Nanotechnology Can Transform Agriculture
Combined with the impacts of climate control, production increases and scarce land have become prominent issues in agriculture on a global scale. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has predicted that the world population will approach 10 billion by 2050. As a result, the growing population will need to explore new ways of agriculture efficiency. Agrochemicals are the current method of intense crop production. However, these agrochemicals negatively affect the environment, as they contain pesticides and growth hormones which have toxic effects on consumers. Fortunately, a new solution has risen, as nanotechnology has the potential to be the answer to both efficient fertilization and crop protection. Here is some information about how nanotechnology can transform agriculture.

Current Sustainability Methods

Developing nations currently use three main sustainable methods of agriculture. First, sustainable agriculture is a farming philosophy that focuses on resource maintenance. Unlike intensive agriculture, sustainable agriculture follows natural harvest cycles, reducing the use of agrochemicals and recycling water and nutrients. Permaculture, hydroponics and agroforestry are all methods of sustainable agriculture. These three tools allow farmers to recreate natural ecosystems and help raise livestock in safe grasslands. This healthy environment produces better food quality and plant health, as livestock manure, soils and fertilizers get proper nutrients from the excrement recycling system.

Precision farming is another form of agriculture that aims to improve sustainability. This method focuses on monitoring pest and disease management, something smallholder farms in developing countries cannot regulate as much. One benefit is that precision farming aids farmers in developing cropping plans. Farmers are thus able to “combin[e] forecast data with the crop models, allow[ing] [farmers] to present data-supported recommendations that are implementable at small and large scales.” Overall, these cropping plans allow farmers to improve their environmental efforts of sustainability in an economically beneficial way.

Lastly, Climate Smart-Villages exist within rural farms in India, Columbia and Nepal. These villages deal with climate fluctuation data to anticipate participatory methods. Smart technologies, forecast services and adoption planning all help to improve harvesting techniques and plant planning. In order to increase water retention and reduce the risk of fertilizer loss, climate-smart farming reduces greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration. With these villages in place, farmers can find alternative wetting and drying methods in rice paddies, thus “reduc[ing] water consumption by 50% and reduce[ing] GHG emissions by 30-50%.” Overall, the method is able to limit consumption and improve crop growth, thus making it a more sustainable farming technique.

The Nano-Particle Solution

Climate Villages, precision farming and sustainable agriculture offer solutions to the environmental crisis in developing countries. A new method of nanotechnology that can transform agriculture is undergoing development to create materials from biological nano-structures that work within gases, liquids and solids to manipulate atomic properties. The medical field, cosmetics and electronics already use nanoparticles (NPs) due to their expansive chemical and biological properties.

When applied to agriculture, NPs work through the cellular system so they can remain within the farm’s ecosystem. NPs also help change the rate of a plant’s retainment of water, oxygen growth, sun absorption and chromosomal activity. Other developments like nano-pesticides help to regulate the number of pesticides that negatively affect food production and nano-fertilizers. Nano-fertilizers are thus able to enhance agricultural yield and reduce the use of zinc, silica and titanium dioxide.

Improving Precision Farming with NPs

One of the best features of nano-particles is the opportunity to increase funding and popularity with seed treatment. In order to improve the environmental impact of agriculture in developing countries, implementing the use of NPs into popular methods of agriculture, such as precision farming, is a feasible solution. This form of agriculture uses GPS satellite signals to gain information about harvest fluctuations by interpreting the position, velocity and time of the surrounding climate.

Nano-sensors pair well with GPS technology. These sensors work as small monitors that confirm the soil’s conditions and plant growth during changing climate. With nano-sensors, precision farming can increase production quickly with minimal cost. The United States and Australia are currently profiting from nano-sensors. Both countries have been using this technology in vineyards to grow high-quality grapes at an optimal price point.

Being able to apply nanotechnology to well-running methods of sustainable agriculture has proven to be successful so far. Developing countries such as India, Iran and Thailand have experienced economic growth with the use of nanotechnology. In India, the production of efficient water fertilizers, soil conservation, livestock nutrients and plant health monitoring have been positive changes for agriculture there. Going forward, nanotechnology can be the new solution that allows farmers to be successful in their farming without using toxic GMOs or agrochemicals. Nanotechnology can transform agriculture and is the future of farming. When applied sustainably, it can produce major changes in the world of agriculture.

