High-flying data-sharing project could boost farming sustainability

Good Wednesday afternoon, readers. Today’s tech headlines begin with several pieces of agricultural news, including a drone-filled, data-sharing project for farmers.

Today’s headlines:


  • Researchers at¬†Iowa State University¬†are leading a project to help¬†farmers share data with each other¬†to improve operations, production, and sustainability. Drones will be one mode of data-gathering technology, and machine-learning algorithms will sort data and pull relevant information. A three-year, $1.5 million grant from the¬†National Science Foundation¬†will help with the technology development.
  • During a¬†visit to the¬†University of Nebraska¬†Innovation Campus, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture¬†Sonny Perdue¬†said the future of the country‚Äôs agriculture depends on research, innovation, and collaboration, which will lead to better agricultural efficiency and sustainability.
  • Reuters reports¬†that President Trump has instructed the¬†U.S. Environmental Protection Agency¬†to deny dozens of gap-year refinery waivers from national biofuels laws. The waivers are said to hurt corn-based ethanol demand. If enacted, the move could have positive implications for biofuel producers and corn farmers, especially in the key Midwest swing states of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin,¬†Bloomberg notes.

ūüĒč BATTERIES:¬†Yesterday¬†General Motors¬†announced a¬†$2 billion deal¬†with electric truck startup¬†Nikola¬†to build trucks and batteries. Today the company is releasing more information about one of those upcoming battery innovations, the Ultium, which the automaker claims will be the first to use an¬†almost completely wireless battery management system. Wires will be reduced by up to 90%, which decreases vehicle weight, extends charge range, and allows for easier reuse in secondary applications.

Photo taken in GM’s Battery Electrical Lab on Feb. 25, 2020.


  • The¬†U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory¬†will invest in a¬†solar cell technology¬†project under development at the¬†National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Researchers are working on a lower-cost way to manufacture a type of highly efficient solar cell that has been too cost-prohibitive to use in any applications except space missions or satellites.
NREL researchers developed a lower-cost manufacturing process for solar cells, such as the flexible gallium arsenide solar cell shown here. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL.
  • Steelhead Composites, a Golden, Colorado-based startup that manufactures hydrogen fuel storage containers, is among the first three businesses to receive investments from newly launched climate-focused investment fund¬†Decarbon8-US,¬†reports GeekWire.
  • A study from¬†Texas A&M University¬†identified a novel¬†plant-based energy storage device¬†that eventually could be used to power vehicles. The scientists used lignin, a component of plant cells, to create the electric conductor.

    A prototype of the green supercapacitor made by the Texas A&M team. Courtesy of Hong Liang.


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