Alphabet’s New Moonshot Is To Transform How We Grow Food

The thinking was that if America’s southern neighbor had better food security, relations between the two countries would improve, and fewer migrants would cross the US border.

Over the course of three years, Borlaug and his assistants pollinated and inspected hundreds of thousands of plants by hand: 110,000 in just one growing season.

With the global population growing while climate change begins to impact our ability to produce food, many are calling for a 21st-century Green Revolution.

In short, we need to figure out better ways to grow food, and fast. Google parent company Alphabet’s X division-internally called “The moonshot factory”-announced a project called Mineral, launched to develop technologies for a more sustainable, resilient, and productive food system.

We get the yields we needs with this method, but at the same time we’re progressively depleting the soil by pumping it full of the same chemicals year after year, and in the process we’re making our own food less nutrient-rich.

It’s kind of a catch-22; this is the best way to grow the most food, but the quality of that food is getting worse.

As part of the massive data-gathering that will need to be done, X introduced what it’s calling a “Plant buggy”.

The buggy will collect info about plants’ height, leaf area, and fruit size, then consider it alongside soil, weather, and other data.

In a blog post about Mineral, project lead Elliott Grant asks, “What if every single plant could be monitored and given exactly the nutrition it needed? What if we could untangle the genetic and environmental drivers of crop yield? What if we could measure the subtle ways a plant responds to its environment?” He and his team hope that tools like those being developed as part of Mineral will help the agriculture industry transform how food is grown.

There are all sorts of projects-all over the world-devoted to the future of food, from cultured meat and fish to nanoparticles that help plants grow in the desert to factories raising millions of bugs for protein.