Many people don’t think that the words “tech” and “farming” actually go together, but in fact most farming now is filled with technology and it’s greatly improving the quality and output of the world’s food. Feeding the Accelerator’s Heather Jonasson looks at how far we’ve come in Ag Tech and how far we hope to go.
Scientists are finding new ways to get the most out of certain foods. At MIT’s CityFARM they’ve already discovered that when strawberries, lettuce, and peppers are suspended in open air with an ultra-fine mist spray, it allows the plant to activate all of its root system, thus increasing the area available for nutrient uptake. MIT is also working on sensors attached to plants to monitor the amount of water needed. Research such as this will lead to larger and healthier crops for all of us.
Water is crucial to farming and agriculture, and it is important to have clean water that is not wasted – that is, if you are even lucky enough to live somewhere with access to clean water. In California, which is often affected by drought conditions, irrigation is important and water is not to be wasted. Much like the work going on at MIT’s CityFarm, a company called Tule has developed a sensor system to monitor the amount of water plants are using and suggest how much to apply. Currently, this technology is mainly used by wine growers in the region, but as the population increases and managing water becomes even more essential, this will be extremely beneficial to all.
But it’s not only in the U.S. that technology is being applied to farms and crops. This is a huge issue in the developing world. Very important work is being done to eliminate poverty and hunger and The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is creating genetically modified crops to help with growth and nutrition. The company is working on something called supercharged photosynthesis, which alters the genes in rice to allow them to capture carbon dioxide more efficiently. This would lead rice farmers to have more productive crops while using much less fertilizer and water.
Golden Rice is another example of science improving foods to help nutrition in countries that are malnourished and susceptible to vitamin deficiencies. Rice leaves naturally carry beta-carotene, but it does not travel to the grain. Scientists have discovered a way to restart the pathway leading to the accumulation and production of beta-carotene in the grain. Currently, approximately 40 percent of children under the age of five in developing countries are malnourished. Without access to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, genetically modified crops like golden rice can deliver the essential nutrients to build up immunities that can fight off common childhood infections.
While some are scared off by the phrase ”genetically modified food,” it has numerous benefits that have already been improving life in many places for years. Most of the science applied to modifying foods has to do with increasing the nutritional value (adding more vitamins) and level of crop growth, which will be needed as our population continues to rise. Genetically modified food is often safer and more nutritious as they often eliminate the need for pesticide.
We already eat a lot of genetically modified food in the U.S. whether you’ve noticed it or not. All of these advances are intended to increase health and nutrition in our country, as well as supplying larger crops. If we increase our nutritional intake, many of our common health problems can be eliminated, which would put less strain on the overloaded health care system while of course benefiting every person by helping them to live more productive and longer lives. It’s at least an interesting technology to research before jumping to conclusions. While there is still more research to be done it could possibly be the solution for much of the world.
Heather Jonasson is an authentic Texas girl who unknowingly has been consuming GMO’s since the 1990s and is still alive to tell about it. She is the twitter expert at Feeding The Accelerator. You can follow her at @FeedAccelerator and @heatheraudrey