In the past, studying the genetic code of individual seeds required planting the seed, growing the plants to a certain size, and then clipping a paper-hole-puncher through a leaf to gather a sample. But that's a time-consuming and resource-heavy process, so it's easier to study the seeds themselves, explains Kevin Deppermann, head of Monsanto's automation engineering department. This requires grinding them up, which is also inconvenient, because a ground-up seed can't be planted. To get around this, Monsanto engineers invented a special chipping device that shaves off just a tiny piece of the seed and grinds it into a powder that can be analyzed with genome-mapping technology. Meanwhile, the viable remainder of the seed is preserved for planting and cultivation.