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Agriculture


— Science

Prototype system removes air pollutants and generates heat for livestock barns

By - January 5, 2012 1 Picture
If you’ve ever so much as stepped into a chicken or swine barn, you’ll know that they can be very, very smelly places. When vented outdoors, the air from these buildings does more than just make the area stink – it can actually be a major source of air pollution and greenhouse gases. Fortunately, however, researchers from North Carolina State University and West Virginia University have created a system that not only helps clean the air going out of the barns, but it heats up the air coming in from outside. Read More
— Good Thinking

"Computerized penetrometer" measures the crispness of apples

By - December 15, 2011 2 Pictures
Here’s a job title that you probably didn’t know existed: Apple Biter. Oh sure, the official term is probably something like “Fruit Evaluation Specialist,” but if you spend your days chomping into apples to assess their taste and crispness, you’re really an Apple Biter. While using panels of such people is a common method of evaluating the quality of apple crops, it can be compromised when those people start to get fatigued. There’s also the not-insignificant fact that panel members could differ in what they consider to be the optimal level of crispness. That’s why Washington State University is looking into using a computerized penetrometer to handle part of the Apple Biters’ duties. Read More
— Automotive

Oerlikon Graziano's next-gen transmissions for agricultural equipment

By - December 8, 2011 3 Pictures
In a move that should see the humble agricultural equipment of the future both cleaner and more efficient, Oerlikon Graziano - a supplier to the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini - has come up with an innovative a range of transmissions, including a mechanical continuously variable transmission (CVT) for small tractors. Released at Agritechnica in Germany last month, these new drive-trains are claimed to provide higher road speeds and be easier to operate so that the equipment can get to its work site much quicker without the need for a float or trailer. Read More
— Environment Feature

The first lab-grown hamburger will cost $345,000

How much would you pay for a hamburger? How about US$345,000? No, it's not wrapped in edible gold leaf and held together with a skewer made out of a diamond stick pin that you get to keep. It's an ordinary burger that doesn't include the bun, lettuce, pickles or onions. It isn't even super-sized. This may seem like price gouging on a monumental scale, but it's actually the cost price for this particular burger. That's because even though it is a real hamburger made from real meat, it doesn't come from a cow at all. So where is all this heading? David Szondy investigates the past, present and future of lab-grown meat. Read More
— Environment

Device that harvests water from thin air wins the James Dyson Award

By - November 11, 2011 8 Pictures
Young Melbourne-based inventor Edward Linacre has won the 2011 James Dyson Award, making it the second year in a row where the prestigious prize has gone to an Aussie. Linacre stole this year's competition with his Airdrop irrigation concept that collects water from thin air. The Swinburne University of Technology design graduate was driven to transform an ancient cooling technique into a new sub-surface irrigation system, following the enduring Australian drought that saw high levels of farmer suicide along Australia's Murray- Darling Basin. Read More
— Robotics

Robotic strawberry pickers could be on the way

By - October 20, 2011 1 Picture
Now that we’re moving towards automated orange-sorting and autonomous tractors, what might be the next step in replacing human agricultural workers with machines? Well, how about robotic strawberry pickers? That’s what scientists from the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) say could be on the way, thanks to a system that is able to identify ripe strawberries in the field. Read More
— Robotics

Artificial vision used to detect rotten oranges and pick through mandarins

By - October 17, 2011 2 Pictures
There’s a reason that the oranges you see in the store usually aren’t rotten – someone at a sorting facility has already looked over all the oranges coming in from the fields, and taken out the spoiled ones. This is typically done with the help of ultraviolet light, which illuminates the essential oils in the rinds of rotten oranges. Such an approach is subject to human error, however, plus workers can only remain in the vicinity of the harmful UV light for limited periods of time. Now, scientists from Spain’s Valencian Institute of Agrarian Research (IVIA) have created a machine that does the same job automatically. While they were at it, they also came up with one that sorts oranges according to aesthetic appeal, and one that sorts mandarin segments. Read More
— Automotive

Autonomous self-steering tractor could make farmers' lives a lot easier

By - September 19, 2011 4 Pictures
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
— Good Thinking

Cows check in for meals using electronic ear tags

By - July 28, 2011 5 Pictures
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
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