Connect with us

Sustainability

Increasing Protein in Plants Could be the Next Big Thing for Food Security

Published

on

Increasing Protein in Plants Could be the Next Big Thing For Food Security

Food Security

You have probably heard about the importance of sustainability and net zero goals, but have you heard about food security?

Food security is an important topic. In 2023, the world’s demand for resources exceeded what it could generate for the entire year on August, 2. In other words, we used up a year’s worth of resources in just 7 months, and much of this was due to food waste.

From restoring a billion oysters to identifying black holes in space, AI is everywhere. Now, it is making food production and distribution much more effective; more specifically, synthetic biology is using AI to increase the nutritional value of plants so that they can produce as much protein as possible

And this could have some great benefits to ensure food security in the future.

What is Food Security?

“Food security is when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

THE FOOD and agriculture organization

In 2020, more than 800 million people faced hunger. Projections show that food will become even more scarce than it is today, and this means food will become more expensive in the future.

The gravity of this situation is recognized internationally. Alongside climate action to reduce global warming, one of the important goals defined by the UN is Zero Hunger. In order to achieve this goal, and better ensure food security, new methods for refining the quality of food may be required.

One such method that is starting to gain momentum is synthetic biology.

What is synthetic biology?

Synthetic biology is a discipline that focuses on re-designing biological systems. It sometimes sounds like a science fiction movie, but it may not be as far-fetched as it sounds.

In the past, animal insulin was used for the treatment of diabetic patients. It was extracted from the pancreas of animals, usually pigs. Today, the manufacturing of insulin for medical purposes is 100% synthetic. In just 40 years, the insulin market has been totally revolutionized. 

Now imagine that instead of simply extracting protein from plants—as is done for plant-based protein powders—we found a way to increase the protein in those plants—what is known as increasing protein yield. This is what companies like MNDL Bio, a synthetic biology startup are working towards.

How Does Increasing Protein Yield in Plants Help Food Security?

Synthetic biology is a branch of science that can potentially be used to increase the amount of beneficial protein in food. By optimizing the gene expression of certain plants, the protein yield of these plants increases, and so does their nutritional value. Nearly 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in protein. If more foods contain the nutritional properties needed for a healthy lifestyle, then the percentage of people who have the means to live a healthier lifestyle will increase.

How Does AI Help Synthetic Biology?

The scientific record of DNA sequences found in many plants and animals is extremely large, which makes data processing difficult. With AI, however, large amounts of data can be sifted through quickly and efficiently. Companies like MNDL have taken machine learning a step further and developed an AI-driven algorithm that enables a more generic approach to optimizing gene expression. Their technology is based on proven research and is being offered as SaaS (software as a service) to research labs and pharma companies that specialize in synthetic biology. Their innovative software has won the Coller Startup Competition 2023 in the food tech track.

Food Security means helping the homeless

IC inspiration

The world has already seen its fair share of hunger, but scientists are leading diverse frontiers to achieve a paradigm shift for sustainability. Synthetic biology applies engineering principles to redesign and optimize biological systems. Biological systems are very complex and modern tools that enable us to deeply research these systems and gain a lot of data are very important. It is no wonder that AI facilitates and accelerates research and development in this field.

The synthetic biology market is expected to grow 7 fold by 2032, reaching $116 Billion. Synthetic biology is not only useful for food security and the agricultural industry but is also driving innovations in the energy market, medicine, and the bio-materials market.

The incredible expected growth rate of synthetic biology is largely due to the advancement of Artificial Intelligence, and by seeing how AI is advancing nearly every field of research, it becomes easier to Imagine affordable and sustainable food systems.

What if we could enhance farming yields while protecting the water and forest resources of the world? Imagine homeless people enjoying good food at no cost daily because AI can accurately forecast food surpluses that can be delivered to the homeless from restaurants at the end of each day.

All this is already happening on a small scale in diverse pilot initiatives and startups. To expand this effect, it is important to harness technology to improve food security and sustainability. This may just include synthetic biology.

Ofra Kleinberger-Riedrich is an informative content specialist and result oriented content marketer with 15+ years experience in B2B marketing.

