There is little doubt, fluctuating temperatures and inconsistent rainfall is having a negative impact on crop growth and that stunted crop growth has geographical, social, political and economic ramifications.
To put this into perspective, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) one in nine people, or 821 million people are now considered to be suffering from hunger.
Further erosion of crop development could increase that number exponentially.
The question that arises from this crisis is: how is it mitigated?
A report on world hunger delivered collectively by the heads of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and WHO states: “If we are to achieve a world without hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030, it is imperative that we accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of food systems and people’s livelihoods in response to climate variability and extremes.”
Technology is playing an important role in helping to alleviate hunger and malnutrition issues. Specifically, ag-tech is starting to play a major role in increasing crop yields and combating water shortages.
Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies Ltd (ASX:ROO) is developing a unique technology that is having a positive impact.
Known as Root Zone Temperature Optimization Technology (RZTO), Roots’ disruptive, modular, cutting-edge technology is addressing critical problems being faced by agriculture today, including plant climate management and the shortage of water for irrigation.
Roots has developed proprietary know-how and patents to optimise performance, lower installation costs, and reduce energy consumption to bring maximum benefit to farmers through their two-in-one root zone heating and cooling technology and off the grid irrigation by condensation technology.
RZTO optimises plant physiology for increased growth, productivity and quality by stabilising the plant’s root zone temperature. Using either sophisticated heat pumps and/or Ground Source Heat Exchange (GSHE) coils the Technology stabilises root zone temperature year round, by either heating or cooling the roots as needed. Heated (or cooled) water is pumped in a closed cycle through the pipes installed in the root zone, where the heat (or cold) is discharged.
This significantly increases yields and provides flexibility of growing cycle planting options, improves quality, mitigates extreme heat and cold stress on plants, and reduces disease load.
The technology is beginning to gain traction.
Fake meat market looks to ag-tech solutions
Producers of fake meat products are looking for sustainable ways to grow their products.
Roots solution fits the bill.
Recent results from a first stage Proof of Concept (POC) study being conducted on the effects of its patented RZTO technology on protein-based model plants are highly encouraging.
The roots of two protein-based model peas and beans plants were cooled by deploying RZTO.
Results show 57% to 67% more pods yield per plant for both the peas and beans when compared with uncooled plants. While protein percentage was slightly affected, total pods protein content increased by 77% and 55% in peas and beans respectively in cooled plants, when compared to uncooled plants.
The POC demonstrates that RZTO use results in weight increase per plant and more pods being generated per plant.
The protocol of the POC conducted at Roots’ facility was organic and used no fertilizer or other chemicals and Roots believes that this initiative will be of particular interest to the plant-based meat industry.
Roots co-founder and director Dr. Sharon Devir highlighted the positive implications saying, ‘’The results may support our hypothesis that by cooling roots using RZTO, the plant will increase the total pods yield and therefore increase protein content.”
Roots taking on global agricultural market
There is a significant market opportunity for Roots in Canada, which is actively promoting new agricultural innovations through the C$3 billion ‘Canadian Agricultural Partnerships’ innovation program.
Roots has signed a non-binding exclusive agreement with Water Ways Technologies, which specialises in providing water irrigation equipment solutions to farmers around the world.
Under the agreement, Water Ways have the right to import and sell RZTO technology in Canada, thereby capitalising on Water Ways’ established market presence.
Roots also entered the Italian market via a 12-month Letter of Intent (LOI) signed in October with leading Italian ag-tech producer and nursery Cairo & Doutcher.
Under the LOI, Roots installed its hybrid ground source heat exchange system combined with a heat pump to improve crop quality and increase yields for herbs and flowers at Cairo & Doutcher’s growing facilities in Southern Italy.
So pleased with the results was Cairo & Doutcher, that the Italian producer this week signed an exclusive binding agreement to sell a minimum of five RZTO systems during 2020.
To maintain exclusivity in relation to selling the RZTO system Cairo & Doutcher must build up sales of the RZTO system over a three year period, with incremental growth expected each year.
Over the course of the following three years, Cairo Doutcher has also agreed to increase sales of the RZTO systems by 100% per year from €500,000 during 2021, to €1 million in 2022 and €2 million (A$3.2 million) in 2023.
Italy is a versatile market with great potential for Roots’ RZTO technology and if rolled out successfully this ag-tech junior could become a prime player in Europe’s production of all things fruit and vegetable, whilst helping to alleviate the social implications of climate change on crop growth.
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