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.

The farmer data-sharing project will use technology such as drones and machine learning. Image courtesy of Asheesh Singh.


  • 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’s 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.

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

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