The “doomsday” seed vault built into the side of an Arctic mountain near the North Pole is set to have its first withdrawal.
The withdrawal comes not due to some catastrophic natural event as most envisioned when the seed vault project – originally run by Tennesee’s Cary Fowler – was being constructed. No, sadly, the reason for the withdrawal is the hideous, prolonged war in Syria.
The UN says, since 2011, some 250,000 have been killed in the Syrian civil war and 11 million refugees have fled due to the conflict.
Located outside Aleppo, the Syrian facility where seed is stored has been overtaken by Islamic fundamentalist factions. Syrian scientists plan to take the seed from the Svalbard vault and grow it out in several Middle Eastern locations. From those crops, seed will be gathered and returned to Svalbard.
"We hoped that we would never get such a request," NBC news quoted Asmund Asdal, who runs the Arctic vault. "Ideally, all the world's seed gene banks would function normally but of course we are prepared for this.
"We are of course very sad and frustrated at the situation in Aleppo but at the same time it shows that having a backup facility is important and it works."
In other agriculture tech news, Spanish futurists are designing floating hydroponic farms – essentially chains of barges that create self-sustaining islands that make use of the increasingly popular concept of vertical farming.
The barges are designed to hold three decks. The bottom level would hold fish farms, slaughterhouses and desalination plants. The second level would contain the farm, which would require no soil to grow crops. The third story would be the “power plant” holding photovoltaic panels.
A few years back, a speaker at a conference I attended predicted a novel form of pest control. In the future, he said, insecticides won’t be needed. Instead, armies of tiny, pinhead-sized robots will be sent into crops to kill harmful pests while leaving the beneficials.
I don’t know if that will ever happen but it was recently announced that scientists have, indeed, cracked the code to produce “swarming” armies of small robots. The armies of robots, according to The Guardian, “can coordinate behavior between multiple bodies, acting as a group.”