Agricultural Innovation
Published Author Category Events, Frontier RTP, RTP, RTP180

How fitting that for our first virtual RTP180, we talked about Agricultural Innovation? Electronics have been an important part of this industry for making sure our growing population has what it needs in the future.

First up was Dr. Robert Beach, a senior economist from RTI International. He spoke about using satellites to gather data to make agricultural-based decisions. According to Dr. Beach, a major challenge in the agricultural sector is achieving global food security, which requires advances in both efficiency and sustainability. With our current population trends, 60% more food will be needed in 2050, and there’s a lot of interest from NGOs to help out with this. Dr. Beach says RTI has already started some projects in Rwanda using drones to capture variability in crops being grown, the stage of crops, and more. With these drones, they can identify major crops, forests and structures. These satellites are proving important to improving data systems, as they help understand and explore alternative practices and strategies. These drones can help determine where to go and when, and more efficiently leverage the agricultural system. Imagine knowing exactly where you should plant to yield the most crop. This tech is taking guess-work out of it.

Next up was Andy Renz, VP of business development at Vestaron (one of our tenants on the Frontier RTP campus)! Andy gave an overview on the power of synthetics and the peptide-based revolution in crop protection that Vestaron is leading. Andy gave us information on why chemical pesticides are important but have downsides, like environmental damage, causing harm to insects, and causing issues for consumers. Because of this, Vestaron created a product that uses peptides instead of pesticides, which doesn’t come with these harmful downsides. The product that they’ve created is produced in a food-grade yeast system and it’s environmentally friendly; you can spray and harvest on the same day. Why is this important? With the growing population and use of products to keep insects off of crops, peptides are a safer and more environmentally friendly option for us to go with.

Then, Dr. Rody Hawkins from Improved Nature took the floor to talk about plant-based proteins, which are growing more and more popular in our society. More than half of Americans are incorporating plant-based foods into their diet, and “flexitarians” are leading the movement. At Improved Nature, they developed a non-GMO soy protein, which requires less land, consumes less water, and produces less pollution. They’re using just one ingredient and then using their technology to create the product. Their plant-based product tastes so similar to meat, that Dr. Hawkins “has to keep reminding himself that he’s not eating meat.” They even brought their product to the LA school system to see if kids would like it, and he had one girl say she liked it more than Chick-fil-a! A huge reason that they started developing this product is that by 2050, we will have 10 billion mouths to feed. As Dr. Hawkins said, “Our responsibility is to create a better planet by creating better menu options.” 

Last up, Nick Genty from AgEye Technologies talked to us about indoor farming to ensure adequate food supply for the growing population. Smart devices in indoor farming are used for things like smart lights and CO2 generation. Nick talked about how indoor farms can use AIoT (Artificial Intelligence + Internet of Things) to provide things like biofeedback control, environmental monitoring and crop control. This type of data can decrease crop loss, carbon footprint, and maintenance costs as well. These farms could then self-regulate and give the plant exactly what it needs, and it makes it easier for the farmers because it doesn’t require a lot of new skills from them. 

Ready for more #RTP180? Our next topic is Architecture—be sure to register for the June 18 event!

Thanks to presenting sponsor RTI International for enabling us to provide a platform for our community to share their knowledge.