Vertical farming startup raises $200M from Alphabet, Jeff Bezos

July 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Indoor vertical farming is on the rise, if a recent funding round for San Francisco startup Plenty is any indication. The company just scored what they say is the largest agriculture technology investment in history. Plenty has attracted attention – and quite a lot of money – from well-known tech greats like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. Plenty is utilizing technology to improve agriculture. The startup draws on big data processing, micro-sensor technology, and LED lighting in an effort to make affordable, local food available for people around the world. Their system uses less water and space than conventional farms, and grows food more efficiently. Plenty says they can yield as much as 350 times more crops per square foot than a typical farm. Their recent Series B funding round, led by Japanese media corporation SoftBank ‘s Vision Fund, turned out to be quite fruitful at $200 million. Related: 40-foot shipping container farm can grow 5 acres of food with 97% less water SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said in a statement, “By combining technology with optimal agriculture methods, Plenty is working to make ultra-fresh, nutrient-rich food accessible to everyone in an always-local way that minimizes wastage from transport. We believe that Plenty’s team will remake the current food system to improve people’s quality of life.” Plenty will use the $200 million to start expanding, and plan to bring their first produce to market later this year. They plan to grow two to five acre indoor farms, which the BBC said is around the size of a Walmart or Home Depot. The company already employs 100 people working in three facilities in Wyoming and San Francisco. Initially, Plenty will provide mainly leafy greens and herbs for distributors that have already signed on, according to co-founder and CEO Matt Barnard. He said in a statement, “The world is out of land in the places it’s most economical to grow these crops. After a decade of development driven by one of our founders, our technology is uniquely capable of growing super clean food with no pesticides nor GMOs while cutting water consumption by 99 percent…We’re now ready to build out our farm network and serve communities around the globe.” + Plenty Via Plenty and the BBC Images via Plenty Facebook

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Vertical farming startup raises $200M from Alphabet, Jeff Bezos

Self-sufficient hydrogen boat embarks on 6-year journey around the world

July 17, 2017 by  
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The world watched in anticipation as the groundbreaking Solar Impulse 2 plane circumnavigated the globe last year. Now, the “Solar Impulse of the Seas” has set sail, aiming to demonstrate in a fresh way that clean energy can power our world. Dubbed Energy Observer , the solar- , wind- , and hydrogen -powered catamaran will sail to 50 countries over the course of six years. Solar panels line the top of the Energy Observer, and two vertical axis wind turbines harness the power of the wind, but those aren’t the only energy sources that make this vessel self-sufficient . The boat is able to generate hydrogen from seawater thanks to an electrolysis system. That hydrogen, stored in tanks, will help the Energy Observer glide through the waves emissions-free. The project was started by French offshore racer Victorien Erussard, accompanied by French explorer and filmmaker Jérôme Delafosse. Related: Energy Observer to sail around the world using only solar, wind, and hydrogen fuel The Energy Observer is equipped with technologies like electric motors, lithium-ion batteries , and a hydrogen fuel cell . It’s around 100 feet long and 42 feet wide, with solar panels covering 1,400 square feet atop the catamaran. Built in 1983, the Energy Observer has already had a long career as a racing boat, but was recently christened earlier this month by France’s environment minister Nicolas Hulot. Energy Observer left Paris this past weekend with mayor Anne Hidalgo aboard. Erussard said on the boat’s website, “There is not one miracle solution to combat climate change : there are solutions which we must learn to operate together. That’s what we are doing with Energy Observer: allowing nature’s energies, as well as those of our society, to collaborate.” And though the boat draws on different technologies than the Solar Impulse 2, it apparently has the approval of pilot Bertrand Piccard , who was present at the christening ceremony. He said, “Energy Observer, just like Solar Impulse, makes exploration work for a better quality of life. We need to lead people towards the future by showing them solutions instead of depressing them.” You can track where the Energy Observer is here and find out more here . + Energy Observer Via ScienceAlert Images via Energy Observer ( 1 , 2 )

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Self-sufficient hydrogen boat embarks on 6-year journey around the world

Reflective paint helps women in slums combat extreme heat caused by climate change

