Scientists replicate ingenious wild oat seed system, create seed-carrying bio-hybrid “robot” for aerial seeding.

Scientists have successfully replicated the seed-delivery system utilized by wild oats, resulting in the development of a seed-carrying bio-hybrid “robot.” This innovative technology has the potential to revolutionize aerial seeding of crops and forests in the future.

The wild oat plant, Avena sterilis, features a unique seed structure with two long arms known as sister awns that help propel the seed into the soil. When the seed lands on the ground, moisture causes the awns to twist and rotate, storing elastic energy that propels the seed into the soil when released. This natural mechanism inspired researchers from the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia and the University of Freiburg to create the HybriBot.

The HybriBot encapsulates seeds and fertilizer within a biodegradable capsule made of flour and water coated in an eco-friendly biopolymer. Real awns and husk hairs from wild oat seeds are incorporated into the design, mimicking the natural seed delivery process. Despite being slightly heavier than a natural oat seed, the HybriBot can efficiently plant a variety of seeds in different soil conditions.

Automated robotic assembly systems could mass-produce these seed-loaded HybriBots quickly and cost-effectively. The materials used are biodegradable and non-toxic, making them environmentally friendly. Tests have shown successful planting of seeds for various plants using the HybriBot, including tomatoes, chicory, and willow herb.

The technology holds great promise for applications in agriculture and forestry. By further developing the HybriBot, researchers aim to enhance its effectiveness in planting seeds on a larger scale. The study led by Barbara Mazzolai and Isabella Fiorello from IIT was recently published in Advanced Materials, showcasing the potential of this bio-inspired innovation. Watch the HybriBots in action in the video below to see how they plant themselves in the soil.

Jane Austen

A tech enthusiast unraveling complex concepts. Writes on AI, cybersecurity, and software trends.