Called Mineral, the project aims to leverage cutting edge software and hardware to allow growers to raise more diverse crops, with a specially-designed plant-inspecting buggy set to do the heavy lifting.
The Mineral team points to our reliance on a relatively small number of crop types as the motivation for the project, with much of our farmlands dedicated to raising rice, wheat and maize. This makes our farming susceptible to pests, disease and climate change, while also degrading the quality of the soil and the diversity of its microbiome. The team sees an answer in what it calls computational agriculture, in which advanced hardware, software and sensors will allow farmers to tap into the genetic diversity of the 30,000 edible plant species around the globe. This could allow them to identify and grow more resilient crops in certain environments, and lessen reliance on fertilizers, chemicals and water.