AgTech is an interesting, and at times, smelly, whacky and always awesome field. Here are 5 ag technologies that you can’t believe (but should love to know that they do) exist.
1. Lights that trick chickens into laying more eggs.
Hens don’t lay as many eggs during the shorter days, thanks to less sunlight. Innovators out of the University of California in Davis have turned this lack-of-laying into an opportunity. Welcome to Henlight, a small-scale, solar-powered LED light that provides a few hours of poultry-specific light in the early morning on shorter days, thereby encouraging hens to lay eggs more consistently. Check it out here.
2. Cow fart collectors that make enough energy to power a car or fridge for 24 hours.
Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology has been working on backpacks for cows that hold the 300 liters of methane the average cow produces per day. Researchers stuck tubes into the cow’s large intestine, and while having found the system to be effective, do not think the tech will go mainstream. But they do think it might be a good energy alternative for small farms. Check it out.
3. Plant “pillows” that let astronauts grow lettuce in space.
Everyone’s going green, including astronauts. NASA researchers have developed ‘plant pillows,’ which are bags that are about the size of a stove-top microwave and weigh 15 pounds. The system requires about 115 watts to operate, (which is less than half of the energy to run a computer and monitor,) and blue, red and green LEDs drive crop growth. Scientists are now testing lettuce, and say that so far, the results have proven “simple and effective.”
4. Cow collars that tell farmers when their cows are ‘in the mood.’
Yep, scientists have developed cow “wearables.” The smart collars inform cattle farmers of changes in their cow’s “normal behavior,” or as the Silent Herdsman so aptly puts it, alerting the farmer to “patterns of parturition and oestrus.” The collars, too, have attracted some investor attention, recently raising £3 million. It’s 9 o’clock. Do you know where your cows are? See the Silent Herdsman here.
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5. Robobee: Robotic Pollinators
You’ve heard that the bees are dying. But you may not have heard that some scientists have been working for years on a robot that far preceded the wide-spread hubbub surrounding the beehive collapse-crisis. Researchers at Harvard have developed the Robobee, a robot pollinator that has 274 total joints, weighs 90 mg (which is about one-sixtieth of a quarter), and even resembles a bee. Not everyone is buzzing about the project, but many see this as a dual option for pollination as researchers continue to search for fixing our bee problem.
FEATURED PHOTO: Yasser Alghofily/ Flickr