Oriental fruit flies are one of the biggest scourges to farmers around the globe, often forcing officials to put crops into quarantine just to keep Bactrocera dorsalis shut out. In Taiwan, where the situation is especially dire, scientists are using artificial intelligence tech that can determine, with uncanny accuracy, where and when an outbreak is about to happen.
Now that Food Tech week is winding down here at PopSci, it's time to sit back, rest our hands on the shelves of our full bellies and listen to the old timers tell us a few yarns about back in their day.
Whether conducted by an industrial farming outfit or a small, independent farmer, agriculture is all about yield. Per-acre production makes or break the year, and taken at the macro level it impacts global markets and can lead to humanitarian crises. And while agriculture already happens at the field-by-field level, David Dorhout wants to make agriculture even more precise. Think: plant-by-plant farming, optimized on a seed-by-seed basis.
Who can manage such a precise, immense workload? Why, the diminutive hexapod robot named Prospero, of course.
By Martin Mann
Posted 06.14.2012 at 6:30 pm 5 Comments
This article originally appeared in the April 1961 issue of Popular Science. You can explore more of our archives--stretching back 140 years--here.
Git along, little hippo. The romantic days of the open range may come back--in Africa, and with a native twist. Great herds of elephants, hippopotamuses, and eland, rounded up by dark-skinned wranglers (hippoboys?), [2012 note: eeeeeep] could supply desperately needed meat for the fast-growing, hungry continent.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit The Plant, Chicago's first vertical farm. This claim depends on your definition of vertical farm, of course, because The Plant isn't the sort of futuristic vegetation-filled skyscraper you might expect, and it isn't solely agricultural. While food will be grown there, the space will also house small food-related businesses, breweries and bakeries and the like, so it might be more accurate to classify it as a “food business incubator.” Whatever you call it, The Plant is definitely an example of innovative green food production, with the ambitious goal of being net-zero energy and net-zero waste by 2015.
You have to hand it to the Japanese; Last March’s Tohoku earthquake and associated tsunami wasn’t the first natural (or unnatural, for that matter) disaster to befall the island nation, but as just as before the country isn’t simply rebuilding. Instead, it’s rethinking and improving upon what was there before. The latest example: Japan’s agriculture ministry is building a fully robotic experimental farm on a swath of farmland inundated by the tsunami.
Farming has always been about man, says David Dorhout, but man is now the limiting factor in agriculture. The future of farming is not about getting more efficiency out of each farmer--the human farmer has already been pretty well optimized by technology. Rather, the future is about getting more production out of each tract of farmland. The future, in other words, is Prospero, Dourhout’s swarming, game-theory-crunching fleet of autonomous robo-farmers.
Remember that part of Forrest Gump where Forrest and Captain Dan are looking for shrimp but can’t find any because there’s too much competition for shrimp, but then the hurricane passes through and suddenly there’s no competition for shrimp and there’s just tons of shrimp to be had? This story is mostly not like that one, except it ends with a lot more shrimp than it starts with.
While the country bumpkin farmer stereotype might suggest otherwise, driving a tractor is difficult, requiring precision skills. Now Flemish engineers have announced a new self-driving tractor whose precision rivals that of a human driver. This could mean drastically lower operating costs for farmers, and a step towards automated agriculture.
One look at the wedge-shaped rows of plants and anyone could tell the circular garden was not grown under normal conditions. Plants sown in concentric circles displayed wildly different vitality and viability.
The innermost circle of plants, gathered around a central pole, were dead; slightly farther away, the plants were stunted and tumor-ridden; and past that, the plants may have looked right, but possessed strange new mutations.
In the past 15 years, more than a billion hectares — an area greater than the land masses of China or the United States — have been cultivated with genetically engineered crops, according to an industry study. Biotech crop cultivation increased 87-fold between 1996 and 2010, making transgenic crops the fastest-adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture. Biotech advocates say it shows genetically modified agriculture is here to stay.
A century of agricultural innovation vastly increased the amount of food--but with it came an increased population, and now hunger is on the rise. Fixing it will require an unlikely alliance
By Frederick Kaufman
Posted 01.20.2011 at 5:30 pm 0 Comments
Among the tree-lined bike paths, automated livestock pens and darkened lecture halls of the University of California at Davis, a tiny room holds a weapon of mass destruction. Here, behind locked doors, sits a chunk of Xanthomonas, a bacterial blight that has decimated rice harvests in China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and West Africa. Since the passage of the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, the U.S.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.