Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Agricultural innovation

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: Pixnio, Cows, grazing, cattle, Public Domain
12 September 2018

Writing in the Guardian, Isabella Tree of Knepp Castle Estate argues that vegan diets ignore the potential of wildlife-friendly livestock grazing methods. Tree claims that not using anti-worming agents or antibiotics allows cow dung to feed various soil organisms, contributing to soil restoration and wildlife diversity.

Image: IF Half Burger, Impossible Foods Press Kit
20 August 2018

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the key ingredient in the plant-based burger created by Impossible Foods. Soy leghemoglobin, which releases a protein called heme that gives the burger its red colour and meat-like flavour, is made by Impossible Foods using genetically modified yeast. The FDA’s approval is based on the conclusions drawn by a panel of food safety experts and experimental data submitted by Impossible Foods.

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.

24 July 2018

This book, by Jules Pretty and Zareen Pervez Bharucha, explores the current state of knowledge of sustainable agricultural intensification in a variety of settings, including smallholder farms and industrialised countries.

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.

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