Sustainability

Seaweed Plastic: An Emerging Solution to Plastic Pollution

Published

on

Seaweed plastic in the vast ocean.

Seaweed Plastic

Every minute, two garbage truck’s worth of plastic enters our oceans.

And every other minute, thousands of people across the world dedicate themselves to creating low-cost, biodegradable plastic alternatives that dissolve as soon as it enters the ocean.

This spells good news for the future of our human underwater habitats.

What is Seaweed Plastic?

Seaweed plastic are plastic alternatives that are made from seaweed, and that are bio-degradable. This means that when any of these “plastics” reach the ocean, it will dissolve as soon it touches the water. Moreover, seaweed is also edible, making seaweed plastics less likely to end up in oceans because there is an option that it might end up in the stomach of users.

Who Invented Seaweed Plastic?

The Idea of a seaweed plastic alternative was developed by engineering college students Rodrigo García González, Pierre-Yves Paslier and Guillaume Couche. They were the first to invent the “edible water bottle”, a sachet made from seaweed which contains water, and which was sold by the startup Ooho. in 2019, Ooho rebranded to the name Notpa, and has since included food packaging, rigid cutlery and containers among their bioplastic products.

What are the Disadvantages of Seaweed Plastic?

  • High Cost: Production costs are high for seaweed plastics, making their demand low and their production limited.
  • Less durable: Seaweed plastic alternatives are biodegradable, but they have weak mechanical properties compared to traditional plastics. This makes them less durable, and more prone to tearing.
  • Limited Applications: Seaweed plastics currently have a very limited use and are often restricted to gift and food wraps, tea bags, and sachets; whereas, conventional plastics can be used for almost everything.

What are the Advantages of Seaweed Plastic?

Less than 10% of plastics actually end up being recycled. This makes seaweed plastic alternatives much more practical as a solution to plastic pollution than recycling. The advantages of seaweed plastic alternatives include the following:

  • Biodegradable: Traditional plastics can take centuries to decompose; however, plastics made from seaweed dissolve as soon as it reaches the ocean.
  • Edible: Bioplastics made from seaweed don’t need to reach the ocean in the first place because they can be eaten. Imagine receiving a gift-wrapped present in the near future and knowing that if you wanted to, you can have your gift and eat it too.
  • Carbon Capture: Seaweed cultivation absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping mitigate the affects of climate change and create a clean energy future.
  • Healthier Oceans: It is estimated that algae produce up to 70% of Earth’s oxygen. If seaweed plastics end up reaching the ocean, it will contribute to a healthy environment for both terrestrial and marine life—assuming nobody eats their grocery bag first.

Can Seaweed Replace Plastic?

Seaweed is indeed replacing plastic, but not to the extent where it is currently making a large difference in reducing plastic pollution. Startups like Mumbai-based Zerocircle are creating tea bags, burger wrappers, gift wraps, and grocery store bags from seaweed plastic; however, while seaweed plastics are good for some applications, they are not likely to completely replace plastic.

Zerocircle received $200,000 from the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize for bringing to life a bio-degradable alternatives to plastic films. Lonely Whale in association with TOM FORD BEAUTY and The Estée Lauder Companies have also helped the startup receive widespread market adoption.

While still in its early stages, production methods for seaweed-based bioplastics are evolving. We will see more of these plastic alternatives being used in the future as its uses become more versatile.

A tropical ocean filled with seaweed that can be used to make plastic seaweed.

IC INSPIRATION

India has the biggest plastic pollution problem in the world.

In many parts of the world, plastic pollution is so bad, that creating bio-degradable alternatives is the only solution to the problem. For these places, it is more effective to create plastic alternatives that biodegrade than it is to recycle.

Some impoverished areas are not easily accessible to garbage trucks, so the garbage that doesn’t accumulate in these neighborhoods ends up polluting the ocean, and much of this garbage consists of plastics.

Companies like Zerocircle is so ingenious because it seeks to solve a problem by targeting the source.

Efforts to replace traditional plastic with materials like seaweed bioplastics contribute to protecting the ecosystems that support species like long-lived tortoises—which can live up to more than 150 years and have the power to create, change, protect, and even destroy an entire habitat. 

If that’s not worthy of an inspiring click, then I don’t know what is!

