Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Technology

The role of technology in food production and preparation dates back to the neolithic discovery of controlled fire. These days new technologies in, for example, agricultural production, processing and food preservation are key to achieving a sufficient supply of food for a growing population. Controversies and disagreements exist around many technologies and their enabling infrastructure, most notably genetic modification, confined animal feeding operations and chemical crop protection.

18 September 2018

This upcoming book, edited by Atanu Sarkar, Suman Ranjan Sensharma and Gary W. vanLoon, brings together examples of technological solutions and governance frameworks for sustainable food security.

Image: SD-Pictures, Green Laser Light Beam, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons
12 September 2018

Lasers might replace poison or shotguns to stop birds from eating fruit crops, according to some farmers who have used automated laser systems to successfully defend their crops. The systems are also quieter than propane cannons and more reliable than trained falcons. However, it isn’t clear whether the lasers can harm birds’ eyes.

Image: TonyCastro, Guanay Cormorant, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
12 September 2018

Attaching green light emitting diodes (LEDs) to gillnets (vertical fishing nets that catch fish behind the gills) reduces the number of guanay cormorants accidentally caught by 85% relative to control nets with no lights, reports a recent paper. A previous study of the same fishery has shown that illuminating nets can reduce bycatch of green turtles by 64% without reducing catch rates of the target species (the current paper did not specify catch rates of the target species). The authors hypothesise that it may be possible to tailor the wavelength of light to attract or repel specific species, according to a fishery’s needs.

20 August 2018

Animal advocacy organisation Faunalytics has released the report “Messages to overcome naturalness concerns in clean meat acceptance: primary findings”, which studied how people perceive the “naturalness” of cultured meat (also known as laboratory-grown meat) when it is described in different ways. The report found that study participants (based in the US) were more accepting of cultured meat when presented with a message about the “unnatural” conditions in which conventional meat is produced. Messages arguing that cultured meat has a “natural” side or that “naturalness” does not matter did not result in greater acceptance of cultured meat.

31 July 2018

This book, edited by John Stafford, reviews many of the technologies used in precision agriculture, such as drones, spray technologies and modelling systems, and examines how they can be used, for example to manage fertiliser applications, for irrigation and for protecting crops.

Image: Max Pixel, Forage Flight Zucchini, CC0 Public Domain
24 July 2018

An Israeli startup has raised $3 million to create a mechanical system for pollinating plants, as an alternative to relying on bees. Wild bee numbers are declining, while bees used by farmers can suffer from Colony Collapse Disorder. Edete Precision Technologies for Agriculture hopes to build two separate systems: one to collect and store pollen, and another to autonomously apply the pollen to plants.

Image: axelmellin, Tomato plant food, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons
24 July 2018

An article in Wired explains the implications for agriculture of the gene-editing tool Crispr, which can be used to edit the DNA of living cells at specific points in the genome. Potential applications include removing swollen joints from tomato stems, which can puncture the fruit.

Image: Brian Robert Marshall, Crop spraying near St Mary Bourne, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
10 July 2018

FCRN member Waleed Fouad Abobatta of the Agriculture Research Centre, Egypt, has published a paper on the applications of nanotechnology in agriculture. FCRN readers may be particularly interested in the use of nanotechnology to reduce use of fertilisers and pesticides through greater application efficiency.

Image: iUNU, Luna Rail Network, Luna Press Kit
26 June 2018

The Spoon interviewed the founder of iUNU, a company that makes a robotic system to monitor and manage commercial greenhouses. The system, known as Luna, uses cameras that are mounted on rails to observe the plants, and uses machine learning to interpret what it sees and help growers manage yields.

Image: Rik Schuiling, Agricultural scientist taking notes at research station in Saria (Burkina Faso), Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
11 June 2018

This paper examines the role that agricultural research and innovation has in changing the food systems of developing regions, including urbanisation, decline in the importance of cereals in the diet, rise in processed foods, and shift in types of grains produced. Ways in which research affects the food system include: new breeds and varieties that are suited to small farms and/or ease of processing; cheaper inputs such as irrigation, fertilisers, herbicides and tractors; and introduction of motorised transport and temperature controlled storage. The authors call for more investment in the post-farm stages of the food system, such as processing, logistics, and wholesale, because these stages add significant value to food products.

Image: Mali Maeder, Red Meat With Chili Pepper and Green Spies, Pexels, Creative Commons CC0
15 May 2018

Creating realistic 3D structure for laboratory-grown meat has been a technical challenge, partly because of the difficulty in getting oxygen to the cells in the middle of a piece of cultured tissue. However, Israeli startup Aleph Farms says it may have the solution.

9 May 2018

Researchers at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland are developing edible plant cell cultures. They hope that cell cultures of plants such as cloudberry, lingonberry and strawberry could provide health benefits when the conventionally-grown berries are out-of-season or expensive to import. The researchers have experimented with blending the cells into a “jam” to release the flavour, and have designed a prototype of a bioreactor that could be used in the home.

Image: Kimberly Vardeman, Cotton Harvest, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
30 April 2018

Several companies are using microbes to improve crop performance. One of them is Indigo, which uses machine learning to identify the microbes associated with healthy plants and then coats seedlings with these microbes. Indigo’s method has increased wheat yields by 15% and cotton yields by 14% in trials.

10 April 2018

A information site about clean meat and cellular agriculture has been launched by the Cellular Agriculture Society. It discusses applications of cellular agriculture including lab-grown meat, leather and silk and introduces terminology such as “neomnivore”, i.e. a person who only eats cellular agriculture products.

Image: kaibara87, Cell Culture in a tiny Petri dish, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
10 April 2018

Cultured meat, also known as in vitro, clean, lab-grown or synthetic meat, is meat grown as muscle tissue in the laboratory. This paper reviews the state of cultured meat technology, analyses social concerns and examines some of the issues that start-ups in the industry face.

Image: USDA NRCS Montana, Irrigation31.tif, Flickr, Public domain
19 March 2018

A wireless soil probe that measures soil conditions every 15 minutes could help farmers to apply fertilisers more efficiently and prevent overwatering. Each probe has 23 sensors and sends data to a software interface that summarises the information for farmers. Factors measured include levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, pH, moisture, temperature and aeration.

13 February 2018

Search data on food-related terms is visualised on The Rhythm of Food Website.

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