July 14, 2017 by  
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Temperatures are skyrocketing in India, as a result of climate change . Sadly, this has resulted in a 150 percent increase in the number of heat waves , killing thousands of people in recent years. To help those who are suffering find some relief, the non-profit Mahila Housing Trust is working with Indian women based in 100 slums across five cities to apply reflective paint to units, decreasing indoor temperatures by several degrees. Additional goals of the non-profit include upgrading and redeveloping slums, helping women secure property rights, and assisting women in dealing with climate change pressures by utilizing techniques such as rainwater collection and harvesting. The organization is presently experimenting with reflective paint, as well as insulated ceiling and modular roofs in units located in the Ramesh Dutt Colony. This low-cost approach to making homes more comfortable could literally save lives, since more than 2,400 deaths were recorded in 2015 due to heatwaves , according to government data. One individual benefiting from the reflective paint is Meenaben, who says she used to dread summers in India . Before applying the reflective paint, her two-room home in the Ahmedabad slum would get so hot, she could not sit indoors for several hours during the day. Now, she is able to sit in her abode and work, sewing quilts and bedcovers. “We used to really suffer from the heat. We could not sit inside, we could not work, people were falling sick,” said Meenaben. “This year it has been so much better. The paint brought the temperature down by several degrees, and I have been able to sit in my home, do my work.” Related: School principal uses $22,000 of paint to transform former slum into a rainbow wonderland Bharati Bhonsale, a program manager at Mahila Housing Trust, noted the devastation some families experience from unexpected weather patterns which result from climate change . “They work so hard to improve their lives, their homes. But even one setback from something like flash floods or a heat wave can have a big impact and cause them to slip back into poverty ,” Bhonsale told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “A flash flood can destroy their belongings, heat stress affects their work and their health. So it is important they are equipped to manage the effects of climate change.” Fortunately, most poverty-stricken citizens are happy and willing to implement technologies that may better their lives and the environment . Some measures the women have been trained to incorporate include using fuel-efficient stoves to reduce reliance on firewood, composting, cleaning stormwater drains, planting shrubs to help prevent flash floods, and harvesting rainwater. The women have also learned how to keep narrow lanes free of trash and to dump unused collected rainwater in an effort to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. Bhonsale said, “They may not understand the science of global warming , but they have first-hand experience of its effects, and with some education and simple solutions, they are better able to tackle it.” + Mahila Housing Trust Via Scroll Images via Mahila Housing Trust , Pixabay

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Reflective paint helps women in slums combat extreme heat caused by climate change

Recycled plastic paving company Platio installs first 3 solar systems

July 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Green, Recycle

We’re so excited to announce that the Hungarian startup Platio , which designed a modular energy-harvesting paving system made with recycled plastic , has now installed their first three systems. Within a span of just two months, they developed projects in Hungary, Sweden, and Kazakhstan. And it’s not just sidewalks that now boast the solar pavers, but pontoons providing energy for ships, and benches where passerby can charge their smartphones. Platio is helping to shape the future of cities with their solar paving systems. One creative use of their technology can be found in Budapest , Hungary, at Városháza Park, where their solar system stretches across a wooden bench. The smart bench allows park-goers to power their phones or tablets with clean energy , using either a USB cord or QI wireless charging. Local design studio Hello Wood installed the park’s wavy wooden benches. Related: New recycled plastic sidewalk harvests energy from the sun Platio’s very first permanent installation was indeed constructed on a sidewalk, in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, in front of a mall in the new Green Quarter. Near the shopping entrance, around 861 square feet of the sidewalk is covered with Platio paving, offering a total peak output of 11.7 watts. The electricity will help power the mall. Strong, anti-slip glass tiles top the recycled plastic solar paving system. Two specialists were able to put together the mall installation in just a few days thanks to the modular design and a built-in electrical network. And it’s not just urban infrastructure that can benefit from Platio’s technology. The company partnered with engineering firm SF Marina to install the solar pavers on around 86 square feet of pontoons at SF Marina’s Swedish factory. The solar energy generated by the Platio systems will help power port facilities and ships. According to Platio, as recently as last year they only had a prototype of their technology, but they’ve now successfully installed it in the real word. The three Hungarian engineers who started Platio want to help make future cities sustainable and energy-independent . + Platio Images courtesy of Platio

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Recycled plastic paving company Platio installs first 3 solar systems

Hyperloop One conducts first full-scale test of superfast transportation system

July 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Before long, passengers will be able to travel at airline speeds for the price of a bus ticket to destinations around the world. How so? By boarding the Hyperloop One, which uses magnetic levitation technology to transport objects in a vacuum. The concept, which was first proposed by Elon Musk in 2013, is finally becoming a reality – today Hyperloop One announced that it has completed its first full-scale test. The company’s hyperloop vehicle reached 70 mph while pulling 2Gs on the test track. The Verge reports that the aerodynamic pod is 28 feet long and is made of structural aluminum and carbon fiber. It relies on electromagnetic propulsion and mag-lev technology to carry both human and cargo passengers at near supersonic speeds. The company wrote on its website , “The world is ready for a new mode of transportation that will change the way we live. We’re in the business of selling time, the most precious resource there is.” After Hyperloop One’s first full system test, co-founder Shervin Pishevar and chief engineer Josh Giegel appeared on CBS This Morning. A video of the low-speed test was also released to the public (above). Pishever described the test as the company’s “Kitty Hawk Moment” and said it is their “first in flight ” milestone. Related: Hyperloop One exhibits exciting first images of full-scale test track Hyperloop One is now entering its next phase of testing with a goal of reaching 250 mph. Eventually, it hopes to reach speeds up to 750 mph. The founders wrote, “We’re developing routes in five countries . The goal is to be moving cargo by 2020 and passengers by 2021.” + Hyperloop One Via Verge Images via Hyperloop One