Matthew Martinez
Photo: Flickr

NanoseenIn Sopot, Poland, co-founders Bartosz Kruzska and Mikolaj Granuszewski are leading innovations that could change access to clean, drinkable water forever. Startup firm, Nanoseen, is developing the NanoseenX, a water filter made of recycled metal wafers that can desalinate water. The startup, which was ranked as one of the top “15 Chemical Engineering Startups Positioned to Make it Big in 2021” by the Welp Magazine, aims to revolutionize the use and development of nanotechnology to build the most modern products. “Nanoseen is a team of nanotechnology engineers and scientists who prove remarkable properties of NanoseenX nanomaterials as a core component of the company’s products that will help solve many problems related to climate change such as water shortage and plastic pollution,” Kruszka told THEfirstNEWS. The company plans to begin mass production of its water desalination devices in 2021, making it one of the most highly anticipated startups of the upcoming year.

NanoseenX Water Filter

The filter can desalinate both brackish and seawater, giving it the potential to become essential to both disaster relief and combating global poverty. Worldwide, 780 million people do not have access to an improved water source and one in three people do not have access to safe drinking water, making clean water one of the chief obstacles of under-developed nations. Countries like Papua New Guinea, Mozambique, Tanzania and Somalia struggle with clean water but border the oceans so they can benefit greatly from the filter. The provision of clean water will not only improve sanitation but consequently improve health and infant survival rates, which is fundamental to fighting poverty. The product could also aid natural relief teams in tropical countries that are prone to hurricanes and typhoons. For example, crises like the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which cut off access to clean water in Puerto Rico for months, can be resolved. Removing clean water as a pressing concern will also give destitute communities a better opportunity to develop and escape poverty.

Other Innovative Initiatives by Nanoseen

In addition to the water filter, Kruzska elaborates that Nanoseen is tackling research on a method of damaging micro and nano-plastics in water, with the use of NanopowderX. Such development could help clear pollution in oceans, which contain 25-50 trillion macro and microplastics. Being able to filter such microplastics from the water will be the most effective way to curb this new atmospheric pollutant. The team is also pioneering unique paints that will remove pollutants from the air to fight atmospheric pollution, a phenomenon that disproportionately affects impoverished people.

Innovatively Addressing Global Issues

Nanoseen’s ingenious filter is paradigmatic of innovations in STEM creating solutions to global poverty. The startup also offers other eco-friendly and problem-solving materials. The startup’s website offers viewers more in-depth descriptions and applications of its products and states its goals of creating innovative nanomaterials to build modern products that solve the main problems of today’s world.

– Christine Chang
Photo: Flickr

Nanotechnology is Alleviating PovertyIn its most basic sense, the concepts behind nanotechnology were formulated by acclaimed physicist Richard Feynman in 1959. Over the past four decades, nanotechnology has made significant advancements and research is expanding as costs are falling. Because of these innovations, nanotechnology is alleviating poverty worldwide.

Using Nanosensors for Water Management in Agriculture

Whether mechanical or chemical, nanosensors use tools to detect minor changes in chemical composition and relay information to change the dynamics of whatever they are monitoring. Nanosensors use artificial intelligence and computing to make adjustments as soon as any predicaments arise. Because of their sensitivity and small scale, nanosensors can detect problems well before other outdated instruments.

In a study for sustainable agriculture, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) asserts nanotechnology is alleviating poverty issues such as food insecurity. The OECD study concluded that nanosensors effectively detect changes in moisture across fields of crops. They then automatically adjust the disbursement of water and eliminate water waste while preventing crop losses. Farm machines outfitted with nanosensors detect moisture levels in different crops and suggest better-suited areas for specific crops allowing farmers to change planting patterns or change water allocations to other land plots.

Nanofiltration Membranes Provide Clean Drinking Water

Access to clean water is a crisis that many developing countries face. Usually, the first issue dealt with when fighting poverty is economic development so regulations are not often in place to protect against pollution. In some countries, scarcity of clean groundwater becomes problematic too. However, nanotechnology is alleviating poverty in these areas by providing clean drinking water.

Ghana was the center of a study on the effectiveness of nanofiltration membranes conducted by the International Water Association (IWA) and members of the Indian Institute of Science. The IWA chose to test Ghana’s groundwater due to the high level of pollutants present. During the study, it tested the levels of contaminants, bacteria and natural materials that render water non-potable before and after utilizing nanofiltration membranes.

The results of the IWA study were impressive. Not only did the study determine that nanofiltration reduces pollutants to potable levels, but executed efficiently enough, rural areas could produce enough water for more than 100 households. Ultimately, the conclusion was that nanofiltration was a low-cost solution for drinking water access and production in impoverished rural regions worldwide.

