Bio · Design · Technology · Vital-Edible-Health

A new industry born from the disaster — LED indoor farming

Humans have spent the last 10,000 years mastering agriculture. But a freak summer storm or bad drought can still mar many a well-planted harvest. Not anymore, says Japanese plant physiologist Shigeharu Shimamura, who has moved industrial-scale farming under the roof.

Working in Miyagi Prefecture in eastern Japan, which was badly hit by powerful earthquake and tsunamis in 2011, Shimamura turned a former Sony Corporation semiconductor factory into the world’s largest indoor farm illuminated by LEDs. The special LED fixtures were developed by GE and emit light at wavelengths optimal for plant growth.

The farm is nearly half the size of a football field (25,000 square feet). It opened on July and it is already producing 10,000 heads of lettuce per day. “I knew how to grow good vegetables biologically and I wanted to integrate that knowledge with hardware to make things happen,” Shimamura says.

Read full article at GE

Design · Earthly/Geo/Astro · Eco/Adaptable · Technology

Robots Test Tools For Myanmar’s Farmers

Proximity Designs is a Myanmar-based social enterprise that designs products to improve poor people’s lives. Some of the affordable creations they’ve made include foot-powered water pumps, drip irrigation systems, solar lanterns and even infrastructure projects like bridges.

An integral part of their design and manufacturing process involves putting prototypes through trials with robots that use them until they break. The group says their line of farming aids all get pushed to failure by their lab’s robot farmers, which helps improve how they’re made.

Building a reliable product is important if it is to be used under the strain of daily life in rural Myanmar. A product like a manual water pump relieves farmers of the backbreaking work of carrying up to 10 tons of water a day on their backs from distant wells.
The country’s farmers are showing their approval by opening up their wallets—Proximity Designs reports that they will sell 31,000 irrigation products in fiscal year 2013. They say their work has also resulted in a 10 to 15 percent increase in rice yield.

“Including the newest one I bought, I have three treadle pumps,” said farmer Aung San. “I made about $1,200 last year, so I bought more land to expand my plot. That’s why I bought another pump.”

Human-ities · Technology

Hail the Robotic Farmers and Pilots of the Future?

If robotic pilots and farmers mean no more underpaid/mistreated immigrants and airplane pilots falling asleep or texting while bored, then I hail. If it means patrolling other countries without their permission and perpetuating pesticide spraying (and several other factors), then I disdain.

Here is what an article at WIRED has to say:

Fighter pilot Mary “Missy” Cummings saw it coming while landing her F/A-18 supersonic jet on a Navy aircraft carrier — the world-changing disruption barreling toward the present.

Instead of landing the multi-million-dollar machine on the small deck of the ship herself in the 1990s, a computer accomplished the tricky feat for her.

“Here the computer was taking off better than I could, landing itself better than I could and doing the mission better than I ever could,” Cummings said Tuesday during the Wired Disruptive by Design business conference. “It was really humiliating. That was what used to make me better than everyone else.”

Eventually Cummings took a step back, told herself the heyday of fighter pilots was over and joined the robots. She’s now an aeronautics professor at MIT working to tackle the monotonous work of flying, farming and other industries with autonomous drones.

Excerpt of an article written by Dave Mosher, at WIRED. Continue HERE

Prospero is the working prototype of an Autonomous Micro Planter (AMP) that uses a combination of swarm and game theory and is the first of four steps. It is meant to be deployed as a group or “swarm”. The other three steps involve autonomous robots that tend the crops, harvest them, and finally one robot that can plant, tend, and harvest–autonomously transitioning from one phase to another.

Prospero is controlled with a Parallax Propeller chip mounted on a Schmart Board. Its body is designed by Lynxmotion and the orginal programming allows it to walk autonomously in any direction while avoiding objects with its duel ultrasonic Ping))) without turning it’s body. Text via YouTube

Drones are planes that fly without a human pilot. The Obama administration has used drones in patrolling Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia and Libya. PHOTO: Flickr/James Gordon

U.S. Drones Patrolling Its Skies Provoke Outrage in Iraq

Earthly/Geo/Astro · Eco/Adaptable · Performativity · Social/Politics · Technology

Stone Age Social Networks.

