Israel’s Evofuel and Italian agricultural equipment manufacturer Fatini SRL announced on 29 October that the two firms had developed a new mechanical harvester for castor beans to satisfy rising demand for castor oil.

Castor beans were mostly harvested manually in India, resulting in an inconsistent supply chain and volatile prices. However, an industrial mechanised harvesting solution would make castor a more commercially viable crop, the two firms said.

“The solution developed has shown a significant decrease in yield losses in two consecutive year field trials in Israel during 2017-18, from up to 50% currently to as low as 5%, with the combination of the harvester and Evofuel’s proprietary castor varieties.”

The new harvester is being developed by Evofuel and Fantini, along with Castor Oil Argentina SA and Mexican bio-products firm BioFields SAPI de CV. The harvester will be commercialised by Fantini to Evofuel’s global partners.

The global castor oil market was expected to reach US$2.3bn by 2024, said Evofuel. The subsidiary of plant genomics company Evogene said castor oil and its derivatives were used in various industries such as lubricants, cosmetics and biodiesel.

Evofuel CEO Assaf Dotan said: “We are happy to announce that we are on our way to provide a true revolution in the harvesting of castor bean. This breakthrough will allow us to address the global demand for stable castor oil supply.”