Agriculture / Agribusiness

Carob: An Ultra-Sustainable Superfood That Can Grow in Deserts (and tastes exactly like chocolate)

FoodTech and agriTech startup CarobWay, Ltd. is cultivating the ancient superfruit carob, which according to the founder, can grow on land such as deserts where no other crops are able to grow. Not only that, but its sugar is low glycemic index, a perfect natural sweetener, provides energy, and is suitable for diabetes sufferers.

CarobWay says it is cultivating locally grown carob trees in sustainable, advanced agriculture, while guaranteeing fair-trade return to the growers, resulting in a resilient food system that is beneficial to all partners in the supply chain.

Founder Udi Alroy was 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. Together with his partners, he founded CarobWay in 2020 and set up its vertically integrated system dedicated to growing and commercializing carob and carob-centered products.

Carob male flowering

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 optimize the cultivation process from the seedling stage through harvest, using less labor, refined irrigation, and mechanical harvesting.” CarobWay will employ industrialized harvesting via a variety of technologies developed from other crops cultivated in the region.

CarobWay Udi Alroy

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 utilize 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 fibers can be used to excellent effect in cereals and bars. It is extensively researched around the world and has no regulatory barriers.

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.

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