Nanotechnology Research Takes on Sustainable Agriculture Challenges

The environmental impacts of agriculture such as water use and the negative effects of fertilizers and pesticides have long been problems faced by the agricultural sector. Recent advancements in nanotechnology have been able to face some of these issues, providing hope for an improved food supply and a reduction in negative environmental impact through agricultural practices.

Nanotechnology research concerns objects that are billionths of a metre, on the sale of atoms and molecules. Working at this incredibly small scale, customized nanoscale systems can apply precision-chemistry to target fertilizers and pesticides with precision and little waste.

Vive Crop Protection, one of Canada’s top growing companies, creates “nanopackets” comprised of chemical and biological pesticides to efficiently target crops. This advancement requires no new equipment, making it simple for farmers to implement in order to make significant gains in efficiency.

Another company, Psigryph, has identified the issue of post-harvest loss as an area in which nanotechnology can make sizable change. The company, in partnership with the University of Guelph and others, has developed food packaging using nanotechnology to increase the shelf life of mangoes. This innovation has helped to reduce post-harvest losses in Sri Lanka and India, where losses previously amounted to 40% of crops.

Other possible uses for nanotechnology in agriculture include animal health products and nanobiosensors for identifying pathogens, toxins and heavy metals in soil. Innovations such as these will become imperative in addressing increasing food demand with sustainable agricultural practices.

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