Technology isn’t always about reinventing the wheel. In fact, in many industries today, we are recognizing that breaking away from the rhythm of nature is destructive and causing substantial damage to our environment. For example, using fossil fuels, a process that converts coal and petroleum with heat to generate electric power, has resulted in prevalent amounts of greenhouse gas and carbon monoxide emissions into our atmosphere, while simultaneously eroding our land and polluting our water. We are seeing now that the practice of working against nature, has proved fruitless, and that working with the Earth’s own power sources is the key to sustainable growth and evolution. With this in mind, alternative energy sources using solar and wind energy, has become the solution to alleviate the environmental damage.
Enhancing the resources in nature is also extending to the modern food and agricultural industry. In the past, the concentration of agricultural and food technology was on how to use synthetic solutions to beat nature, today companies are finding ways to use technology to enhance what nature has to offer. Here are three companies that exemplify this idea in a way that is changing our practices and fixing our food systems.
For as long back as agriculture goes, farmers have been cross breeding seeds to produce new varieties of fruits and vegetables that would contain the best features from each variety. However, until now, this practice has been based on observation with little or no data to guide it. In order to create a more efficient and effective seed breeding practice, Equinom has found a method to collect essential farm data, process the data with proprietary algorithms, in order to produce new varieties of seeds with desirable traits. Their technology doesn’t rely on seed engineering like GMOs, because they only breed seeds with qualities that already exist in the environment.
Founder, Gil Shalev, a breeding specialist, has been able to bring his scientific expertise to create varieties that are high in yield, resistant, and more nutritious. So far, Equinom has found success in breeding a variety of sesame seeds that doesn’t require manual harvesting. Through accurate cross breeding, they have been able to produce a variety of sesame seeds that have shatter resistant capsule. This makes it possible to grow sesame throughout throughout developed countries, such as Australia and the United States. Equinom has also been able to produce a variety of yellow pea and other legumes that is both high in yield and higher in protein than traditional varieties, making it possible for the plant protein industry to utilize more concentrated pea proteins as alternative to egg, meat, and dairy.
Using hydroponic and aquaponic methods, greenhouse farming allows producers to create consistent, tasty and nutritious produce, using less water, while utilizing the solar power to grow mainly tomatoes, leafy greens and herbs. Unlike, vertical farm systems that require the energy from LED bulbs, greenhouse farming utilizes solar energy to produce the ideal environment for plants to grow. Understanding the benefit of this, Brightfarms designed a system in which they could could sign long term purchase agreements with supermarkets in order to fully finance, build and operate greenhouses at no cost to the store. In turn the markets receive a consistent, reliable, fresh supply of their staple produce, while eliminating the carbon footprint left by transportation.
Today Brightfarms operates in hundreds of retailers and supermarkets throughout the United States, providing local, organic, and tasty produce, thus reducing the carbon footprint, while bringing a better product to the market.
For years and years, scientists and farmers observed massive bee colony collapse throughout the world, and bees are dying off in alarming numbers. Recent studies in Reuters journal, Environmental Science and Technology, show that colony collapse is due to the fact that many synthetic fertilizers contain neonicotinoids. Bees that come in contact with this chemical in synthetic fertilizers have been shown to become disoriented and suffer from memory loss which results in losing their hives and dying out.
In order to remedy this prevalent dilemma, Valent has created a natural fertilizer using venom from snakes. Snake venom pesticide has been shown to have the preferred result in insects that are bad for agriculture, without adversely affecting the insects that are beneficial to the ecosystem. In a study done by the Proceeding of the Royal Society B it s been shown that the bio-pesticide known as Hv1a/GNA do not cause detrimental effects on honeybees. In university studies published by Valent, they have found that venom pesticide is successful in deterring mealy bug crawlers, but does not effect bees when applied directly to the soil.
Featured Photo: Creative Commons Photo Courtesy of Manlake Gabriel