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Agriculture

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

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

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

Architecture

Self-sustaining "farmscrapers" proposed for Shenzhen

As one of the most densely populated cities in China, Shenzhen has been dealing with a sudden population boom for years now, leaving urban planners scrambling for innovative building designs that manage resources and space more efficiently. There have been a few unusual proposals, but the latest design from French architectural firm, Vincent Callebaut Architects, probably takes the cake. The group recently revealed its concept for "Asian Cairns," a series of six sustainable buildings that resemble a stack of pebbles and produce their own food.Read More

Environment

New water retention technology quenches crop thirst in drought conditions

With climate change predicted to increase the severity and frequency of drought events in many part of the world, water conservation is a growing concern. New water retention technology developed at Michigan State University (MSU) could help quench the thirst of parched crops while using less water, not only enabling crops to better deal with drought, but also improving crop yields in marginal areas.Read More

Robotics

University of Sydney developing robots to automate Australian farms

The idea of an automated farm has probably been around since rural electrification started in the early 20th century. Replacing back-breaking labor with robots has an obvious appeal, but so far cheap labor in many countries and the insistence of agriculture on being so darn rural has made automation limited in application. Despite this, Salah Sukkarieh, Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies of the University of Sydney, is heading a team working on developing robotic systems for farms with the aim of turning Australia into the “food bowl” of Asia.Read More

Science

Scientists invent transparent soil to reveal the secret life of plants

Most people’s image of plants is actually upside down. For most of our photosynthetic friends, the majority of the plant is underground in the form of an intricate system of roots. The bit that sticks up is almost an afterthought. That’s a problem for scientists trying to study plants because growing them in media that allow you to see the roots, such as hydroponics, doesn't mimic real soil very well. Now, a team of researchers at the James Hutton Institute and the University of Abertay Dundee in Scotland has developed an artificial transparent soil that allows scientists to make detailed studies of root structures and subterranean soil ecology on a microscopic level.Read More

Environment

Water supplement for bees is claimed to prevent Colony Collapse Disorder

Around the world, honey bees have been vanishing at an alarming rate. Since bees not only provide honey, but are also vital for pollinating crops, this is not only distressing, it also puts agriculture at risk. The reasons for this decline are still unknown, but a Florida-based company claims to have found a solution in the form of a concentrated organic feed supplement. BeesVita is purported to not only protect bee colonies in danger of collapsing, but actually causes them to grow and thrive.Read More

Good Thinking

Ayutthaya 3.0: Bold take on flood-defense would restore "Venice of the East" to former glory

Shma's bold "water city" concept is a reimagining of the medieval Thai city of Ayutthaya, that rethinks flood defenses for the 21st century by drawing inspiration from the past. It's a concept, yes, but one worthy of a second look, given that this is a uniquely Thai response to the catastrophic flooding that hit the country last year. Gizmag takes a moment to set Shma's scheme in its proper context: that of the very recent past, as well as that of Ayutthaya's heyday as one of Asia's, if not the world's, foremost cities. Read More

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