An international team of researchers recently received a $3.5 million grant from NASA to map the world’s crops. Using satellite data, NASA is hoping to create an information system that tracks what crops are being grown around the world and whether or not they are “irrigated or rain-fed.”

The information collected from the mapping project is expected to help forecast harvests, observe the global effects of climate change on crops, and determine where food aid is needed most.

The project is being developed in anticipation of increased global food demand over the next century. The world population is expected to increase by 2 billion between now and 2050, according to the United Nations. The mapping project will help establish where crop growth is most productive, which will be critical information as water demand increases along with population growth.

By 2050, the United Nations projects that global food demand will increase by 70%. Adding to the challenge of growing food demand is an increase in food prices. The NASA mapping project will hopefully mitigate both issues by presenting scientists with the data necessary to determine which areas are most conducive to crop growth throughout the world. More successful crop yields will help cushion from spikes in food prices, allowing more people throughout the world to purchase nutritious foods.

– Jordan Kline

Source: United Nations, Arizona Daily Sun
Photo: United Nations


In developing nations maternal deaths are far too common, and postpartum hemorrhage is the leading cause of deaths of mothers in these countries, accounting for nearly a quarter of all maternal deaths in the world according to the World Health Organization.

Postpartum hemorrhage is when the mother loses too much blood after giving birth, cutting off oxygen to the brain and other vital organs. This condition is very rare in developed countries because the medical care is much more advanced and available than in lower-income nations. Also, most women in poorer countries give birth at home and don’t have timely access to a hospital.

The non-pneumatic anti-shock garment, also called a lifewrap, is designed to combat this problem and lower the number of postpartum hemorrhage deaths. It’s made of simple materials—neoprene and Velcro—and was originally created by NASA for space programs. It was presented by health experts at the Women Deliver 2013 conference, a meeting of policymakers, researchers, and advocates to focus on women’s empowerment and health.

The lifewrap works by restricting blood flow, therefore limiting blood loss. The garment is wrapped around a women’s legs and abdomen to slow the bleeding and send oxygen back to the heart, lungs, and brain—areas that need it the most. The product is simple, yet it can be a lifesaver.

However, the lifewrap is intended to only be a way to buy time so that women can get to a hospital. With postpartum hemorrhage, they only have about two hours from the time the bleeding starts before they die of blood loss, and the lifewrap extends that time frame so that they can make it to a hospital to receive proper medication and care.

– Katie Brockman

Source: The Guardian, Women Deliver
Photo: The Guardian


NASA recently invested $125,000 in a project aimed to solve the challenges of supplying food in space missions. The project would astronauts to create their own food in space by utilizing 3D printers.

Just as a paper printer shapes ink to form letters, a 3D printer uses different materials to create a 3D object. To produce food for its astronauts in space, NASA is looking to print edible materials with 3D printers, including powdered forms of carbohydrates, proteins, and other nutrients. 3D printers could be beneficial for long space voyages because powdered substances could last up to 30 years.

While NASA may be looking to use 3D food printers for space travel, there is great potential for the use of 3D printers here on Earth, namely to end world hunger. With the long shelf life of food produce by 3D printers, the concern of food being wasted due to spoilage disappears. The powdered forms of the nutrients are also easier to transport because they exist in a more compact state.

The nutrients used in a 3D printer can also be retrieved from unconventional sources. For instance, insects could be used as a source of protein, which the UN has noted recently as a way to fight world hunger. Insects are rich in protein, emit less greenhouse gases than livestock, and are easy to harvest. Whether or not insects are used as the protein source of printed foods, the 3D printer could allow for better transportation and longevity of nutrients, which would help considerably in the fight to end world hunger.

– Jordan Kline

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,National Geographic,Time Magazine
Photo: Wikipedia

Nike has partnered with NASA, USAID and the US Department of State to bring together specialists, designers, academics, manufacturers, entrepreneurs and NGOs to take action around a global challenge — sourcing and utilizing sustainable materials. A three-day LAUNCH 2020 Summit is planned for September 2013, highlighting the importance of innovation and collaboration in developing materials that will not have a negative impact on people and the planet.

