in the market comes from the know-how we have gained throughout the process of development.”

That extends to their flagged projects in Australian apricot trees, Chinese vegetables or their latest proof of concept on Israeli avocados.

Former Australian Ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, joined the team this week as an international business consultant to further add to their team’s expertise.

Mr Sharma’s ties in both Israel and Australia hopes to spur further expansion with development of international contracts and clients.


This special report is brought to you by Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies.

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