An AI analysis of 500,000 studies shows how we can end world hunger

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An Indian farmer dries harvested rice from a paddy field in Assam.

Ending hunger is one of the top priorities of the United Nations this decade. Yet the world appears to be backsliding, with an uptick of 60 million people experiencing hunger in the last five years to an estimated 690 million worldwide.

To help turn this trend around, a team of 70 researchers published a landmark series of eight studies in Nature Food, Nature Plants, and Nature Sustainability on Monday. The scientists turned to machine learning to comb 500,000 studies and white papers chronicling the world’s food system. The results show that there are routes to address world hunger this decade, but also that there are also huge gaps in knowledge we need to fill to ensure those routes are equitable and don’t destroy the biosphere.

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Big-money investors gear up for a trillion-dollar bet on farmland

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Ray Williams bought this land just north of the small town of Dumont, in Butler County, Iowa.

For a glimpse of what could happen to a trillion dollars worth of American farmland, meet Ray Williams.

He’s a lawyer-turned-farmer, growing organic grain and feeding young cows on 3,000 acres in northeastern Oregon. Last year, he and his brother Tom decided that they were getting too old for the long hours and hard work.

“We told our clients, you don’t want to rely on senior citizens for your high quality organic products. Trust me on this!” says Williams, age 68.

Their farm sold for $23 million. The buyer was a company registered in Delaware with a mailing address in Manhattan. The people behind that company wish to remain anonymous.

This left Williams with a pile of money to invest, and he parked almost $3 million of it in farmland halfway across the country. He bought 293 acres in Butler County, Iowa, from a farmer named Rich Showalter, and another 160 acres in O’Brien County from the estate of a woman who was born in Iowa but died in Indiana at the age of 100.

The end result: Control over this land has passed to people with little personal connection to it, who live a thousand miles away. The new owners will decide what happens to that land, whether to plow or drain it, or even to stop farming it entirely. Their decisions will have profound effects on rural communities, wildlife and even the global climate.

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How IoT is being used for Australian agriculture in 2019

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CSIRO’s Vertebrate Pest Detect-and-Deter (VPDaD) device

The development of IoT for agriculture is still in its early stages, but it looks promising as more farmers are putting these technologies to work.

Australian agriculture has historically been defined by long droughts and irregular rainfall. For farmers, these harsh conditions leave small margins for error, meaning that gruelling work on the paddock does not necessarily translate to healthy stock or strong crop harvests.

One way that farmers have adapted to these conditions is the use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors. But in comparison to other sectors, farmers have been slow to adopt these technologies due to concerns surrounding the cost of implementation and ongoing service—particularly when there is no immediate value received for certain IoT technologies, which can sometimes take several years of accumulating data before it shows its value.

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Dropcopter’s drones boost crop pollination by up to 60% in bad bee years

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The Dropcopter drone is designed to pollen-bomb rows of crops following a pre-programmed route

A large percentage of the world’s food production relies on bee pollination, but what do we do when the bees can’t be relied on? US startup Dropcopter has just demonstrated that it can deliver a 25 to 60 percent boost in pollination rates using autonomous drones to pick up where the bees left off.

Much has been made of the collapse of bee populations worldwide, what the causes might be and what we might be able to do about it. It’s no small issue, given how much of the global food supply hangs in the balance.

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Tarzan the swinging robot could be the future of farming

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Some farmers already use drones to monitor their crops, but a team of researchers from Georgia Tech have created a far more interesting alternative. Instead of designing yet another drone, they created a robot inspired by Kristen Bell’s favorite animal: the sloth. However, they named it “Tarzan” after the most recognizable character who moves by swinging from vine to vine.

Their machine was designed to move like the fictional jungle dweller. Tarzan will be able to swing over crops using its 3D-printed claws and parallel guy-wires stretched over fields. It will then take measurements and pictures of each plant with its built-in camera while suspended.
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This Kenyan Startup Uses Mobile Phones To Build Credit For Farmers

If you want to help the world’s poorest, help them to farm. So says Bill Gates, and it makes sense. More than three-quarters of the poorest live in rural areas and most are smallholder farmers working less than two acres. They often lack the seeds, machinery, livestock, and finance they need to grow, so they struggle to emerge from poverty.

Two young entrepreneurs from Kenya have an idea to help: FarmDrive develops credit histories for farmers, so they become more attractive to financial institutions offering loans. So far, they’ve signed up more than 3,000 farmers on their mobile-based platform. In 2016, working with a financial partner, they helped disburse about $130,000 in loans to 400 farmers.

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Scientists create cyborg rose

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Swedish scientists are taking the futuristic idea of plant cyborgs and making the leap from science fiction to real-world science. They have been working on ways to regulate plant growth, using electronic wires grown inside the plants own nutrient channels to host sensors and drug-delivery systems. The aim is to provide just the right amount of plant hormones at just the right time. Such efforts could provide even more precise human control over plant production and agriculture.

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Engineering the Secret Engines of Off-Grid Living

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Futurist Thomas Frey: Having just returned from a trip to Alaska, it occurred to me that most of the 660,000 sq miles of this beautiful state will never be habitable until a more complete off-grid solution is found. In Alaska, they’ve already figured out how to turn every one of their 3 million lakes into a landing strip, so transportation is far less of an issue than power, heat, lights, water, and communications.

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New LED light technology sheds light on the future of food

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LED growing lights, delivering sunlight whatever the weather.

This century, the challenges of growing enough food to feed the world have grown more severe. We need to feed more people with limited agricultural land and resources. We need to make better use of land, light and logistics for an increasingly urban population. And we need to incorporate zero-waste and low-energy technologies into the task of food production. (Video)

 

 

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