This system will help provide the basis for managing, protecting, and optimizing the global food supply before invisible threats compromise production
Potential future applications include: protecting crops and forests, predicting earthquakes, and saving water by improving irrigation
The sensor system will allow the early detection of insect pests that threaten valuable crops and tree species.
Voltree is also launching CircuiTree, a kit that incorporates gamification and geo-location of tree voltage experiments to encourage citizen scientists
Voltree Power has proprietary technology that not only harvests energy from a living tree, converting the chemical activity of the tree into electric power, but also leverages this technology for various sensor applications. Right now, the company’s focus is on further testing and proving of this and related technologies, with an eye to anticipating emerging challenges in agricultural and forestry and developing new solutions.
One such solution is a system that will provide the early detection of insect pests that threaten valuable crops and tree species. Many of these species have a severe impact on the ecological balance of sensitive areas and also on the agricultural resources of many areas of the world. Voltree is developing a system that uses acoustic technology to identify the sounds of pest larvae while they are feeding on plants, thereby providing the early detection of insects such as the Asian Long Horned Beetle (ALB) and the Red Palm Beetle. Detection of an infestation in the early stages will not only prevent the loss of many trees or plants, it will allow the use of an environmentally safe remediation approach. Landowners, public or private, can undertake precise extraction of infested trees, rather than the widespread removal of affected trees to contain the threat or the massive use of environmentally damaging chemical pesticides.
The work that goes into the development of this system will also be useful for other applications in natural resource preservation and smart agriculture. Voltree already has several sensor systems in place in the U.S. and abroad to provide data that assists with forest fire prediction and management. Other potential applications will help detect plant and tree disease, measure soil content for better and more precise fertilizer use, sense moisture levels for improved irrigation and water conservation, and detect seismic activity.
Voltree’s sensor applications have tremendous potential to address critical needs in natural resource management and agriculture. They will help eradicate pests, decrease tree mortality, increase agricultural production, conserve water, reduce pesticide and fertilizer use, and provide early warnings for earthquakes. In addition, by using low-power technology, cloud computing, and data analysis, Voltree’s solutions use fewer resources than current methods.
Voltree is also promoting science and experiential education through its CircuiTree Bioenergy Science Kit. CircuiTree includes an energy harvesting circuit and an LED light that lights up with “tree power.” A “Citizens Science Project” app encourages students to compete with peers globally to see who can light the most trees by figuring out the science behind tree power, and allows them to record the voltages in various trees. The project could potentially enable global monitoring of the earth’s soil, crops, and forests by citizen scientists to add to our understanding of environmental conditions and emerging risks.
Voltree’s founders first filed for a patent for “tree power” in 2005. They sponsored research at MIT to better understand how the technology worked, which led to a published paper. They then began working with the USDA Forest Service on projects related to fire prediction and management.