The population of planet Earth stands at 7.4 billion and is projected to break the nine billion mark by 2040. As concerns about the dwindling resources on our planet continue to escalate, it has become clear that we will need to develop ways in the near future to produce more energy, food and water with less resources.
One such solution to this problem which is undergoing heavy research right now is nanotechnology. Essentially the creation and utilization of ultra-small particles, nanotechnology can have a wide range of applications – including in agriculture and the food production industry.
Applying Nanotechnology to Agriculture:
A key area of world industry is agriculture and farming. At present, many natural resources (such as land, water, energy and chemicals) go into the fertilization process to try and maximize yield year-round. This not only consumes a lot of vital reserves but also generates much waste, some of which can lead to pollution.
The use of metal oxide and metal nanoparticles can be beneficial to the farming process since it can be sprayed directly onto leaves (thus avoiding contamination of soil) in minuscule amounts and absorbed more readily by the plant. This has the double-edged advantage of consuming less resources whilst simultaneously reducing waste and pollution.
A recent study http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.jafc.5b05224 showed that the use of zinc nanoparticles on mung beans (an agricultural product often cultivated for food in Asia) held a number of benefits for the plant. Not only did the zinc nanotechnology allow the plant to soak up more nutrients from the soil (in particular, phosphorous), it actually increased biomass by 27% and bean yield by 6%.
Meanwhile, a separate study showed that the use of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles to tomatoes gave them an added nutritional boost http://theconversation.com/how-nanotechnology-can-help-us-grow-more-food-using-less-energy-and-water-59034 , as well. Levels of lycopene (a naturally-occurring antioxidant) jumped up from anywhere between 80% to 113%, showing huge potential for the manipulation of nutrition in future produce.
NFTG and its associates have developed ultrasonic and milling technologies to manufacture nano-particles. The particles can be produced in environments that enable active sites for enhanced diffusion through cell membranes and other barriers and/or direct bonding to cell cites. Using the same technology, encapsulation or attaching to known and future carriers enables other unique transport modalities.
This methodology can be coupled with another nano-particle manufacturing technique at our disposal to yield further unique products.
Pesticides that do not infiltrate plant material but are taken up by pests can be formulated in same manner.
We do not subscribe to herbicide applications as their specific targeting is difficult to control. We believe weeds can be controlled robotically during application of the products, yielding optimal results.
ABOUT THE ENTRANT
Name: Milan Krupa
Type of entry: team
Number of times previously entering contest:3
Milan's hobbies and activities:
Racquetball, handball, solving global challenges
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Milan is inspired by:
I am inspired by reflection on global energy, economic and environmental issues and understanding that the solution lies in the necessity to improve outdated technologies, business models and socio-political paradigms.
I am also inspired by technical simplicity and elegance of advanced solutions. Its a "Wow!" moment for me.
Patent status: patented