It is estimated that around 150 billion garments were produced around the world in 2010, and by 2015 the global apparel industry is expected to produce more than 400 billion square meters of fabric every year. This massive industry has a tremendous effect on agriculture, natural resources, communities, and environmental damage due to toxins, waste and carbon emissions.

LAUNCH, started in 2010, seeks “innovations that will transform the system of fabrics to one that advances equitable global economic growth, drives human prosperity and replenishes the planet’s resources.”  This is what sustainability is all about; finding business practices that are not detrimental, while also allowing for continued growth.

There is also a LAUNCH 2013 Challenge Statement, an open call for innovators to invent new systems of producing fabrics. In August, 2013, the 10 strongest ideas will be selected and participants will take part in an intensive program to provide them access to “capital, creativity and capacity.” Three years ago LAUNCH chose astronaut Ron Garan’s innovation on clean water. Garan developed a concept to deliver clean water, energy and sanitation to poor communities, through the combination of sustainable development and carbon credits. As part of the LAUNCH process, Garan met with experts and investors to bring his idea to life. His Carbon for Water project has now successfully distributed one million filters that provide clean water to 4.5 million people in Kenya.

Nike also recently joined 32 other multinational companies, including eBay, IKEA, L’Oréal and Limited Brands, in signing a “Climate Declaration” asking federal policymakers to take action on climate change. As part of the declaration, the companies also asserted that over coming climate challenge is also one of the biggest American economic opportunities of the 21st century.

– Mary Purcell
Source: Sustainable Brands, LAUNCH



3D Printed Food
NASA is currently sponsoring Anjan Contractor, a senior mechanical engineer at Systems and Materials Research Corporation (SMRC), with a grant through the Small Business Innovation program to create a 3D food printer that can create real, edible food from powder. The goal is to be able to create food that can be eaten in space with a long shelf life. The creators are trying to synthesize all the ingredients that are in normal food, like proteins, carbohydrates, and various other nutrients, into a powder form. Without the moisture, the food can last 30 years.

The researchers also say that the powders can come from some unlikely sources, such as algae, grass, and insects. The first product for the 3D food printer is pizza because the layers in the food make it easier to “print.” First the printer will bake the dough, then the other layers (with oil and water added to the powder) will be added one at a time to create a printable pizza. Also, each food will have its own unique software to allow the user to customize their printer and bake a variety of foods.

Although the creation was originally intended to provide astronauts tastier food that will last longer in space, the invention could also help end world hunger by making longer-lasting food that can be packed and shipped easily around the world to places that need it the most.

Katie Brockman

Source Los Angeles Times

What do NIKE, NASA, and USAID have in common? The search for sustainable materials to be used in the production of goods.  As members of LAUNCH, an initiative to raise awareness around the sustainable production of goods, NIKE, NASA, USAID, and the State Department recently gathered with 150 materials specialists, designers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and NGOS to ignite action around the issue.

The two-day LAUNCH 2020 Summit was opened by NIKE, INC. CEO Mark Parker. He stressed the importance of innovation and collaboration in the area of producing sustainable goods. The Summit also served to reveal the LAUNCH 2013 Challenge Statement. This is an open call for innovation in sustainable materials and good production. The challenge is create innovation in the system of producing fabrics and is open to both individuals and teams. In August, the 10 strongest ideas will be selected and granted access to creativity, capital, and capacity.

The materials used to produce goods play a significant role in the environment. LAUNCH was created to address this growing issue and to seek innovations solutions to global issues.  Three years ago, LAUNCH was able to provide the needed capital to get Astronaut Ron Garan’s clean water innovation into production.  His project-Carbon for Water-used carbon credits and a filter system to clean dirty water. His filter has provided  clean water for over 4.5 million Kenyans.  LAUNCH was also a key player in Gram Power, a program providing thousands of people in India affordable, renewable energy.

You can learn more about Launch at their website or sign up for the 2013 challenge here.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: NIKE, INC.
Video: Vimeo