With the global population set to top nine billion in 2050, demand for food is predicted to rise by 70 per cent – and technology could play a large role in bridging the gap.
Scientists in Russia claim to have made an agricultural breakthrough by developing a laser system that they say makes crops grow twice as quickly, without any need for pesticides.
The technology could be used in urban or remote areas and is even claimed to boost the amount of time food can be stored for, keeping it fresher for longer.
It was created by scientists at the Michurinsk State Agrarian University in the city of Tambov in western Russia’s Tambov Oblast region.
The team of scientists behind the invention say they used relatively inexpensive laser equipment to grow crops including tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes and dill much faster and with higher yields.
The prototype equipment moves though rows of plants in a greenhouse, blasting them with light, to boost their growth and kill diseases.
The researchers behind the invention claim the technique produces ecologically-clean plants because no pesticides or other chemicals are needed to accelerate their growth.
There are currently no details as to how the technology works precisely, but using lasers would bathe plants in a beam of light composed of just a single wavelength or colour.
Other scientists are currently investigating the potential of different coloured LED lights to boost plant growth.
The Russian experts say lasers accelerate the natural processes in plant cells so that seeds and grains sprout faster.
They claim the system is even capable of healing diseased plants by boosting their immune system.
While this may seem far-fetched, one previous study has shown that plants exposed to helium neon lasers, or red radiation, repaired damaged tissues more rapidly than those not treated with the light therapy, according to the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).
Another study suggested red laser light can increase the growth of rice stalks, while blue lasers have been shown to stimulate the flowering of rice and the production of grain.
The Russian researchers say their laser technology can also be used to increase the amount of time a harvest can be stored and to identify any poisonous or harmful elements within it, although it is not clear how.
A study by Zhejiang Normal University in China and Umeå University in Sweden published last month, detailed a new methods to measure bacteria levels in packaged food, using a tunable diode laser and beam shaping optics to measure the absorption of gases and measure the growth bacteria on food.
The plants need to be treated by lasers every day, but this work is done by robots, saving farmers’ time compared to conventional crop growing.
It means this work could be carried out in remote locations or in busy city areas, where experts predict indoor farms of the future will provide may cities’ food.
The researchers claim their system is relatively inexpensive and its cost can be recouped within a few months thanks to bumper yields.
It has been reported the first orders for the technology have already come in, from Sochi, Krasnodar, Moscow and Sevastopol.