Continue Reading

Sustainability

Archangel Ancient Tree Archive: Cloning Ancient Trees to Build Strong Forests

Published

on

archangel ancient tree archive (AATA). cloning ancient trees

Archangel Ancient Tree Archive

Archangel Ancient Tree Archive (AATA) is a non-profit organization that locates and then clones the world’s most ancient trees. They do this to propagate the powerful DNA of these ancient trees—which they say can cool down the earth 10 times faster than ordinary trees can.

Where is the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive?

Volunteers at Archangel have successfully cloned over 150 ancient trees and then planted tens of thousands of these trees in over 7 countries including France, the US, and New Zealand. Trees act as powerful carbon stores, and that is part of the reason why such great emphasis is put on regrowing forests to stop the climate crisis.

History of Archangel Ancient Tree Archive

In 2008, co-founder David Milarch embarked on a journey to save the last remaining population of old-growth trees after a life-long battle with alcoholism led him to a near-death experience.

A day came when he was so fed up with the life he was living that he left his bottles of alcohol outside his room door and locked himself in. He made a strong promise to himself that he would not come out until the alcohol was completely out of his system…

3 days later his kidneys began to fail, and he ended up in the emergency room.

When he woke up, he said he was revealed a mission: clone ancient trees and then plant them. Ever since, the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive has located the remaining 2% of the largest and oldest living trees on the planet and began cloning them, then preserving their genetics in a “Living Library”.

This living library preserves the genetics of these trees by species, safeguarding the DNA and genetic heritage of the sort of trees that grow 10 times faster than current generations. Trees that grow 10 times faster will help in recovering forests lost to deforestation and forest fires 10 times quicker, creating lusher forests, and contributing to the planet’s health at a rate that is faster than the descendants of these trees.

Champion Trees of the AATA

David Milarch’s family and numerous volunteers of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive have called these trees “Champion Trees”. The idea is that by planting them, these Champion Trees go on to share their genetics with existing trees, which strengthens the forests’ ability to store carbon and preserve habitats.

In their YouTube video “About Archangel Ancient Tree Hive”, Dr. William J. Libby, science advisor at Archangel expresses: “What we are doing is, we are not changing the genetic constitution of any trees. In fact, we are trying to capture that so it can be studied in the future without being changed.”

How do you Clone Ancient Trees?

Volunteers climb to the top of these trees, trim the ends of the branches from a height not yet touched by any chemicals or new hormones, and send the cuttings to their Michigan facility so that cloning can begin.

This entire process of cloning, archiving, and then reforestation, has become a healing system for the entire planet, thanks to the efforts of David Milarch and this motivational organization.

How Does the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive Help Forests?

In 2020 the devastating Castle Fire took away half of the ancient trees in Sequoia Crest in California, which is home to the oldest living trees on the planet. These trees were presumed to be immune to fires. 

However, AATA foresaw the possibility of such an event happening due to rising temperatures and had been working for a decade before the event to collect material and clone these ancient trees from American forests. Ultimately, these seedlings helped the team to quickly rebuild the burnt area of the forest and provide new life to these giant Champion Trees, and the habitats that come with them.

Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, AATA

IC Inspiration

The wisdom embedded in trees preserved by The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive goes beyond our full understanding, but from what we do understand, trees are fascinating beyond what we could have imagined.

In Peter Wohlleben’s book “The Hidden Life of Trees”, he familiarizes us with the ability of trees to feel and communicate with life around them. They share signals, nutrients, and information with one another through their intricate system of roots. They have even shown that they know, in their own way, that they have families. They can feel pain and even protect one another from harm.

For example, in South Africa, acacia trees employ a fascinating communication method by releasing a “warning gas” called ethylene to alert neighboring trees of the looming threat of giraffes who are waiting to feast on their leaves. The trees that receive this warning gas through the air on time, quickly respond by releasing toxins into their leaves, making them bitter for giraffes to consume them.

The giraffe stops eating them, and those trees stay protected.

This is what allows the ancient trees to strengthen the newer species around them; they carry the resilience and wisdom required to survive for thousands of years against all odds.

