Fraunhofer showed its research projects applied to the agriculture of the future

Experts from different lines of research presented their projects in the fields of bee health, pollination, solar energy for agriculture, use of waste from agroindustry to produce biomass and biogas, recovery of maize and wheat waste, and development of high-value products from honey and propolis.

6th RedAgrícola Santiago Conference to learn about the latest technologies for agriculture. Fraunhofer Chile Research was a scientific partner of this meeting, contributing its knowledge through a talk in the inaugural plenary, an innovation seminar, two conversation tables on pollination in commercial orchards and opportunities of solar energy in agroindustry and the permanent presence of its researchers in a stand

"Chile is a world food power and in order to remain competitive in this new era, the industry must take advantage of the opportunities opened up by the intersection between technology and biology. The increase in bioscience knowledge is applied every day in the fields of nutrition, energy and digitalization, creating a platform of innovations essential to the future of Chilean agriculture," said Marnix Doorn, Business Development Manager of Fraunhofer Chile, during the opening of the conference

The director of RedAgrícola, Patricio Trebilcock, highlighted the need to further strengthen the science applied to agriculture. "We are very satisfied with the alliance we have developed with Fraunhofer Chile, as we believe their projects can help solve the problems of this industry. Companies need to relate more with research and development centers, so we think this instance has been very relevant for them to get to know each other and interact.

Pollination to increase productivity

Within the framework of the conference, on the afternoon of June 5 it was held the seminar Future Agriculture: Intersection between Biology and Technology, organized by Fraunhofer Chile's Agro, Food and Ingredients area.

On the occasion, the researchers of this centre of excellence in applied research showed their most outstanding projects.

Sharon Rodríguez, in charge of Agriculture, referred to the importance of biodiversity as an engine for competitive agricultural production, showing how Chile has a very weakened yield per hectare in various crops compared to other countries. "In Chile we have more than 450 species of native bees and in the preliminary results of our research we have found that these are even more efficient pollinators than Apis mellifera," she said.

To attract these pollinator bees, his team is working on two projects where introduced and native flower borders are being incorporated.  "The presence of floral borders associated with orchards could increase the net gain of crops by 58%, by complementing the ecosystem services of pollination and biological control, according to theoretical analyses," said the researcher.

The presence of these edges, in addition, attracts parasitoid insects, which act making a biological control of pests, which would reduce the use of pesticides.

Sustainable Energy for Agriculture

There are several alternatives to diversify the energy matrix of agriculture using carbon neutral and environmentally friendly fuels. Carolina Pizarro, leader of Fraunhofer Chile's Industrial Biosustainability projects, showed some examples of the use of organic waste, both vegetable and livestock, that has a high potential to generate energy.

"One of the possibilities is to collect waste from the aquaculture industry to produce biogas. This is a concrete sample of the advantages of the circular economy, which is also possible to implement in agroindustry," he said. In the agricultural area, he said, value can also be added to waste such as nutshells, using them to make pellets. 

High Value Ingredients

From agricultural products and residues it is possible to obtain ingredients that can be used in the food, nutraceutical and cosmetic industries. Franko Restovic, director of the Agro, Food and Ingredients area of Fraunhofer Chile, showed some examples of the work being done in this area.

"We are participating in research that seeks to obtain lipids, fibers and nanocellulose from corn and wheat residues. In addition, from honey and propolis we are developing high value products for the treatment of wounds and applications in cosmetics and nutraceuticals. All of this allows us to contribute to the diversification of the agro-industry offer," he said.

Technology and biological transformation

Matías Miño, leader of Row Crops Production and Technology Implementation for Bayer Fields, presented FieldView, a tool developed by Bayer that allows to collect and take advantage of the data collected in the field, to get the most out of them and improve agricultural management.

Marnix Doorn stated that all these initiatives are part of the need to achieve a biological transformation, which allows us to care for the biodiversity of our ecosystems and achieve sustainable development.