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Agriculture

Approximately 5,000 bees are receiving RFID tags like this one

Bees are integral to the pollination of major crops around the world, so the more that we understand how they go about their business, the better we can facilitate the process and thereby boost yields. With this in mind, scientists from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) are taking the unprecedented step of equipping up to 5,000 honeybees with RFID (radio frequency identification) tags.  Read More

The AgriRover on patrol in a paddock

We tend to think of livestock farmers as "one man and his dog," but if AgResearch of New Zealand has anything to say, that pair may have to move over to include a robot. A team led by Dr. Andrew Manderson is developing AgriRover, an agricultural robot inspired by NASA’s Mars rovers. It’s a proof-of-concept prototype designed to show how robots can make life easier and more productive for livestock farmers.  Read More

The Aqualibrium is an aquaponics kit, that combines fish and plants

Home aquaponics kits, which combine fish and plants in a symbiotic relationship, are becoming more and more popular. One of them, the Fishy Farm, is a fairly large setup. The Home Aquaponics Kit, on the other hand, is pretty small, while the ECO-Cycle is designed to sit on top of an existing aquarium. The latest arrival on the scene, the Aqualibrium Garden, manages to carve out yet another niche for itself.  Read More

Doctoral student Vinay Pagay holds one of the chips

Whether you're growing wine grapes or mixing cement, there are some situations in which it's vitally important to monitor moisture content. Normally water sensors are used, although these can be both large and expensive. Now, however, a team from Cornell University has created a water-sensing silicon chip that's not only tiny, but is also reportedly "a hundred times more sensitive than current devices." What's more, the chips might be possible to mass-produce for just $5 a pop.  Read More

The Astronaut 4  robot milker is designed so that the cow doesn't need to turn or back up

If cow milking recalls a bucolic image of a farmer strolling out to the barn with a bucket and stool, then the 21st century will be a disappointment to those raised on James Herriot stories. A case in point is the Astronaut 4 from Dutch agricultural firm Lely. With this robotic milker, the farmer needn't come any closer to the action than a readout on a smartphone, leaving the cows to get on with the milking themselves.  Read More

Prof. Edward Cocking, developer of the N-Fix system

Synthetic crop fertilizers are a huge source of pollution. This is particularly true when they’re washed from fields (or leach out of them) and enter our waterways. Unfortunately, most commercial crops need the fertilizer, because it provides the nitrogen that they require to survive. Now, however, a scientist at the University of Nottingham has developed what he claims is an environmentally-friendly process, that allows virtually any type of plant to obtain naturally-occurring nitrogen directly from the atmosphere.  Read More

WaterBee demonstration at Castelldefels, Barcelona

With robots doing everything from milking cows to crop dusting, farming has come a long way since they days of plodding along behind a horse and plow. Irrigation practices are also benefiting from advances in technology. The large-scale WaterBee smart irrigation and water management system is a case in point: it allows farmers use their smartphones to not only switch on the water where and when it’s needed, but also to get up to the minute information on field conditions.  Read More

One of the FLOW-AID devices being field tested in Greece

We’ve already seen gadgets such as Koubachi and Flower Power, that communicate with users’ smartphones to let them know when their houseplants need watering. Scale that idea up to an agricultural level, and you get a prototype device known as the Farm Level Optimal Water management Assistant for Irrigation under Deficit – or FLOW-AID. It’s designed to let farmers in drought-stricken regions know when and how much water to apply to their crops, so they don’t run their irrigation systems unnecessarily.  Read More

The Nourishmat is designed to let inexperienced gardeners grow their own vegetables in sma...

If you have a green thumb, then you probably don’t think it’s all that difficult to plant and tend a vegetable garden. That said, there are many people who would like to grow their own veggies, but are intimidated by things like watering, weeding, choosing the correct plants, along with getting the spacing and planting-depth of the seeds right. It’s for these aspiring gardeners that San Francisco-based company Earth Starter has created the Nourishmat.  Read More

Rosphere uses a pendulum for locomotion and steering

If you see what looks like a hamster ball rolling around a cornfield, it doesn’t mean that someone’s pet is incredibly lost. It may be an experimental robot developed by the Robotics and Cybernetics Research Group at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) called Rosphere. The spherical robot can propel itself over uneven ground and may one day be rolling up for work in fields to monitor and tend crops.  Read More

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