SoilMate’s Weekly News Digest #6

NASA’s discovery could make farming on Mars a reality.

Now, thanks to the recent discovery of the International Space Station (ISS), researchers can help create the «fuel» that will support plants to withstand external stressors.

However, further experimental biology is needed to prove that it can be a game-changer in space agriculture.

“To grow plants in extreme places where resources are minimal, isolation of novel microbes that help to promote plant growth under stressful conditions is essential,” said NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory researchers.


Initial Texas agricultural loss estimates from February’s storms exceed $600 million.

Photo by Elisabeth Lee on Unsplash

According to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the winter storms, which hit the entire state of Texas, caused at least $600 million in agricultural losses.

“A large number of Texas farmers, ranchers, and others involved in commercial agriculture and agricultural production were seriously affected by Winter Storm Uri,” said Jeff Hyde, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension director. “Freezing temperatures and ice killed or harmed many of their crops and livestock as well as causing financial hardships and operational setbacks. And the residual costs from the disaster could plague many producers for years to come.”

AgriLife Extension estimates the biggest losses of state agriculture by commodity:

Citrus crops — $230 million or more.

Livestock — $228 million or more.

Vegetable crops — $150 million or more.


Dutch students are developing a broccoli harvesting robot.

Last month, two students from the Dutch Inholland University of Applied Sciences started a postgraduate course as part of the Smart Farming Broccoli project. They are going to design a method for detecting and harvesting broccoli.

Thijs Bouwes — a fourth-year IT student, will develop an image recognition method for broccoli heads. Stefan Zwagerman — a fourth-year engineering student, will create a gripping device for gathering broccoli heads.

With this technology, the robot will be able to detect and evaluate broccoli heads in the field by size and quality and then make a decision to collect broccoli or not.


Float Foods, a plant-based whole-egg startup, received a grant from Temasek.

A Singapore startup developing a plant-based egg replacement received an undisclosed grant from the Temasek Foundation.

Photo by Юра Коржик on Unsplash

Float Foods, founded last June by a serial entrepreneur and former Choolani sales and marketing manager, will use the project development grant to commercialize OnlyEg, a plant-based replacement for a whole egg. It would also work on developing the formulation of the product to improve its nutritional potential and extend its shelf life.

OnlyEg is produced from legumes and contains «as many proteins and vitamins» as the chicken egg, claims the startup. It consists of two parts and includes egg whites and egg yolks.


What is the Sustainable Farming Incentive and what does it mean for growers?

The SFI is a new scheme for farmers that rewards environmental land management. Within each standard, there are three levels for participants — introductory, intermediate, and advanced.

Farmers who decided to enter the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) at the end of this year will be able to choose one of eight «standards», including two that are of particular importance for agricultural enterprises.

In order to meet the standard of arable and horticultural soils, producers must maintain and improve the condition and structure of their soil to ensure clean water and increase resilience to climate change, biodiversity, and food production.





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