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Agriculture

— Good Thinking

Lely Astronaut A4 milking robot lets cows milk themselves

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
— Science

N-Fix tech could drastically reduce agricultural fertilizer use

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
— Environment

WaterBee puts crop irrigation on a smartphone

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
— Science

FLOW-AID helps farmers save water without sacrificing yields

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
— Around The Home

Nourishmat takes some of the guesswork out of gardening

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
— Robotics

Rosphere spherical robot could be rolling up for work to monitor and tend crops

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

Sunflower seed husks provide concrete alternative

Ordinarily seen as a waste product, the husks of sunflower seeds could be used to make concrete, according to research out of Turkey. Not only are the husks a sustainable source of aggregate, it's claimed that the resulting concrete is more resistant to cracking during post-freeze thaws. Read More
— Science

Sandia Labs researcher develops fertilizer without the explosive potential

Ammonium nitrate is a commonly used fertilizer, but when mixed with a fuel such as diesel, it makes a powerful explosive – as seen in last week’s fertilizer plant explosion in Texas. But it's the deliberate use of the compound in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and acts of terror such as the Oklahoma City bombing that gives rise to even greater cause for concern. This is why Kevin Fleming, an optical engineer at Sandia National Laboratories, developed a fertilizer alternative that isn’t detonable and therefore can’t be used in a bomb. Read More
— Science

New process could allow any plant to serve as a food source

Although the causes of world hunger are numerous, it certainly doesn’t help that factors such as arid conditions and limited land space make it difficult to grow food crops in certain places. If people in those areas could eat foods derived from plants that are hardy to the region, but that aren’t considered nutritious, it would go a long way towards addressing the problem. Well, that may soon be a reality, thanks to a newly-developed process that allows cellulose to be converted into starch. Read More
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