We are looking for a industrial partner from any of the elegible countries working in the field of aeroponic or photonics.
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Aeroponics farming is an efficient and effective process for growing plants without using soil as a medium, allowing for a reduction of up to 80 % in water requirements, and increasing yield and rate of growth. At present, all the monitoring and controlling systems used in aeroponics are linked to the environmental conditions of the greenhouses, temperature and relative humidity, principally. However, no attention has been put up to determine these parameters inside the plants and correlate them with the environmental conditions, to improve further the efficiency and effectiveness of this kind of farming.
Non-contact nanometer sized luminescent sensors have been developed in the last years for biomedical applications (biolabelling, bioimaging and tumors’ treatment, mainly) allowing for a remote control of parameters such as temperature or oxygen content in biological tissues, among others.
This technology is now mature enough to be used in other applications at reduced costs. In this project we propose to develop temperature, oxygen level and pH balance nanosized luminescent sensors, dispersible in water, so then can be introduced easily in the plants through the feeding system, and that allow for the interrogation of these parameters from outside the plant. These sensors are not intended to be fed to all the plants in the farm, but only in a control group representative of the whole farm. This would allow stablishing a correlation between the parameters read inside the plants and those established in the environmental control of the farm to optimize their performance.
The proposal is focused on two crops economically very important in Tunisia: lettuce and strawberry, with different characteristics for investigating where the interrogation is more sensitive: leaves, roots or fruits, by measuring their optical transparency to choose the region of the electromagnetic spectrum to work. Luminescent sensors will be then developed using lanthanide-doped nanoparticles (thermometers) with transition metal complexes linked to their surfaces (oxygen sensors) and encapsulated in polymeric quantum dots (pH sensors) that allows forming colloidal suspensions and facilitate their absorption by the plants. A part from the performance of these sensors, their accumulation in the plants, and the effect they have in their development will be analyzed. A compact, low-cost reading system will be also developed to facilitate the transference of this technology to the farms.
The Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area will devise new R&I approaches to improve water availability and sustainable agriculture production in a region heavily distressed by climate change, urbanisation and population growth
The PRIMA programme is an Art.185 initiative supported and funded under Horizon 2020, the European Union’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.