Tag Archives: agriculture

Future of the Industry 10x bigger than software

Reading Time: 3 minutes

This story is about technology which is revolutionising 10x bigger industry than software — agriculture.

We are facing real challenges in agriculture. How will we manage to feed an increasing number of people with the limited space? How can we attract young people to be farmers? How will we manage to grow with no chemicals harmful to our planet? How will we deal with the climate change? But let’s start with a story of a man who established first New York City vertical farm.

Kimbal Musk in The Kitchen

Kimbal Musk is a businessman, chef and owner of Kitchen Restaurant Group — community restaurant located in several U.S. cities. In 90s, together with his brother Elon, he established Zip2 — the online city guide software provider. They started with almost no money — slept on the office floor, showered in the YMCA and ate alone — mostly fast-food. After selling Zip2, Kimbal went to New York City, found his passion for food and learned how to cook. After 09/11 he cooked for firefighters and saw how food brought them together in a specific way. After this expirience he decided to open a new type of restaurant. Place designed to bring people together in a sense of a community built around eating — The Kitchen. During the process of menu design he came across a problem with quality of industrial food supply chain. Industrial food is a mass production and it doesn’t taste good. It’s also a reason why over 70% of Americans are overweight or obese. Kimbal decided to dedicate his life to bringing quality food to people.

And that’s how Square Roots started. An indoor urban farm built with old shipping containers. Each container (30m2) is equivalent of 8000 m2 outdoor farming. It’s also water efficient using 30l of water (daily shower is 30-60l) a day thanks to the water enclosed circuit. Ability to control humidity, temperature, light and minerals gives a possibility to grow better quality, tastier plants faster. It uses artificial LED light but even though it is more energy efficient than traditional farms. Clients can choose certain greens for their custom subscription plan. In places like New York it’s the best way to get lettuce, herbs, rucola etc. Same technology is also the only way to farm in space and will be someday used on Mars. Vertical farming is also a way to get young people interested in the subject of breeding. In its first week the company has had hundreds of young people waiting in line to be a farmer in Square Roots. Expected salary of farmer in NYC is between $37K – $39K/yr.

Square Roots Brooklyn Farm

Square Roots Brooklyn Farm

Vetrical Farms technology is also used in Europe. The Netherlands – the world’s number two exporter of food as measured by value there are numerous indoor vertical farms. The Dutch are also the world’s top exporter of potatoes and onions and the second largest exporter of vegetables overall in terms of value despite relatively small size. Thanks to the controlled environment and stacking plants vertically, the Netherlands are producing 10x more plants per 1km2 in comparison to the world average.

The future of farming is bright – and it’s vertical.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/07/03/2057417/0/en/Global-Digital-Agriculture-Market-Expected-to-Grow-from-5-6-Billion-in-2020-to-6-2-Billion-by-2021-Recording-a-CAGR-of-9-9-Revised-to-Reflect-the-Implications-of-the-COVID-19-Pande.html
  2. https://www.statista.com/forecasts/963597/software-revenue-in-the-world
  3. https://nypost.com/2019/10/08/heres-how-many-meals-the-average-american-eats-alone/
  4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2017/10/16/u-s-obesity-rates-have-hit-an-all-time-high-infographic/
  5. https://squarerootsgrow.com/about_us/
  6. http://thekitchen.com/
  7. http://inhabitat.com/nyc/kimbal-musk-just-launched-a-revolutionary-shipping-container-farm-initiative-in-brooklyn/
  8. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/12/kimbal-musk-and-square-roots-hope-to-feed-the-world-and-someday-mars.html
  9. https://www.freightfarms.com/square-roots
  10. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/09/holland-agriculture-sustainable-farming/
  11. https://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/Square-Roots-Salaries-E1937746.htm

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A NEW GREEN REVOLUTION TO BEGIN?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Tobacco plants that grow as much as 40% larger than usual have been designed by genetic engineers in Illinois. This is the first step in producing larger plants like potatoes which could be distributed to the poor countries throughout the world.

The genetically modified plants are wider and taller from the regular ones. As a team at the University of Illinois and the United States Department of Agriculture said, they gave tobacco something called “photorespiratory bypass”. It is a kind of a cassette of genetic changes that let the plants turn sunlight into energy more efficiently.

What is interesting, in 2016 University of Illinois bioengineers managed to make tobacco plants grow 20% bigger by helping them respond more quickly to changes in light and shade. This time actually they made plants that use less energy during photorespiration, which is a process that plants need to clear out a toxin called glycolate created during photosynthesis. To achieve this, the team had to add about 16,000 letters of novel DNA instructions to tobacco plants.

You are probably wondering why all of these experiments were carried out with the use of tobacco. Not only do tobacco plants grow quickly, but also are easy to genetically modify. The team is known to be already working on similar gene changes to potatoes, soybeans , and cowpeas.

However, as Heike Sederoff, a plant scientist at North Carolina State University claims, there is a long way for researchers to prove that these modifications actually work. He believes that we should not expect such plants in the markets earlier than 20 years from now.

 

Nevertheless, there are plenty of philanthropes and foundation which are hoping that genetic engineering could lead to a huge step forward in farm productivity. Scientists at Illinois were donated by more than $80 million by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The goal of the whole project, which is called RIPE (Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency) is to increase the yields of staple food crops and improve global food security. As we can find out from their website, the Green Revolution’s advances have already reached their biological limits. They find it crucial to keep pace with this century’s growing population (which is forecasted to grow to nearly 10 billion by 2050) and provide food to the biggest possible number of people by making new innovations to agriculture industry.

There are also other organizations trying to find new solutions, like C4 consortium led by Paul Quick at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, which is developing a process called C4 photosynthesis. It boosts plants’ growth by capturing carbon dioxide and concentrating it in specialized cells in the leaves, which allows the photosynthetic process to operate much more efficiently. Researchers claim that engineering C4 photosynthesis into rice and wheat could increase yields per hectare by roughly 50 percent. Alternatively, they believe that it would be possible to use far less water and fertilizer to produce the same amount of food.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Would you buy such genetically modified plants without any concerns? Let me know down below!

 

Sources:

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/535011/supercharged-photosynthesis/

https://ripe.illinois.edu/objectives/our-story

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612710/gene-engineers-make-super-sized-plants-that-are-40-larger/

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