Today’s Solutions: May 23, 2022

Scientists at the Swiss deep tech company Vivent have created technology that allows us to know exactly what our plants need.

Before this, farmers have relied on secondary indicators for finding problems with their crops, looking, for example, for signs of drought by checking out their roots. But by tapping into the electrical signals that plants relay from their roots, a new technology called PhytlSigns is now giving farmers the ability to understand when their crops need water or nutrients.

Plants may not be very vocal, but they communicate quite a bit. When under stress from hunger, thirst, or insect attacks, they send signals about that stress between cells. That’s why the scientists at Vivent developed electrophysiological technology combined with custom-built algorithms that can decipher stress signals given off by plants.

Like a human on an ECG machine, Vivent can physically hook up plants to electrodes and make it possible to remotely view up-to-date information about a particular crop. As reported by Fast Company, Vivent already has an agrochemical company as a client that uses the PhytlSigns technology to monitor fungal stressors. The technology proved itself very valuable when it alerted the company that plants were still sending distressed signals even after it looked like the fungus had cleared from the plants.

Another client was able to more accurately identify when parasitic eelworms, or nematodes, were infesting and attacking plants, thanks to an algorithm built for nematode stress.

“They can see, in real-time, something happening in the soil that we’ve never been able to see before,” says Carrol Plummer, co-founder, and CEO of PhytlSigns.

For farmers, this technology could be incredibly important considering that 40 percent of crops today are lost in the field even before the harvest. With PhytlSigns, it is not only possible to monitor the health of crops but to also build automated systems around crops that cater to their exact needs. Think self-watering plants.

At the moment, the company is only working with indoor plants where conditions are under control, but in the near future, PhytlSigns hopes to expand its work to outdoor plants such as olives and almonds to conserve water in drought-prone areas. “Next summer I actually hope to have sensors on the almond trees in California,” said Carrol Plummer, co-founder, and CEO of PhytlSigns.

Solutions News Source Print this article
More of Today's Solutions

New program seeks to break the cycle between jail and homelessness

Several factors can lead to homelessness: a lack of affordable housing, high costs of living, and even, sadly, mental illness. Another factor that contributes to homelessness, which is often overlooked, is incarceration.  Many individuals serve ... Read More

How a century-old cargo schooner is bringing back emissions-free shipping

The shipping industry is responsible for 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions — putting about 940 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. Before 1960, however, when containerization started to take off, ... Read More

Dam! Europe removes record number of river barriers in 2021

In 2021, Spain began a movement to remove dams from the country’s rivers to restore fish migration routes and boost biodiversity across the nation. They successfully took down 108 barriers and inspired other European countries ... Read More

This contact lens releases glaucoma medication

While it is treatable, glaucoma remains a serious eye disease that can damage the optic nerve and lead to blindness if left untreated. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease, and research ... Read More

US soccer and national teams reach agreement to close gender pay gap

In a historic win for women’s rights, US Soccer and both the women’s and men’s national teams have proclaimed a collective bargaining agreement to close the gender pay gap and ensure that each player, regardless ... Read More

New immunotherapy drug combo slows liver cancer growth in mice

There is something of an art to the science of medicine. We’ve all heard that everyone’s different, and so is their biology. Sometimes, developing the right treatment for a patient’s condition takes dedicated and creative ... Read More