Scientists in Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) are engineering venus flytraps to aid them in learning about sickly crops. The flytraps are controlled through an app, by using the application of electrodes. The researchers can direct the flytraps through the signals they produce, since they naturally generate electricity. Said electricity is conducted through hydrogel applied to the plants. This means that the venus flytraps can close their mouths with the push of a button.
As one of the goals for this project, the NTU team hopes to interpret the signals sent by several types of plants to recognize crop contamination and stress. If the technology can be applied focused on these communications, it would be a tremendous advance in the future of the agricultural field.
“These signals will reflect the health status of the plants, so we hope to study the relationship of these signals and the environmental stresses and hopefully this will instruct agricultural practice,” explains Luo Yifei, a researcher at NTU.
The researchers are certain that this technology could also be used to receive “very high quality signals from plants of all types of surface textures”. That being said, it would be an important advantage for agricultural workers globally to closely oversee the health of their products.
According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “a sustained improvement in agricultural productivity is central to socioeconomic development.” Maintaining plant ecosystems is a crucial factor to keeping up the vast food supply, Therefore, technologies such as the one being discussed, that help identify issues in growing crops and plants have the potential to support other methods in precision agriculture to protect the wellbeing of our plants and their quality.
As promising as it seems, there’s still a lot of progress to be made. Even though the researchers are able to stimulate the flytrap to close, they have not yet established a way to replicate the natural process of making the venus flytrap open again.