Archangel has also started a Tree School which is meant to be an inspiration to the younger generation, encouraging them to reforest the planet and save it from the dangers of climate change.

Forest schools descended from Europe and can now be found in places all around the world. These schools provide education in outdoor environments like forests. The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive notes that schools like this will play a very important role in the future.

“My vision for Tree School is to have something so simple, so compelling, a major solution to reversing climate change so that all the world’s grandchildren and the ones to come, have a fair shot at being able to survive on this planet.” Notes David Milarch on the official website.

With more people coming together to preserve the natural ecosystem of this world, such as The Singhs, who restored a significant part of the Ranthambore Forest to provide a home for endangered tigers, the future of our planet Earth looks brighter than ever before!

Continue Reading

Sustainability

Rajkumari Ratnavati Girls School: Empowering Girls and Building Futures

Published

on

rajkumari ratnavati girls school

Rajkumari Ratnavati Girls School

Nestled within the heart of Rajasthan, India, the Rajkumari Ratnavati Girls School was created in the middle of the desert to give girls the gift of education in a place where the literacy rate of women is only 52%. The school has even employed many of the parents of these girls, not only offering young women a feminine sanctuary to relax and heal in the desert but also helping one of the most economically challenged parts of India.

Who Created the Rajkumari Ratnavati Girls School?

The Rajkumari Ratnavati school was envisioned by CITTA, a nonprofit whose visionary efforts involve healing and educating communities in some of the most economically distressed places around the world. CITTA then brought in Diana Kellogg, founder of Diana Kellogg Architects for the design— a firm that traditionally specializes in the creation of high-end, sophisticated projects in New York.

How Was Rajkumari Ratnavati Designed?

Aside from being known for its incredible terrain and historical palaces, Rajasthan is predominantly desert. The elliptical structure of the school makes it so that there is no need for AC, or electricity for that matter. The structure of the school channels high-pressure winds and transforms them into cool breezes, giving the school the ability to keep the girls cool even in temperatures that surpass a searing 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Not only is the school a remarkable example of sustainable architecture, but it also highlights the massive impact architecture can have on people and society.

A portion of the school includes the Gyaan Center, an enclave inspired by the CITTA as part of the effort to educate these girls. The Gyaan Center imparts traditional and economically friendly embroidery and weaving skills to the girls, taught by local artisans.

The School Reflects Culture, Community, and Empowerment

The school does so much more than educate girls; it preserves and continues the rich legacy of their Rajasthani culture. The designer Dianna Kellogg used this as the inspirational drive that went on to make the school as incredible as it is.

“I wanted to make a building about space and light and community and not about design — a structure that resonated with the soul and femininity and enforced the natural energies to nurture and heal the women and girls”, said Diana Kellogg in an interview with Hannah Feniak. “As a woman myself, it was imperative in my design process to honor women to the best of my ability, especially from the cultural context in India.”

Diana Kellogg’s remarkable mindfulness stands as an extraordinary source of inspiration. Expressing healing energies and a hopeful outlook for these young girls not only forges a path toward a brighter tomorrow for these students but also resonates as a motivational march toward a more empowered global sisterhood.

rajkumari ratnavati girls school

IC INSPIRATION

Understanding one another in our interconnected global village doesn’t have to be complex.

We all have diverse cultures, traditions, languages, and ideas, but if we can express those things in a positive light, then inspiration becomes creation, and creation goes on to inspire.

After all, Diana Kellogg successfully weaved local customs of Rajasthan and Jaisalmer into the design of this magnificent school without even being from there; but by understanding and then expressing that culture in the light of education and healing.

Her inspiration created the school, and now the school inspires the girls. Who knows the incredible impact that these girls may have in the future to come.

Differences don’t need to be barriers as long as we have people with the willingness to express their creativity in the hope that they will be able to spread good in the world.

There seems to be no limit to human creativity. One women—like Kiki Grammatopoulos—invents rewilding shoes, which helps grow forests while you run. And another—like Mira Kulkarni— creates a successful business that imparts ayurvedic wisdom.

It’s an amazing thought that when you break barriers, you get creative; and when you get creative, you break barriers.

It’s as if differences exist to spark the inspiration needed for us to create things that don’t exist yet.

Continue Reading

Trending