The power of the Moon can save humanity from food crisis: agriculture with lunar rhythm

Food shortage crisis due to population growth

By 2050, the world’s population is expected to increase to 9.7 billion people, which will require a 70% increase in food production compared to today. However, the harvested area is not expected to expand. At this rate, the world is going to face a food shortage crisis.

Through our research, we discovered that tide-generating force is involved in promote the growth of animals and plants. If we can use this force for efficient food production, we may be able to help solve the food shortage crisis.

The growth pattern of Kenaf led us to focus on tide-generating force

Tide-generating force is the sum of the gravitational pulls of the sun and the moon and the centrifugal force of the earth, which causes tides, the rise and fall of sea level. Kenaf, an annual plant, provided clues that led us to discover the relationship between tide-generating force and plant growth.

We have long used kenaf fiber, which has a high ability to absorb CO2, in products such as interior panels for automobile doors. Use of kenaf, which has a strong fiber strength, as a reinforcing material, has helped us reduce weight and contributed to reducing CO2 emissions from the driving of cars.

Large amounts of kenaf fiber are needed to manufacture our products. What should we do to grow kenaf efficiently? Our research began with this question. More about kenaf

Kenaf fibers increase like growth rings. The timing of their increase is about once every two weeks. In addition, kenaf is a very fast-growing plant. When we measured the growth rate of kenaf plants every 3 hours, we found that they do not show a constant growth. Instead, we found there are periods in which they grow and those in which they do not.

We recognized that the rhythm of once every two weeks in nature is the same as the phases of the moon. And we found that the period of kenaf’s growth coincided with a rising tide. Kenaf appeared to grow especially fast when the tide rises at night.

Food shortage crisis due to population growth
Food shortage crisis due to population growth

Use of tide-generating force can help plants and animals grow faster

Plants grow well when tide-generating force moves significantly in while there is no light. As we thought that this discovery could be applied to other plants, we began an experiment to find out if it can be used as a cultivation technique.

Since it is difficult to control light exposure outdoors, we targeted a closed-type plant factory that only uses artificial light. We used lettuce, which is widely grown in Japan, to measure the impact of tide-generating force. When we controlled the time of light exposure according to the change of tide-generating force, we found that the weight at the harvest time was about 20% heavier than those grown under general conditions.

We are currently conducting an experiment to confirm if the same impact can be obtained at an actual plant factory. Our initial goal is to take this cultivation technique to a practical level by 2025.

Furthermore, we found that it may be possible to use tide-generating force to boost the growth of animals, not only plants. In an experiment using softshell turtles, we found that their average weight tends to increase when they are fed according to tide-generating force change. We expect that this will help shorten the breeding period or reduce the amount of feed.

Impacts of tide-generating force on animals and plants

Use of tide-generating force can help plants and animals grow faster

Aiming to solve food problems

Plant factories can produce food even in areas where the climate is not suitable for farming, such as severely cold regions and arid land where water is difficult to secure. We can increase the productivity of plant in plant factories by using tide-generating force. A technology that increases crops by 20%, in other words, can reduce the amount of energy used to produce them by the same percentage, and can also be said to increase the value of products by 20%. If we use renewable energy, such as solar, water and wind power, for the electricity required for production, it will help make food production sustainable.

Our goal is to develop a low-cost, energy-saving cultivation method that combines the technologies of renewable energy and plant factory, and tide-generating force available in nature, that can bring out the full potential of plants. Ultimately, we aim to use this technology to contribute to solving the food problems of the world.

Initiatives for Cutting-Edge R&D

Aiming to solve food problems

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