Our solution is to boost seed germination and growth using silica nanoparticles.
Imaging if you can grow vegetables and herbs right in your house. You need soils, nutrient media (for hydroponics), and seeds to grow a garden.
Seed are the first stage of plant development. Healthy seeds are crucial for crop yield and quality. Seeds normally contain all the nutrients that the embryo needs during its development. However, in the climate change scenario, the plants suffer abiotic stress such as drought, high salinity which heavily affect seed germination and crop productivity. Besides, a warmer climate promotes pathogen (bacteria, fungus, or viruses) and harmful weeds growth which dominate the seed development.
Urban farming and hydroponics seem to play more and more important roles on food production, particularly in developed countries. Urban farming requires high technology. The traditional fertilizers and pesticides seem out of date because we can’t spray a massive amount of pesticides or apply large quantities of nitrogen fertilizers in the city.
At NanoSoils our solution is to boost the seed germination and growth. This will help the seeds dominate pathogens and weeds and also adapt to climate change.
What product we are developing?
We are developing a “silica nanosoil” cocktail which contains silica nanoparticles to boost seed germination and protect the seed from diseases (Figure 1).
Short-term deal: boosting drought tolerance for plants by silica nanoparticles.
Silica nanoparticles have been already shown to help the plants cope with drought stress.
1 Silica nanoparticle helps barley plants boost chlorophyll (up to 17.1%) and carotenoid (up to 24.1%) content of leaves which help the plants cope with drought stress.
Our solution is distinct from genetically modified plants. We do not change the genome of the plants. We precisely make silica particles at the nanoscale (mesoporous silica nanoparticles) to help plants absorb silica via root or leaves easier. In nature, silica is one of the most abundant minerals widely distributed in sand and dust. As such, it is environmentally sourced and degraded.
Long-term deal: we help minimize the use of agrochemicals and restore soil biodiversity. Over application of agrochemicals degrade soils and cause biodiversity loss. The fact is more than 90% of applied pesticides do not reach the pests. Bees flying around the field are impacted by pesticide exposure, changing their pollinating behaviour. Honey-bee Colony Collapse Disorder problem had evoked intense political action.
More than 45% of nitrogen fertiliser is not absorbed by plants.
Our solution is to deliver agrochemicals directly to the plants and minimise the residues to the environment by using mesoporous nanoparticles. Besides helping the plants deal the drought stress, our mesoporous silica nanoparticles allow to carry various kinds of pesticides and fertilisers and precisely deliver to plants. Because the agrochemicals are loaded inside silica nanoparticles, this technology enables to concentrate agrochemicals inside nanostructure, protect pesticide loss or degradation by nature condition.
Consequently, it will enhance efficiency over extended durations and protect the crop for a longer time. When the silica nanoparticle comes in contact with plant roots or leaves, it releases the pesticide content. After safely delivering agrochemicals, the silica nanoparticles will be absorbed by plants to help plants deal with drought.
Our silica nanoparticles help the plants cope with drought stress, reduce agrochemical residues in soil, water, and air which help restore biodiversity.
Our development plan is divided into 2 steps.
Step 1: We aim to finish the synthesis silica nanoparticles. This is the most important step. The first silica nanosoil cocktails will compose of: nitrogen fertilizer-loaded nanorod, and copper-loaded nanosphere (fungicide).
Step 2. Testing how technology helps the seed germinate and grow. We begin with seed treatment because we can quickly see the results in a few days. Also, seed germination test do not require do conduct in farm. It is often conducted in a cabinet which we can control the light, temperature, and humidity. We can test several kinds of seed at the same time. In case the silica nanosoil cocktails do not work as we design, we can quickly change the components. For example, in case nitrogen fertilizer-loaded nanorod, and copper-loaded nanosphere (fungicide) do not promote seed germination, we can change to phosphorus or potassium. Fungicide can also replaced by insecticides if needed.
Step 3. After seed germination testing, the germinated seeds will be sown in the greenhouse to compare how the seeds treated with silica nanosoil cocktails can deal with drought stress and less fertilizer compared to the seed without silica nanosoil cocktails treatment.
Farmers have used pesticides for seed treatments for decades. Here we provide the silica nanosoil cocktails for farmers. Farmers will use our products and compare to the conventional pesticides they often use for seed treatments to see which one help seed germination and plants grow better.
We are planning to commercialise the silica nanosoil cocktails for seed treatments by 2023.
If you are interested in what we are doing, please leave your e mail address and follow our preview campaign page to track our progress or let us know if you would like to join our updates.
1. Ghorbanpour, M.; Mohammadi, H.; Kariman, K., Nanosilicon-based recovery of barley (Hordeum vulgare) plants subjected to drought stress. Environmental Science: Nano 2020, 7 (2), 443-461.
2. Gilbertson, L. M.; Pourzahedi, L.; Laughton, S.; Gao, X.; Zimmerman, J. B.; Theis, T. L.; Westerhoff, P.; Lowry, G. V., Guiding the design space for nanotechnology to advance sustainable crop production. Nat Nanotechnol 2020.
3. Folberth, C.; Khabarov, N.; Balkovič, J.; Skalský, R.; Visconti, P.; Ciais, P.; Janssens, I. A.; Peñuelas, J.; Obersteiner, M., The global cropland-sparing potential of high-yield farming. Nature Sustainability 2020, 3 (4), 281-289.
4. Stokstad, E., European bee study fuels debate over pesticide ban. Science 2017, 356 (6345), 1321.
5. Kanter, D. R.; Bartolini, F.; Kugelberg, S.; Leip, A.; Oenema, O.; Uwizeye, A., Nitrogen pollution policy beyond the farm. Nature Food 2019, 1 (1), 27-32.