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Hyperloop One conducts first full-scale test of superfast transportation system

Worlds largest rotating solar plant to be built in South Korea

July 10, 2017 by  
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South Korea is known for its workaholic culture and for hosting an enormous LEGO tower . But soon, the country may be known for something even more impressive: installing the largest rotating solar plant in the world. Solkiss, a South Korean solar developer, has plans to install a proposed 2.67 MW PV project at the Deoku Reservoir. Not only will the plant float on top of the water, it will follow the sun’s movement throughout the day. Solkiss’ technology enables solar power stations to float on water and rotate in unison with the sun’s movements. According to the developer, the technology delivers 22 percent extra solar energy yield compared to a fixed installation on land, as well as a 16 percent increase in yield compared to a typical floating solar array. The installation on Deoku Reservoir isn’t the only floating solar array Solkiss has planned. Two additional solar plants are planned for the Myeoku Reservoir. All three installations are expected to be completed by the end of November. When combined, they will add 3MW of solar PV capacity to the solar developer’s portfolio. Related: World’s cutest solar farm in China is shaped like a panda The company has made great progress since its first floating solar development , which was installed in 2014 at a reservoir in Anseong, south of Seoul. Using its patented rotating motors, Solkiss was able to generate 465 kW from the array. To help South Korea shift away from “dirty energy” sources, such as nuclear and coal , Solkiss will be installing more rotating solar plants at viable reservoir sites across the country. + Solkiss Via PV Magazine Images via YouTube screenshot , Solkiss , Pixabay

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Make calls with light or radio signals thanks to first battery-free cellphone

July 6, 2017 by  
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Imagine never having to charge your smartphone ever again. We may be one step closer to that battery-free future with new research from University of Washington engineers. They made a phone capable of calling people drawing on light or ambient radio signals. Associate professor Shyam Gollakota said they think it could be the “first functioning cellphone that consumes almost zero power .” No, it’s not magic – the University of Washington’s battery-free cellphone can function on just a few microwatts of power it harvests from RF signals coming from a base station around 31 feet away, or from light via a minute solar cell that’s about the size of a grain of rice. The team constructed their prototype from off-the-shelf components and have already used it to make Skype calls. Related: MIT’s New Battery-Free Chip Captures Energy From Light, Heat, And Vibrations at the Same Time The cellphone prototype is able to run on such low power in part because the team got rid of the step to convert analog signals into digital data – a process that sucks up a lot of power in modern cellphones. Their battery-free phone can make use of small vibrations from the speaker or microphone that come when a person is talking or listening while making a call. According to a university press release, “An antenna connected to those components converts that motion into changes in standard analog radio signal emitted by a cellular base station. This process essentially encodes speech patterns in reflected radio signals in a way that uses almost no power.” The team designed their own base station to receive and transmit radio signals. But that technology could be embedded in cell towers or even Wi-Fi routers in the future. Research associate Vamsi Talla said if every home has a Wi-Fi router – as many already do – “you could get battery-free cellphone coverage everywhere.” The research was recently published in the Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable, and Ubiquitous Technologies . The team plans to keep working on the technology to increase the operating range and encrypt conversations. They also aim to stream video on battery-free cellphones. + Battery Free Phone Via the University of Washington Images via Mark Stone/University of Washington

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Make calls with light or radio signals thanks to first battery-free cellphone

These incredible self-deploying buildings pop up in 8 minutes flat

July 5, 2017 by  
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In the future, buildings could build themselves. Ten Fold Engineering , based in the United Kingdom, is offering self-deploying structures that open up in under 10 minutes solely with the help of a hand-held battery-powered drill. Their 689-square-foot structures could be used as medical clinics or eco hotels or tree houses – to name a few. Ten Fold’s ready-to-use structures offer a glimpse into the future of construction : buildings that can be deployed or folded up in a matter of minutes by anyone. They can be easily relocated and customized to fit a customer’s needs: from offices to mobile supermarkets to beach huts, the options for Ten Fold’s shelters are numerous. Related: Hex House is an affordable, rapidly deployable solar home for disaster victims The structures can travel on a standard truck, and can be popped open with little power in eight minutes. The company says they’re fully equipped as soon as they’re opened and can be stacked on top of each other. No foundations are necessary, and Ten Fold says the structures can be deployed on sloped or uneven ground. According to the company, “The components are modular so almost any arrangement of panels, doors, windows, and service pods is possible.” The buildings include 689 square feet of mobile space with 706 cubic feet of storage. Ten Fold’s structures can even be equipped to go off-grid , with space either inside or via bolt-on modular pods for clean energy like solar power , batteries, and water storage or treatment. The company says their units are durable and have a long lifespan, and can be designed to meet “modern BREEAM and LEED energy, material, and production stability standards. The company is able to accomplish all this through a family of pin-jointed linkages that can move with little power consumed. They are licensing their technology , saying they aim to bring it to people for whom it will make a difference. The mobile structures begin at £100,000, or around $129,330. + Ten Fold Engineering Images via Ten Fold Engineering Facebook