Continuing from the Dawn of Social Networks: Ancestors May Have Formed Ties With Both Kin and Non-Kin Based On Shared Attributes. HERE

If you ever sit back and wonder what it might have been like to live in the late Pleistocene, you’re not alone. That’s right about when humans emerged from a severe population bottleneck and began to expand globally. But, apparently, life back then might not have been too different than how we live today (that is, without the cars, the written language, and of course, the smartphone). In this week’s Nature, a group of researchers suggest that we share many social characteristics with humans that lived in the late Pleistocene, and that these ancient humans may have paved the way for us to cooperate with each other.

Modern human social networks share several features, whether they operate within a group of schoolchildren in San Francisco or a community of millworkers in Bulgaria. The number of social ties a person has, the probability that two of a person’s friends are also friends, and the inclination for similar people to be connected are all very regular across groups of people living very different lives in far-flung places.

So, the researchers asked, are these traits universal to all groups of humans, or are they merely byproducts of our modern world? They also wanted to understand the social network traits that allowed cooperation to develop in ancient communities.

Written by By Kate Shaw, Ars Technica. Continue on Wired HERE

Human-ities · Performativity · Social/Politics · Technology

Dawn of Social Networks: Ancestors May Have Formed Ties With Both Kin and Non-Kin Based On Shared Attributes

Ancient humans may not have had the luxury of updating their Facebook status, but social networks were nevertheless an essential component of their lives, a new study suggests.

The study’s findings describe elements of social network structures that may have been present early in human history, suggesting how our ancestors may have formed ties with both kin and non-kin based on shared attributes, including the tendency to cooperate. According to the paper, social networks likely contributed to the evolution of cooperation.

“The astonishing thing is that ancient human social networks so very much resemble what we see today,” said Nicholas Christakis, professor of medical sociology and medicine at Harvard Medical School and professor of sociology in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and senior author on the study. “From the time we were around campfires and had words floating through the air, to today when we have digital packets floating through the ether, we’ve made networks of basically the same kind.”

“We found that what modern people are doing with online social networks is what we’ve always done — not just before Facebook, but before agriculture,” said study co-author James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego, who, with Christakis, has authored a number of seminal studies of human social networks.

Via Science Daily. Continue HERE
Image above: The Hadza of Tanzania live as hunter-gatherers. (Credit: Courtesy of Coren Apicella/Harvard Medical School)

Earthly/Geo/Astro · Eco/Adaptable · Performativity · Technology

How might robotics and sensing technologies be used in support of local small-scale agriculture?

Over the past 100 years, the practices of agriculture have been radically altered in Western societies, spurred by development and application of a host of technologies designed to automate and monitor food production. Recently, however, many have called attention to the shortcomings of mainstream massive farming endeavors: large-scale agri-business may be producing more food, but the food itself is lacking in nutrition and the environment is suffering from these very farming practices. What is needed is a return to local and small-scale agriculture for both environmental and personal health concerns.

Engineering and design played a role in advancing the culture and practices of agri-business by producing products, systems, and services to advance and support large-scale corporate farming. The question we ask is, Can design and engineering now play a role in shifting us towards more sustainable modes of agriculture? What kinds of products, services and systems would need to be designed and engineered to enable that subversion and shift? How will technologies of automation and monitoring need to be refigured for these contexts – if indeed they are still at all useful? The growBot garden project explores these questions by bringing together designers, artists, farmers and other food producers to ask: How might robotics and sensing technologies be used in support of local small-scale agriculture?

The growBot garden
project is structured around a series of public and participatory workshops that bring together diverse constituencies to critically think about, discuss and debate, and re-make our near-term future. The workshops draw equally from practices of participatory design, critical design, social practice art, tactical media and hacking. More than a discursive platform, the workshops are design platforms: opportunities to collectively make speculative representations and prototypes of possible futures. These representations and prototypes are documented and shared through public forums to provoke consideration of new assemblages that might emerge at the intersection of technology and agriculture.