Nanotechnology to Fight Infectious Disease

Most original concepts of nanotechnology’s usefulness focused on medical care. The World Health Organization (WHO) has long been fond of utilizing nanotechnology in health care and fighting infectious diseases. The WHO now recognizes that nanotechnology is alleviating poverty in developing nations through scientific medical breakthroughs.

The first need for nanotechnology to address in developing countries is the diagnosis of disease. Nanobiotechnology allows for an inexpensive option to find multiple dangerous microbes using a single test. These technologies have improved over time and are being used in developing nations to detect most viral and bacterial infections, including tuberculosis.

The COVID-19 vaccine development shows the importance of nanotechnology in the prevention of disease too. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a nanocarrier system designed to activate the immune system to fight COVID-19 by assisting antibody production. The distribution of the vaccine to developing nations is now underway.

The Future of Nanotechnology for Poverty Reduction

Nanotechnology is alleviating poverty in developing nations, and with continued scientific inquiry and advancements in nanotechnology, new applications for poverty reduction will improve. Nanotechnology’s cost-effectiveness and versatility make it one of the most viable technologies to assist in the struggle against poverty.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Flickr

NanotechnologyClean drinking water is one of the most basic needs for humans, yet almost 783 billion people worldwide do not have access to it. Each year an estimated 6 to 8 million people die globally as a consequence of water-related diseases. These statistics reinforce the absolute necessity that is clean drinking water and the devastating results of inaccessibility to this necessity.

The suitability of water for human consumption requires that the water not only not be turbid but be free from toxins as well. Turbidity refers to the loss of transparency in the water due to visible impurities while toxins, which must be removed, are chemical secretions of organisms — particularly bacteria and fungi — that cause disease.

To make water sanitary for drinking needs, both of these impurities require proper expulsion from the water source. Many of the traditional techniques of purifying water focus exclusively on one kind of impurity. For example, the chlorination method can only kill microorganisms, whereas filtration can only remove sizable impurities. However, nanotechnology might be able to do both.

Today, the use of nanoparticles has revolutionized industry, from nanoparticle-coated bandages to food containers. Nanotechnology is essentially the application of nanoparticles, particles ranging from 1 to 100 nanometers in size. These particles can be of various species: pure metals like silver, metal compounds like zinc oxide or even nonmetals like carbon and silicon.

As in other fields, nanoparticles have a part in purifying contaminated water. Nanoparticles of varying sizes and chemical properties are being used to rectify both turbidity as well as microbial toxins. The usefulness of the nanoparticles depends on their size-to-area ratio, which magnifies the chemical as well as physical properties of the substance the nanoparticle is made of.

The use of nanoparticles such as carbon nanotubes and graphene rely on this increased surface area of the nanoparticle to maximize the adsorption of heavy metal ions as well as other pollutants. Many metal nanoparticles such as iron — which is currently being used on commercial levels for water treatment purposes as well – can function in the same way as carbon adsorption by forming bimetallic couples with inorganic, heavy metals in the water.

Additionally, the chemical reactivity of the nanoparticles is enhanced by the increase in the metal’s surface area. Nanoparticles, such as titanium, employ this quality to remove pollutants. Chemically reactive nanoparticles are being used to remove micro pollutants by changing the pollutant into an innocuous form through redox reactions.

Another major use of nanoparticles is in the removal of microbes. The presence of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi can lead to buildup of microbial toxins. These toxins can lead to serious diseases, such as diarrhea and cholera.

Nanoparticles can combat these problems, by first killing harmful microbes and then by neutralizing the effects of the toxins. Silver nanoparticles are known for their antimicrobial properties. The presence of silver causes fatal DNA mutations in the microbes. The use of desalinating nanoparticles of carbon can also cause microbial cell death by disrupting the cellular osmotic balance. Both these approaches eliminate harmful microorganisms from water. Moreover, nanoparticles such as titanium oxide can react with toxins from microbes, which results in degradation of the toxin to a harmless chemical.

These attributes and a wide range of possible applications make the usage of nanoparticles for the purposes of water purification very promising. However, researchers need to carefully weigh the safety of nanoparticle-treated water intake as well as potential environmental consequences against the prospective benefits of nanotechnology.

– Atifah Safi

Sources: UMExpert, Elsevier, NCBI, USGS, Nanoiron
Photo: O Exotextiles