“Made in Agriculture: Part One”

Welcome back!

The new year is well on its way. With it comes new technology and innovation geared towards the many problems producers and other stakeholders face in agricultural production. Some of them are meant to improve entire industries while others simply seek to improve the lives of consumers. Each technology or method currently under research and development is astounding in its own right and will pave the way for the progress of the overall agricultural sector. Let’s take a look at some new innovations for 2014:

Biochar from Biomass:

By now  many of us have heard of bio energy which is renewable energy made available from materials derived from biological sources. According to the website Wikipedia.com, “biomass is any organic material which has stored sunlight in the form of chemical energy. As a fuel it may include wood, wood waste, straw, manure, sugarcane, and many other byproducts from a variety of agricultural processes”

The Cool Planet  organization has created a patented two-part mechanical and chemical process  which converts biomass into both carbon negative drop-in gasoline and biochar. This clean renewable fuel can be distributed and used in today’s vehicles with no change to existing infrastructure. The biochar, when placed in the ground as a soil enhancer, removes CO2 from the atmosphere while improving the soil for agricultural use.

Later this month we’ll learn more of biochar from a young Belgian agri-entrepeneur who utilizes biochar in her business endeavors.

A diagram depicting how Film Farming works Source: Agricel.com

A diagram depicting how Film Farming works
Source: Agricel.com

Film Farming: Here in the Caribbean many of us are aware of plastic mulch used to suppress weeds, conserve water and sometimes to reduce disease. There is no better case of science providing an improvement that Film Farming.  According to its creators Agricel this is “a technology in which plants are cultivated on a hydromembrane composed of water-soluble polymer and hydrogel. This hydromembrane absorbs water and nutrients from the culture medium, and does not release any to the plant side.  Accordingly, the plant develops a lot of fine and dense roots closely attached to the hydromembrane surface to absorb water and nutrients.”

This technology saves 90% of water consumption, Uses 80% less fertilizer, protects crops from diseases via pathogens as bacteria and viruses cannot penetrate the membrane material, its low cost and it allows the plant to produce many nutrients. An interesting technology it is.

RHEA – Robot Fleets for Highly Effective Agriculture and Forestry Management:

The RHEA project is focused on the configuration of a new generation of automated and robotic systems for both chemical and physical management of pests. The project has a small fleet of Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV)and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) equipped with advanced perception and decision making systems, that currently being tested in a variety of ways. The success of RHEA could bring a new means of applying automatic systems to agriculture and forestry crops with an important impact in improving the economy and environment as well as in maintaining the sustainability of rural areas by launching new technological jobs.

An example of the bamboo  greehouse Source: http://www.arupratanghosh.com/

An example of the bamboo greehouse
Source: http://www.arupratanghosh.com/

The Bamboo Greenhouse

Technical expert in dryland farming, precision farming and greenhouse production, Arupratan Ghosh gives us the most simplistic Bamboo greenhouse. In comparison to the previous technologies it is simple but nonetheless ingenious. It should be noted that knowledge of building structure is required to effect this method. Even so it is by far the most cost effective using the bamboo plant as a base input.

Mr. Ghosh provides an explanation: “The bamboo greenhouse is a package of technology to construct an eco-friendly, energy efficient, low-cost, naturally ventilated Greenhouse. It is comparable to greenhouses made up of Iron with respect to cleanliness, durability, maintainability and efficiency to Precision farming. It is simple, scientific, affordable and an easy to build Greenhouse.It is a multi-technology innovation involving bamboo curing, structural designing, foundation, and air removal rate of greenhouse, which creates a standard model of ”bamboo greenhouse” suitable for tropical humid climate”

From highly scientific to ingenious applications, technology is clearly present in the future of agriculture. Part 2 of this post features an update on previous technologies that sought to make headway in 2012/2013. Research and development takes years to perfect an idea into something applicable. Our next post reveals the progress that has been made.


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