Bio & Life Sciences Energy & Green Tech Internet of Things

Will Programming Plants Feed the World?

This indoor farm in Japan is state-of-the-art, growing salad greens at high speed but high quality. (photo courtesy Philips)

By 2025 food shortages and price fluctuations could be a thing of the past, everywhere. New technologies for cultivating plants indoors could feed eight billion people, save energy and dramatically reduce pollution. But beyond the growing enthusiasm for "vertical farms" or "plant factories" lies the potential to alter elements in the recipe for these environments to create plants and foods with no precedent–more nutritious, hardy, or tasty–or whatever other characteristics we decide to favor.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Energy & Green Tech Internet of Things

Food Production in a Technology-driven Economy

The Open Agriculture initiative at MIT Media Lab recently put food computers like this one in several Boston-area classrooms so students can experiment with "climate recipes" for growing plants.

The Open Agriculture Initiative at the MIT Media Lab aims to drive a paradigm shift from the industrial to the networked age of agricultural production—giving rise to a computationally-based food systems revolution that will account for the ecological, environmental, economic, and societal implications of producing food. Making agricultural practices radically transparent will improve access to fresh, nutritious foods, reduce spoilage and waste, and create communities built on a shared platform and shared data.   More

Cities Energy & Green Tech Internet of Things

Before Going Too Jetson, Self-Driving Car Companies Should Ask Two Key Questions

Google's autonomous car project got the industry going, but just about every automaker now is getting in on the act. (photo courtesy Shutterstock)

We are once again in the midst of buzz and hype with regard to an innovative mode of transportation–the self-driving car. To Tesla and Google, Mercedes-Benz and Apple, Nissan and Audi and the myriad other companies looking to get us to take our hands off the wheel, I offer up this yellow light of branding caution: Don’t let your own excitement short-change your assessment of how it will really play in the market.   More

Energy & Green Tech Media & Marketing Society

What the Pope’s Climate Message Means to Marketers

The Good 'Ole Pope, Uber-Celebrity/Influencer (image via  Shutterstock)

The climate movement has gained what may be the ultimate celebrity spokesperson in Pope Francis. Marketers should take heed: the Pope has the ear of Millennials and other consumers who are willing to change their behavior and their purchasing to make a difference.   More

Energy & Green Tech Global Tech

Geoengineering: Smart Science or Hail Mary?

(Image via Shutterstock)

In a recent report, a committee appointed by the National Research Council issued a recommendation that the federal government fund research on geoengineering as a means to address global warming. Geongineering, sometimes known as “Plan B,” encompasses technologies that seek to counteract climate change. During a session at Techonomy in 2012, Harvard physicist David Keith said, “If you want to actually reduce the risks to many of the people who will suffer real climate impacts in the next decades, including some of the poorest people in the world, this is essentially the only thing you could do.”   More

Energy & Green Tech Techonomy Events

What Really Drove the Green Revolution

At the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif., Drew Purves of Microsoft Research speaks about why we will need a second green revolution in order to keep the globe well fed.   More

Cities Energy & Green Tech

Sharing Bikes Can Lead to A Sustainable World

The author wields one of New York City's iconic CitiBikes.

Alta Bicycle Share manages bike-sharing systems in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, Boston, Toronto, Melbourne, and other cities. In five years our bikes have been ridden more than 35 million miles on more than 25 million rides. That’s more than a billion calories burned, and with zero fatalities. But what seems like a fast-rising trend is really the result of decades of work by many people, communities, and visionaries who believed that the simple bicycle could be an economic, environmental, and quality-of-life panacea for modern society.   More

Energy & Green Tech Manufacturing

Panasonic Will Help Tesla Crank Out the Gigawatt-hours, but Where?


Tesla Motors and Panasonic confirmed this morning that they will cooperate on the construction of a large-scale lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant in the U.S. Five states in the running to host the $5 billion Gigafactory expect an announcement of its location after the market closes today. Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Texas are the hopefuls to house the facility, which is expected to comprise up to 10 million square feet over 1,000 acres.   More

Energy & Green Tech

Obama Wants to Fight Climate Change with Lasers


The Obama administration is arming cities across the country with lasers to help combat the effects of climate change. The lasers won’t be used, however, to blast tornadoes to pieces or to zap flash floods before they devastate a town. Instead, they’ll help spot potential climate change hazards before they become a problem. Earlier this month, the U.S. Geological Survey announced that it would launch a $13 million 3-D elevation program using light from lasers to create an advanced mapping system that could make it easier to detect potential flooding issues or find ideal spots for wind turbines and solar panels.   More

Energy & Green Tech

A Food Waste Reduction Movement Gathers Steam


Americans today are paying closer attention to food waste, long a European concern. Helping them reduce that waste is an important new opportunity for food and restaurant brands. Like Ikea and EasyJet, who have made the spartan ethic trendy, food firms can make this an integral part of their brand story. It's a welcome development given that Americans throw away between 30-40 percent of our edible food every year. Mainstream food brands need to rethink policy and get creative to drive both internal and consumer food-saving behaviors.   More

Energy & Green Tech

Google Teams Up with Environmental Scientists to Map Gas Leaks

(Image via Shutterstock)

Google Maps Street View lets people discover any place in the world and explore it via the Web as if they were actually there. Now, the cars that take photos for Street View are using advanced sensor technology to search for gas leaks and faulty pipes in places like Staten Island, Boston, and Indianapolis. Google has partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to pinpoint sources of pollution using methane sensors and data-crunching algorithms.   More

