Seed World

Innovation Drives Change

The agriculture sector is ripe for breakthrough technologies with hundreds of start up companies around the world looking at ways to use the newest technologies to improve plant breeding, crop production and farm management.

We’ve combed through a number of research projects, technology platforms and new products to shed light on a few that have the potential to disrupt agriculture and the seed industry. The newest innovations stem from the convergence of scientists and experts from across disciplines, specifically bringing in data scientists and those who specialize in computer modeling.

From a plant breeding platform that aims to improve the digestibility of forages to advanced phenotyping, and from the use of artificial intelligence to predict pest and disease outbreaks to smart lights, I hope you enjoy.

An Intelligent Solution: Mention the term artificial intelligence and it usually conjures up memories of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey or R2-D2 from Star Wars. Artificial intelligence, though, is becoming an increasingly popular tool. It’s used on farm operations for monitoring soil moisture and managing crop quality to operating automated irrigation systems.

Smart Lights Communicate with Plants: In an effort to grow plants at a faster rate, two men in Georgia — one a physicist and the other a biological and agricultural engineer — formed a horticultural lighting company that literally allows the lights to communicate with plants to determine optimal lighting conditions.

Eyes in the Sky: For the past several years, researchers have been working to figure out how drone technology can benefit crop production and crop improvement. They’ve figured out how, but have since been trying to work through the logistical challenges of being able to attach more sensors to a drone and finding that ideal weight balance. Then there’s the issue of getting all that data back to the person who can make sense of it and finally to the end user, not to mention air space and safety. But a new technology might make all these efforts obsolete.

From a Weed to a Jet Fuel: As an industry leader in the development of field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense L.), Arvegenix, a renewable fuel company in St. Louis, Missouri, has made tremendous strides during the past few years in turning pennycress into a biofuel.

Sorghum Under the Microscope: What’s happening on a one-acre plot in Arizona is on track to transform the world of plant
science, ushering in a new era of advanced crop analytics. The TERRA (Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture) project seeks to develop improved varieties of energy sorghum for biofuel use while creating enhanced crop phenotyping methods.

Small Companies Make Big Strides: They’re small but mighty. These companies are focused on delivering niche solutions to help farmers produce larger, more sustainable crops. Of interest are Neogram, which breeds grasses, and Adjuvants Plus, a developer of crop input products.