Photo: Click & Grow Smart Farm
1. Incredibly developed plant genetics
Agriculture used to be incredibly simple even back in the beginning of 20th century. A tomato was a tomato - red, roundish, medium size. A cucumber was a cucumber - green, rather tender, half a span long. And so on.
Today, there is about 25 000 different tomato varieties and cultivars alone, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Every single herb, vegetable or fruit you have in your kitchen has countless “brothers” and “sisters”, differing from each other in shapes, sizes, colors, textures, flavors, scents, preferences, etc. Want to grow black strawberries? Voila. An apple that tastes like custard? No problem. Brainstorming options for saving paper? Here’s a tree that grows leaves that can be used as recycled paper. Want to set yourself on fire with the world's hottest chilies? Smoking Ed's 'Carolina Reaper' is at your service. We could go on and on, but you probably get the idea.
Genetical modification has enabled us to even grow glowing plants. Yes - plants that glow in the dark. Bioluminescence is not only a cool feature your basil could have - it also enables molecular biologists to study the inner workings of plant cells.
The healthiness and the necessity of genetical modification is questioned every single day through discussions between those who are for and those who are against it. One thing cannot be denied though - it has opened our eyes to a completely new world and billions of possibilities. Golden rice, for example, that is made by merging the genetical materials of carrots & rice, can save millions of people’s lives from vitamin A deficiency. Crops with deeper roots (wheat, for example), can even help combat drought.
2. You can interact with your plants and make them talk
Leaf (or root) chemical signaling is a thing. It turns out that plants actually talk to each other, warning the neighboring plants of danger or anything else. Yes, just like dogs. Or humans.
Remember our mimosa video? The mimosa plant moves when you touch its leaves or even just blow on it - it’s actually the plant’s self-defence mechanism against herbivores, and works as a great procrastination tool (it was actually removed from our Grow Room in the office because of it). It’s fun for us, but for the plant it’s actually a live-or-die situation. In nature, this is how the one mimosa signals the other plants around it of the possible danger.
While the world is trying to learn the language of plants, our R&D team is playing with the plant-human language that enables your plants communicate with you and you - communicate with your plants. How does it work? You touch the plant in your Smart Herb Garden, and it tells you if it likes the way you hug it by measuring the electrical capacitance and sending a message to your computer or mobile. If it needs some more water, it will again send a message, and so on till you can actually have meaningful conversations with your basil. The Siri of nature, so to say. Who knows, maybe in 10 years time, plants might replace pets to the fullest extent (much cleaner though).
3. Technology is your gardener
In today’s world, you can easily grow all your fresh food yourself even if you’re unable to not kill a cactus. The different new plant cultivation technologies are making the process more and more effortless, until the point when different sensors and machines are taking care of watering, fertilizing, oxygen supply, light supply etc. The heck - it’s even possible to grow plants without any sunlight, soil or gravity. Never in the history of Earth has it been possible to go on a vacation for a month and not have to ask someone to water your strawberries or thyme.
Tech industry is turning its eyes and ears on farming, slowly but steadily making it one of its main priorities. Automated farms and urban farming are the future of agriculture, whether we like it or not. Harvesting, fruit picking, ploughing, soil maintenance, weeding, irrigation etc. is going to be done by agricultural robots (or agbots). Precision agriculture is already used for observing plant health status and controlling fertilizer and water levels with the resolution of 1 m2 in a 500ha field. It is estimated that by 2026, human intervention in agriculture will be made completely useless by robotic farm swamps. Vertical farming will make it possible for us to grow plants and animals on skyscrapers.* That Smart Herb Garden you have - it’s a part of what we call the future of food.