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Agriculture

Many of us are eagerly awaiting the widespread adoption of autonomous cars to free us from the hassle of driving to and from work. This kind of technology also has applications beyond the roadway, especially in areas like farming where driving is the work ... and it's not on paved surfaces with markings and signs laid out. Dealing with the uneven and inconsistent terrain of a field poses unique problems that a team from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven) and Flanders' Mechatronics Technology Centre (FMTC) in Belgium are claiming to have overcome with their robotic self-steering tractor. Read More
With diseases such as Foot and Mouth, TB, and of course Mad Cow still presenting a danger to cattle, it’s of the utmost importance that farmers monitor the health of their animals, and immediately proceed to isolate any that might be showing symptoms. If you have a herd of over 500 cows, however, keeping track of individuals can be rather tricky. That’s why scientists at England’s Newcastle University have developed electronic ears tags, that they’re trying out on a herd of test cattle. Read More
According to a recent report on Sky News, Chinese scientists have created a herd of 300 transgenic dairy cattle, all of which have been genetically modified to produce human breast milk. While the milk is still undergoing government testing, the researchers reportedly hope to be selling it in supermarkets within three years. Read More
At last week’s 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, a number of institutions presented their research into possible new sources of eco-friendly bioplastic, including everything from fruit fiber to bone meal. On the final day of the event, one other idea was put forward – bioplastic made from waste chicken feathers. While this particular source material has been tried only semi-successfully in the past, the researchers claim that this time, the chicken plastic should take flight. Read More
Agave is a very hardy, useful plant. It grows in hot, arid conditions, and has found use in the production of beverages, food, and fiber. Now, it looks like it could have yet one more use – a Mexican botanist believes it could be an excellent biofuel feedstock. Not only does it grow quickly, but global climate change shouldn’t adversely affect it, and it doesn’t compete with food crops. Read More
Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes had an impact on the global carbon cycle as big as today's annual demand for gasoline. The Black Death, on the other hand, came and went too quickly for it to cause much of a blip in the global carbon budget. Dwarfing both of these events, however, has been the historical trend towards increasing deforestation, which over centuries has released vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, as crop and pasture lands expanded to feed growing human populations. Even Genghis Kahn couldn't stop it for long. Read More
There are definitely two schools of thought as to whether or not humans should have meat in their diet, but even many non-vegetarians claim that the production and consumption of animal protein could definitely stand to at least be scaled back, both for environmental and health reasons. It has been estimated that it takes 40 square meters (48 sq. yards) of land to produce one kilogram (2.2 lbs) of meat, while 120 kilograms (265 lbs) of carrots or 80 kilograms (176 lbs) of apples could be raised within that same space. Obesity and cardiovascular disease, meanwhile, have been linked to high-fat diets – diets which often include things like sausages and hamburgers. With concerns like these in mind, researchers from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging have developed food ingredients derived from lupin seed proteins, that can reportedly stand in quite convincingly for both milk and animal fat. Read More
Biofuel derived from crops such as switchgrass certainly holds promise, although some critics maintain that such crops use up too much agricultural land – land that could otherwise be used for growing food crops. A genetic discovery announced this Tuesday, however, reportedly allows individual plants to produce more biomass. This means that biofuel crops could have higher yields, without increasing their agricultural footprint. Read More
Cotton has held an important significance for mankind for thousands of years. Not only are all parts of the cotton plant economically useful, but the multitude of uses and processes it can be put to make it America's number one value-added crop. Over the years we have crushed and extruded and woven cotton into many forms, but even today scientists and entrepreneurs are transforming the way we use cotton; from reducing pollution, insulating homes, and cleaning up oil spills to feeding the hungry. Here's a look at seven new companies being championed for their sustainability by Cotton Incorporated. Read More
Workers in meat-processing plants may soon be able to assess the qualities of cuts of meat, just by subjecting them to light. Canadian researchers have developed a spectroscopic tool that evaluates the color, texture and exudation (water release) of pork cuts. It's hoped that the technology will improve quality control, optimize production and allow for exports that are better sorted for their target markets. Read More
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