2019 02 13

Lithuanian Innovation for Modern Agriculture

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Lithuanian honey that never crystallises and is enriched with lyophilised berries and medicinal plant powders has become a great hit in Germany, the UK and Ireland. Lithuanian apple tree varieties are being planted in Latvia and Estonia. Elena, a new Lithuanian variety of grass has made it across the pond to the markets of the US and Canada. These are just a few examples of the agricultural innovations that have found demand in foreign markets. Even more of them are finding their feet in the Lithuanian market.

Service of the Year for Business

A partnership between science and business is especially important in agricultural innovation. As pointed out by Aistė Ragauskaitė, the innovation marketing specialist at the Communication and Technology Transferral Centre of Aleksandras Stulginskis University (ASU), it is critical that business feels the need for scientific research and that scientists, in turn, see various possibilities for applied research: “Our goal at the CTTC is to promote and strengthen collaboration between science and business, starting from the development of an idea for research to the commercialisation of the final product. We also dedicate a lot of energy to the protection of intellectual property and the transferral of knowledge and technology.” The developers of agricultural innovation at ASU are provided with all the infrastructure they may need, from fully-equipped labs, which function as open access centres, to modern business incubators. So far, 14 companies have developed innovative products here – innovative cannabis products, caramel and harvested microgreens, to name a few. Many of the ASU technologies mentioned here were developed under the Inocheck financing measure.

To name an example, lyophilised mung bean and black lentil sprouts have a wide range of applicability and retain almost all of their nutritious value due to the innovative technique they were processed with. The nutrient-rich product was developed by Professor Honorata Danilčenko, a researcher at the ASU Institute of Agriculture and Food Sciences, in partnership with the company Sotu Sotu. For now, the product is winning over the hearts of Lithuanian consumers, but the developers intend to launch the product in other European markets too. Both the professor and Sotu Sotu are delighted with its growing popularity. Professor Elvyra Jarienė, lecturer Jurgita Kulaitienė and Edita Danilčenko, a businesswoman, used an innovative spray-dryer to produce soluble dye powder from berries. This product is especially important for the food industry, where businesses are trying to use fewer chemical elements. The berries are processed using a special technology which results in a powder that acts as a food dye. They can be used to colour desserts, soft drinks and other food products, protecting the product and offering added value for the consumer by replacing chemical ingredients with natural ones. A Ph regulator and calcium-magnesium bonding agent developed by Ernestas Zaleckas of the ASU Institute of Environmental Science and Ecology, helps farmers address water quality issues. Meanwhile, a technology developed by Juozas Pekarskas of the Agricultural Ecology Centre helps use up food waste. The technology is being applied by companies such as Biastra and Insectum.

“There is an abundance of food waste in Lithuania and this poses some serious problems for society. We thought of an idea about how to recycle it and then reuse it,” explains Pekarskas.

The technology recycles the biomass of fly larvae to produce various kinds of good quality compost, and from them – granulated fertiliser. Up to now, no technology had used the larvae of black soldier flies. This ASU innovation was voted the Scientific Service of the Year for Business.

New Cultivation Methods

Under the leadership of Professor Egidijus Šarauskis, a team of scientists from the ASU Institute of Agricultural Engineering and Safety are doing research in the field of tillage, sowing and machine technology with the aim of reducing energy requirements for various technological operations and negative environmental impact as well as increasing economic efficiency.

“Our aim is to create technology that would allow us to reduce the intensity of farming to a minimum. Based on the latest global trends and our own research, we propose sowing into minimally tilled soil or soil that hasn’t been tilled at all. Our newest research focus is strip tillage, which is a type of tillage that works the soil in strips, instead of tilling the entire surface of the field. Before we had no machine tools for this type of research, so we had to design and manufacture a machine for strip tillage ourselves. We have now patented the machine in Lithuania,” explains Šarauskis.

Manufacturers and suppliers of farming technology have recently taken a greater interest in this type of technology too. The market already offers strip tillage and sowing machines suitable for planting corn, sugar beet, soy, sunflowers and other plants. Using this technology, the untilled strips, stubble and remaining vegetation in between the seedbeds do a good job of protecting the soil from environmental impact, reducing chemical leakage and erosion, increasing layers of humus and improving soil structure.

According to Šarauskis, not tilling soil at all is an extreme approach that may not suit every type of farming enterprise, soil or plant. Only modern technology can plant seeds in untilled soil because regular machines simply fail to inject the seeds into such soil to a sufficient degree of quality. Older models require additional features or add-ons. What these features could look like and what technological parameters are optimal is exactly what the team at ASU are researching.

Professor Šarauskis, doctoral fellow V. Naujokienė and their colleagues from the Faculty of Agricultural Engineering and Agronomy presented a new method of reducing fuel consumption in deep and shallow tillage operations. Using biological preparations or combinations thereof can result in substantially reduced energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Precision Fertiliser Application

Professor Dainius Steponavičius, Remigijus Zinkevičius and several doctoral students at the ASU Institute of Agricultural Engineering and Safety are studying precision fertilisation technology, which allows the frugal use of fertiliser and demand-driven fertilisation. The latest in smart precision-farming technology allows farmers to create fertilisation maps based on the physical and chemical properties of different plots of soil. Demand-driven fertilisation reduces fertiliser consumption, prevents over-fertilisation, saves financial resources and is more environmentally-friendly.

For Reducing Losses in Rapeseed Harvests

Professor Steponavičius, E. Zaleckas and their team of doctoral students are also working on an innovative technology that would allow the reduction of losses during the rapeseed harvest. The technology uses a material that is sprayed onto unharvested rapeseed and ‘locks’ the seed pods so that they do not open easily. This means that fewer seeds are scattered and lost when being harvested by a combine.

Curated by the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA), OPEN R&D Lithuania unites all of the country’s universities, scientific research institutes, science and technology parks and open access centres, providing over 2.5 thousand different services in the fields of engineering, IT, biomedicine and biotechnology, material science, physics and chemical technology, natural resources and agriculture.

In order to help businesses find the scientific partners or services they need, OPEN R&D Lithuania has established its Contact Centre. The Centre allows businesses to set up individual meetings, make contact with potential partners and become partners themselves.

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