menu

Plants Act As Biosensors To Collect Agricultural Data To Help Themselves Grow Better

Plants Act As Biosensors To Collect Agricultural Data To Help Themselves Grow Better
technology

PLEASED has created intelligent plant-borgs can measure everything from the impact of pollution to chemicals used in farming.

Victoria Young
  • 29 january 2014

Plants have a communication system of electrical signals that activate in response to external stimuli — these signals are a valuable form of data, produced by plants only when they are exposed to sunlight, pollutants, nutrients or pests. PLEASED is a project from the W-Lab of the University of Rome, Italy focused on gathering raw data from plants out in nature in order to create meaningful interpretations from these signals in an ambitious attempt to leverage plants as biosensors. Should the researchers succeed, plants could become valuable and ubiquitous living sources of data that feed us information about changes in the environment, which leads to a variety of useful applications.

Data that plants, as biosensors, would be able to measure include a variety of chemical and physical parameters, such as pollution, temperature, humidity, sunlight, acid rain, and the presence of chemicals in organic agriculture or even the amount of pollution in the air. While many may argue that highly advanced artificial manmade sensors such as this already exist to measure all of these specific parameters with exceptional accuracy, interesting new insights may be found from the complex signals put out by plants. Furthermore, unlike artificial devices, plants are ubiquitous, robust, cheap, do not require calibration, and well, are actually part of nature itself – what we are trying to understand.

Andrea Vitaletti, professor of computer engineering at W-LAB of the University of Rome, Italy:

What we try to do is to classify the different signals plants produce in order to determine what kind of stimulus has been applied. Imagine you know which electrical pattern is typically produced by a sunflower when it is suffering from drought. Then, you could keep looking for that pattern in sunflowers. The plant will so-to-speak tell you when it wants some water through specific electrical signals.

The very reason using actual plants as biosensors is fascinating also presents the biggest challenge to the researchers, as interpreting the varied signals from the plants will make it difficult to differentiate between the many electrical signals that may occur simultaneously. Should PLEASED be successful in making sense of the data and finding consistent results, the team plans to develop tiny electronic devices (the size of paperclips) that can attached to the plant to collect signals generated in its natural environment. The data from this signal within a network of plants in the same area can lead to a clear analysis of changes within the environment that can impact everything from the monitoring of pollution to the certification of devices for organic farming. For example, by analyzing signals generated by the plants, it should be possible to determine whether or not the farmer has used adequate chemicals.

According to PLEASED, an open source data set of the specific stimuli and corresponding electrical signals for many plant species will be available by May 2014. Ideally, scientific teams will continue to add to and improve the quality of the data set which will hopefully lead to a rapid evolution in the effectiveness of the technology. Whether or not the concept proves to be easy to replicate, the concept of gathering data from the environment itself can lead to interesting research in the future.

Source: PLEASED

Images: PLEASED

technology
Trending

Japanese Face Wash Creates A Perfect Rose Every Time

Arts & Culture
Mobile Yesterday

Get A Better Idea Of How You Are Wasting Your Time

The TouchTime app is trying to revolutionize personal task management by providing detailed insight on how to be more efficient

Culture Yesterday

London Telephone Box Repurposed As A Tiny Mobile Repair Shop

Tools and supplies to replace broken screens or damage are neatly stowed away in these micro-workrooms

Trending

Get PSFK's Latest Report: Future of Retail: Technology Primer

See All
Design Yesterday

Conceptual Sportswear Created Out Of Futuristic Condom Material

A Dutch fashion designer is experimenting with new methods and fabrics to make high performance clothing

Fashion Yesterday

Fashionable Tassel Will Ensure You Never Lose Your Valuables Again

The device is fashion meets connected tech, that will help you keep track of your belongings at all times

Syndicated Yesterday

Would You Wear Wool Shoes To Save The Environment?

As demand for wool shoes grows, a number of US footwear brands are heading directly to the source: the sheep pastures of New Zealand

Sustainability Yesterday

Self-Healing Material Is Fashioned Out Of Squid Teeth

Penn State researchers have devised a new textile that uses organic proteins

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Search Engine Turns Your Own Drawings Into Photos

This image-matching software accepts hand-made sketches instead of keywords

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders
NEW

PSFK Op-Ed august 25, 2016

Retail Expert: What Sustainability Means To The Millennial Generation

Jo Godden, Founder of RubyMoon, discusses how brands can limit their environmental impact worldwide

PSFK Labs august 25, 2016

PSFK’s Workplace Vision: How The Nurturing Of Seeds Will Come To Define The Onboarding Process

Our Future of Work vision is a service that allows companies to assemble and deliver welcome packets that are uniquely focused on the concept of growth

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Illustrator Interprets The Experiences Of Blind Travelers

Artist Alby Letoy creates drawings of poignant travel memories for the visually impaired

Advertising Yesterday

Clickbait Titles Used For The Good Of Charity

An agency devised an unlikely campaign that uses clickbait as a positive force to drive awareness to nonprofit initiatives

Advertising Yesterday

The Best In Eye-Catching Olympics Campaigns

PSFK rounds out the Rio Games with our picks for the best advertising moments off the field

Work Yesterday

Editorial Roundtable: The Arrival Of The People-First Workplace

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary and thinkPARALLAX enumerate the reasons why companies need an employee-embracing workforce in order to exist

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Transforming Light Waves Into A New Art Form

An artist uses glass treated with layers of metallic coatings to create a unique installation called lightpaintings

INSIGHTS COVERAGE

Rio Olympics
Innovation Coverage From The Rio Games
READ NOW

Design Yesterday

This Windbreaker Lets You Explore The Outdoors While Charging Your Phone

The apparel includes solar panels that allow the wearer to stay connected through the power of renewable energy

Asia Yesterday

The Goal Of This Game Is To Not Get Laid Off From Your Job

A hit mobile app has you working really, really hard to not get fired as you climb the corporate ladder

Advertising Yesterday

Movie Critic Bot Guides Viewers Through Festival Offerings

The Toronto International Film Festival has created a Facebook Messenger chatbot to help attendants curate their schedule

No search results found.