Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Agricultural innovation

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: Max Pixel, Harvest farm, CC0 Public Domain
10 July 2018

A new paper reviews evidence on agricultural intensification in low- and middle-income countries and concludes that intensification rarely leads to both environmental and social benefits. Only 17% of the case studies were found to have win-win outcomes. The paper finds that the two outcome categories most frequently reported in the literature are food production and income, and that these outcomes are the most likely to be positive (at 52% and 68%, respectively). Other outcomes, such as for various ecosystems service indicators, are less frequently reported and are less likely to have positive outcomes.

Image: Bob Blaylock, Saccharomyces cerevisiae — baker's yeast, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
10 July 2018

A new paper has estimated the economic and environmental potential of feeding livestock with industrially-fermented microbes such as bacteria, yeast, fungi and algae instead of crop-based feed. The study finds that microbial protein could replace 10-19% of crop-based animal feed protein, with decreases in land use, climate impact and nitrogen pollution.

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: Linda, New crops - Chicago urban farm, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
26 June 2018

US media organisation NPR discusses the tensions between housing developers and people who use vacant city plots for food production. Around 15% of land in US cities is classed as “vacant”. Urban farms on vacant land can be an important source of fresh food in some low-income neighbourhoods, but this can clash with the need for more housing. New York City council has passed an urban agriculture bill in an attempt to give urban farmers some control over how land is used.

Image: USDA NRCS Texas, Cows grazing in a silvopasture, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
11 June 2018

FCRN member Eric Toensmeier, of Yale University, has written an op-ed for the Washington Post in which he discusses the potential of silvopasture - including trees on grazing land - to reduce agricultural emissions. Trees increase production by providing shade to livestock, according to the op-ed.

Image: Sumita Roy Dutta, Ice stupas near Phyang monastery, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
11 June 2018

A project in Ladakh, India, creates “ice stupas”, a form of artificial glacier, to complement intermittent water flow from retreating natural glaciers. Water from streams is sprayed from vertical pipes during the winter, freezing into pointed mounds, which melt slowly throughout the year, irrigating crops in the summer.

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.

4 June 2018

FCRN member Afton Halloran has edited this book, which outlines the role of edible insects in food systems around the world. Topics include nutrition, consumer acceptance, environmental impacts, using insects as animal feed and legal regulation.

Image: Francish7, Tasty seasonal African Plums - known locally as Safu - in Basankusu, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
26 May 2018

A recent paper by FCRN member Roger Leakey of the International Tree Foundation explores the possibility of smallholder farms in Africa using trees and indigenous crops to provide many environmental, social and economic benefits.

15 May 2018

The Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) has launched a weekly review of food sustainability news, as well as fortnightly in-depth analyses of specific themes such as women farmers and global water management.

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.

15 May 2018

The book “Agricultural Development and Sustainable Intensification: Technology and Policy Challenges in the Face of Climate Change”, edited by Udaya Sekhar Nagothu, examines different approaches to sustainable intensification and presents case studies from around the world.

15 May 2018

FCRN member Gary Bentrup, of the USDA National Agroforestry Centre, has co-authored a report on how agroforestry can be used to help agriculture both mitigate and adapt to climate change. The report defines agroforestry as “the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal production systems”, which it further categorises into silvopasture, alley cropping, forest farming (or multi-storey cropping), windbreaks and riparian forest buffers. Topics covered include ecosystems services provided by agroforestry, the relationship of agroforestry to greenhouse gas emissions, economic and sociocultural considerations and an overview of agroforestry in different US regions, Canada and Mexico.

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.

30 April 2018

The Nature Friendly Farming Network connects farmers who want to farm sustainably and seek positive changes in policy. You can sign up for newsletter from the network: join as a farmer here, or as a member of the public here.

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.

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