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These incredible self-deploying buildings pop up in 8 minutes flat

The world’s most efficient 5-seater car is powered entirely by the sun

June 27, 2017 by  
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A team of students at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) just unveiled an electric car that seats five and is completely powered by the sun. Called Stella Vie, the vehicle stands apart because it’s more efficient than all solar cars before it. Even with fewer solar panels on its roof, the car is capable of a range of about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) on a warm summer day. According to the students, Stella Vie is “the car of the future.” Charged by the sun, the solar-powered vehicle can reach speeds up to 130 km/h (80 mph) and it also contains new, smart technology such as a parking navigation system that takes into account the position of the sun when parking (so it can keep charging). Like a Tesla, Stella Vie also uses the latest technology to warn drivers of upcoming traffic events. This allows for safer and more efficient driving. According to TU/e, Stella Vie was designed to find the most efficient route and show how much energy can be saved compared to a standard, fossil fuel-powered car. Any surplus energy that is generated by the vehicle can be supplied back to a house or the electric grid . Additionally, the smart charging and discharging system keeps track of energy prices and daily use to find the best time to recharge and discharge. Related: Record-Breaking Solar Car Can Travel 98 Miles on 15 Cents Worth of Electricity All in all, 23 students worked together to develop the car which is competing to win TU/e’s third world title at the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge , which will take place this October in Australia . The competition requires the solar -powered cars to run 3,000 kilometers through the Australian outback. Stella Vie will compete in the Cruiser Class (for practical cars), where technical innovation, battery consumption and the number of occupants that can be transported are taken into account by judges. + TU/e Images via TU/e, Bart van Overbeeke

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The world’s most efficient 5-seater car is powered entirely by the sun

Eviation Aircraft unveils all-electric aircraft with 600-mile range

June 23, 2017 by  
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Though flying via airplane is a fast and fun way to travel, it is one of the least environmentally-friendly methods to do so. That may soon change, however, as Eviation Aircraft (a member of NASA’s on-demand mobility program) recently unveiled the first prototype of an all-electric aircraft that has a range of up to 600 miles (965 km). Presented at the 52nd International Paris Air Show, the prototype could be ready to move into certification and commercialization as soon as next year. “At a time when we are more connected than ever, our mobility options must adapt to reflect this new, efficient future,” said Omer Bar-Yohay, CEO of Eviation Aircraft, in a statement. “Whether it is zero emissions , low-cost trip from Silicon Valley to San Diego, or Seoul to Beijing, our all-electric aircraft represents a chance for people to move with the speed and impact our global economy now demands.” The electric aircraft could potentially fly six to nine passengers, in addition to two crew members on long distances. With the intention to commercialize the plane by 2018, Eviation by far has the most aggressive timeline of any company intent on producing an electric plane. Due to the energy density of batteries, electric air transport has been limited. However, the company says it has developed a new aluminum-air battery that will make it possible for consumers to fly without harming the environment . Related: eGenius Plane Sets World Record for Electric Aircraft Speed “Based on an aerial application of  Phinergy Ltd’s Aluminum air battery, coupled with a high power rechargeable battery buffer, and managed by a clever mission specific power analytic algorithm, EViation’s energy system is unique. Providing a true solution to both energy density and utilization, at a cost that beats gas, and with zero emissions,” said Eviation Aircraft. Rather than compete with traditional aviation companies, Eviation will position itself as an Uber-like on-demand transport service. Mark Moore, Uber Engineering Director of Aviation, commented on the Eviation  technology : “We are witnessing a new age in aviation as advances in energy storage and aircraft design bring electric, on-demand air transit within reach. Our focus at Uber is in galvanizing the ecosystem necessary for urban VTOL electric vehicles to thrive for 20-60 mile trips that can provide massive time savings over ground transportation for long trips in cities. In parallel, we are encouraged to see bold new players like Eviation tackling challenges in different sectors using electric aviation; these players will help catalyze demand for new battery and rapid recharging technologies that are crucial to enable electric flight.” Via Elektrek Images via  Eviation Aircraft , Pixabay

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