Cities Energy & Green Tech

Snacking on Smog: A Building That Eats Our Pollution


The latest foray into air-purifying architecture is a 9,000-square meter "urban forest" in Milan, set to be unveiled at the city's Expo Milano 2015. The massive smog-eating building, called the Palazzo Italia, will mimic the function and appearance of trees while also supporting the expo's theme of "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life." The secret of Palazzo Italia is photocatalytic concrete, a special substance that, when in contact with ultraviolet light, captures nitrogen dioxide pollutants and converts them into harmless salts that can be washed away with the next rainfall.   More

Energy & Green Tech

Harnessing the Power of Algae


A California researcher is working to create a new type of battery, powered not by lithium, alkaline, or lead-acid, but by ... algae? Yes, reports TechCrunch, algae batteries, which charge faster and for longer than their traditional counterparts, have the capacity to power a smartphone, a tablet, and even a Tesla. Research has already shown the power of algae, but Adam Freeman, founder of alGAS, says he's about to create the first algae battery that could power a car--with a charge 200 times greater than current lithium-based batteries can provide, and for a fraction of the price. "Think of driving your car on a living battery that charges in seconds with a battery that costs almost nothing and is actually good for the environment," Freeman told TechCrunch.   More

Energy & Green Tech

Techonomic Top 5: Building with Mushrooms, Curbing Food Waste, the Selfie Mecca, and More

Ecovative's Mushroom Insulation. (Photo courtesy Ecovative)

When you want to make a mushroom omelet, you usually cut off the stems and use the caps—the tastiest, most tender part of edible fungi. But when it comes to putting mushrooms to more utilitarian use, the web of roots called mycelium has been getting a lot more love. Paul Stemets, author of “Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World” has prototyped medicinal applications from fungi, including small pox, HIV, and malaria treatments, and used mushroom enzymes to clean up contaminated soil. Now he’s developed a building material that attracts and kills termites. Meanwhile, a company called Ecovative Design is using mycelium to make mushroom foam for packaging (Dell uses the stuff to ship its computer servers) and building insulation that’s grown between walls instead of injected or installed.   More

Energy & Green Tech

Can Drones Help Scrub China’s Filthy Skies?

(Image via Shutterstock)

Just how bad is China’s air pollution? A recent M.I.T. study concluded that a huge swath of the Chinese population is losing an average of five years in life expectancy due to pollution. The Chinese government is getting serious about the issue, and not just because the thick smog actually interferes with domestic surveillance efforts. China's pollution has become a source of national embarrassment and outrage, with Chinese scientists comparing it to a nuclear winter. The government is now escalating the use of drones to fight its recently declared “war on pollution.” In a plan reminiscent of the futuristic geo-engineering discussed at Techonomy 2012, aircraft disperse chemicals that freeze pollutants, making them fall to the ground. But what becomes of this solidified smog, not to mention the chemicals, once it's been scrubbed from the sky?   More

Bio & Life Sciences Energy & Green Tech Government

Techonomic Top 5: Reanimating the Woolly Mammoth, Facebook Drones, and more

(Image via Shutterstock)

The passenger pigeon became extinct in 1914, though not long before it flew in flocks that could number in the billions (yes, with a "b"). But a group of scientists has teamed up with tech visionary Stewart Brand in spearheading an effort to bring the species back to life. The so-called de-extinction project could reanimate long-lost species like the woolly mammoth and even mitigate environmental threats like melting permafrost, according to some.   More

Energy & Green Tech

Tesla Supercharges Cross-Country Treks

Searching for a fun vacation idea this spring break that’s pretty darned cool and eco-friendly to boot? You could take a cue from Elon Musk, who’s spending his spring break driving cross-country with his kids in his Tesla Model S, going from Los Angeles to New York and stopping along the way at Tesla’s newly unveiled Supercharger stations to recharge. The Supercharger network, announced Sunday, is a string of more than 70 ultra-fast, free-to-use charging stations that span much of both coasts, stretch from Los Angeles to New York via the upper Midwest, and shoot off into eastern Texas.   More

Energy & Green Tech

A Recipe for Less Waste in the Food Service Industry

(Image via Shutterstock)

Think twice before you throw out those leftovers—or maybe even take a picture. Globally, one-third of all food is wasted—1.3 billion tons of food in total. The U.S. alone trashes 40 percent of what it could consume, and much of this comes from the food service industry itself (which loses between $8 and $20 billion through food waste every year). Luckily, Andrew Shackman and his 10-year-old company, LeanPath, has found a way to change the way food service industry thinks about waste.   More

Cities Energy & Green Tech

Ford’s Farley Wants P2P Sharing and Electric Cars for Urban Mobility

As the urban population soars, city streets are growing increasingly traffic-clogged and difficult to navigate, impeding our ease of transit and, more critically, harming our environment. At our Techonomy 2013 conference, we talked to Jim Farley, EVP of global marketing at Ford, about the car industry and using shared ownership to tackle urban mobility. While business-to-consumer models (think Zipcar) have thus far dominated the shared-ownership market, they have struggled to succeed financially. Farley believes a peer-to-peer system of sharing vehicles is more promising. Electrifying the car industry, he added, will be an important part of developing this peer-to-peer system, enabling us to be more economical, more efficient, and kinder to our Earth.   More

Energy & Green Tech Startup Culture

Microsoft’s Craig Mundie on Why He’s a Techno-Optimist

Take a monolithic problem like climate change and consider its solutions. Many would say the only answer is to get all of us to alter our lifestyles so we can cut back on greenhouse gas emissions. But a "techno-optimist" like Microsoft's Craig Mundie would urge us to approach the problem from a different, more novel angle: Instead of hinging Earth's health on changing all of society, what about engineering a method of reflecting heat out of the atmosphere? At our Techonomy 2013 conference in November, Mundie spoke with us about how creative traits like "risk tolerance" and "novelty seeking" will help us confront big challenges like climate change. "If you give us a big problem, we'll invent a big answer," he says. "We're [not] bound to live within the constraints of the capabilities we only know today."   More