“Would you eat vitamin-rich black strawberry from a plant that has also produced your little black dress?” There is an agri-tech innovation which would make this possible: Biolace.
Although it is still being researched, this is worth talking about. Plants could be genetically engineered to produce food and clothing at the same time. Amazing, right? The brain behind this synthetic biology project is Designer and researcher, Carole Collet.
The concept for this came as a response to the need for production of food and textile to cater for the world’s expanding population. The plan is to adapt the DNA of plants to produce synthetically enhanced foods and have lace like fabric grow from their roots.
The project proposes four genetically-engineered plants which are;
- A tomato plant with lycopene, which could improve the skin’s resistance to sunburn with protein-rich edible lace growing from its roots.
- A basil plant that produces antiviral medicines as well as perfumed lace for use in decorative fashion applications.
- A strawberry bush with black lace growing from its roots which would yield black strawberries with enhanced levels of vitamin C and antioxidants.
- A spinach plant which would produce micro biological sensors for use in electronics at the same time as providing multi-mineral food supplement.
Collet believes that by 2050, advances in biological technologies could enable the hyper-engineered plants to be grown in huge greenhouses with their roots embedded in a mineral nutrient solution.
2. Tree Planting Drones:
Some people use drones to capture amazing shots, others use drones to plant trees. British engineers have come up with an invention which could help save forests; tree planting drones.
Biocarbon engineering, a startup based in Oxford, designed drones which could fire seed missiles across fields, planting hundreds of potential trees in just minutes.
The modern agriculture technology aims to address the problem of deforestation, which leads to the destruction of 26 billion trees a year. Factors such as mining, lumber, agriculture, and urban expansion can cause deforestation.
The drones work by flying across a specified area, collecting data about soil conditions and determining the prime locations for planting. They then fire biodegradable pods filled with germinated seed and nutrients, into the ground.
In September of 2018, the drones planted some mangrove samplings in a remote field south of Yangon, Myanmar. The trees are now about 20 inches tall. The company has planted more than six million trees so far and are looking to plant another 4 million by the end of 2019.
3. Driverless Tractors:
You’re walking in a field and you see a combine harvester chopping golden rice stalks. You walk up to it and realize there’s no driver on board. This is what is happening in Eastern China and many parts of the world as agriculture embraces driverless tractors.
This is not an entirely new innovation in agriculture. The idea of driverless tractors have been around since 1940 when Frank Andrew invented it. However, his invention required using a barrel or fixed wheel to guide the tractor. They would put the barrel in the center of the field and wind a cable round it. They would further attach the cable to the steering arm on the front of the tractor.
Not much innovation was made after that till 2011 when engineers moved from working on semi-automated tractors to completely driverless. Driverless tractors were originally intended to follow the main driver, so that the farmer could have twice the work done and this technology was called “follow-me” technology but now, they’ve been programmed to work autonomously.
This technology is being embraced in China and has been referred to as the “way ahead.” Other countries like Australia and the United States are also embracing it. However, the technology is plagued with high costs and other obstacles.
4. SenSprout Irrigation Tool:
SenSprout is a company designed to help farmers understand how their crops use water so they can save water. It is an agricultural solution to globally optimizing the use of water by low-cost sensors.
The product uses sensors that can measure the depth of soil, soil moisture, and temperature of the installed point. The farmer/user can then view the data via web/smartphone app and it can be used in greenhouses and outside farms.
Once embedded in the ground, the sensor can accumulate transitioning data of soil moisture and rainfall amount. The farmers can use this acquired data to create a heatmap visualizing what parts of the farm require more water and what part has been sufficiently supplied. This helps reduce water waste and improve efficiency in water feeding performance.
The product can also detect the change in capacitance and predict natural disasters such as landslides and cliff collapses. The many functions of this product showcases the importance of innovation in agriculture.
5. Algorithmic Agriculture:
Algorithms are everywhere now and agriculture is no exception. They are basically mathematical formulas which uses available data to generate an output that optimizes the power of the information. Farmers also use algorithmic agriculture to predict or determine the best path.
Many sectors use algorithm today; Google uses algorithms to rank web pages in their search engine results, Uber uses algorithms to match drivers with riders, and Netflix uses algorithms to suggest movies you might like.
Farmers also use algorithms to make calculated predictions. UK-based designer, Benedikt Groß has created algorithmic models which will enable him to plant various crops in complex patterns on a field.
Predictions could open up so many possibilities in agriculture and could lead to agro industry development. Weather data and forecast can influence farming decisions, crop diseases can be spotted early and treated, and soil moisture sensors can be used in irrigation systems.