Nausea, irritability, vertigo, tremors, rashes and even strokes. In many fields around the world, these symptoms affect workers and young children and they’re all caused by one common and invisible enemy: pesticides.
Plantations loaded with man-made toxins have been a problem for decades. In Brazil, however, a new alternative to pesticides is gaining attention: insects created in a lab to fight plagues of fellow insects that destroy crops. Created in test tubes, these little bugs have a very efficient role in farming. Wasps, ladybirds, dragonflies and bedbugs become environmentally friendly soldiers, all summoned with a common mission in mind. In the right quantities, they can fight disastrous but common plagues of creatures such as aphids, and infestations of ants and flies.
As a solution, it seems a logical way of denying pesticides the chance to loiter in the ecosystem where they can compromise air, water and soil quality. Marcelo Poletti is the founder of Promip, a Brazilian biotech company. The entrepreneur sees insects as the future of agricultural protection in Brazil, and on a trip made by our team, talked about his lab-based bid to fight against the devastating effects of plagues.
Of course, the implementation of such a strategy will not be simple. In larger farms, the manual distribution of these little insects will be complicated. How do you disperse tiny insects over a huge area while maintaining control of them so that they stay focused on the job at hand? If it goes awry, would you have to introduce pesticides anyway to control the bugs that were meant to be fighting the plagues?
The solution, according to those behind the idea, is drones. Making use of geo- referencing systems and infrared sensors, special robotic hornets would be able to analyse each cultivated plant in any given area, allowing for a full and detailed overview of the plantation within minutes. They could not only detect evidence of plague attacks, but also identify better areas for cultivation, regions with less density of planting, so that farmers can optimise how and where they replant their crops.
Another advantage of this type of technology could reside in its potential to connect farming systems across the world. After all, every ecosystem is interconnected. In the third episode of Fresh Made BR, we speak to producers and engineers to show how this revolution in sustainable planting could be applied universally.