Development of nanotechnology in the Iranian agricultural sector

TEHRAN – Agriculture is one of the areas where nanotechnology has been able to thrive, as more than 50 widely used nanoproducts have been launched in Iran’s agricultural sector.

Although the use and effectiveness of nanotechnology is often associated with future advances in medical and chemical technology, its use is much more subtle and broad.

Nanomaterials and nanostructures with unique chemical, physical and mechanical properties are widely used; For example, electrochemically activated carbon nanotubes, nanofibers and nanoparticles are just some of the uses of this technology.

In developing countries, nanotechnology can be used in several areas, including food safety, livestock, poultry and aquaculture inputs, rice production systems, agricultural biotechnology, animal health care, smart agriculture, food industry and water.

Recently, highly sensitive biochemical sensors have been developed and used using nanotechnology. These nanosensors have been widely used in agriculture, especially for soil analysis, easy measurement and control of biochemicals, management and transfer of water, pesticides and nutrients.

Effective presence of nanos in agriculture and food

In agriculture, in particular, innovation is important given global challenges including population growth, climate change and limited access to important plant nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium. Nanotechnology used to produce agricultural products can play a key role in solving these problems.

One particular application of nanomaterials in agriculture is to reduce the use of crop protection products, minimize nutrient loss in fertilizers, and increase yields through optimal nutrient management.

Nanotechnology tools such as nanocapsules, nanoparticles and even viral capsids are examples of using nanotechnology to detect and treat disease, increase plant nutrient uptake, deliver active ingredients to specific locations and water treatment process.

The use of specific and targeted nanoparticles can reduce damage to beneficial plant tissues and the number of chemicals released into the environment. Devices derived from nanotechnology are also used in plant breeding and genetic evolution.

Nanoparticles derived from biopolymers, such as proteins and carbohydrates with little impact on human health and the environment, are becoming more common and their use has increased.

Production of nanocomposites from agricultural waste

In recent years, agricultural waste has been considered as a renewable energy source to replace fossil fuels for the production of various petroleum-based products.

Biomass-based nanocomposites have remarkable properties compared to traditional micro-composite and macro-composite materials, and in addition, their production is more stable. Today, many production processes are underway to extract useful nanocomposites from agricultural waste.

Nano-companies in agriculture

Globally, major chemical companies are changing course and exploring the potential of nanotechnology to increase efficiency or greater penetration of their products.

Some agriculture-specific nanoproducts have been commercialized by smaller technology companies, such as soil-reinforcing products that enable even better distribution, storage and therefore water savings.

However, due to the high cost of producing these products, the commercial market has so far only been reached on a small scale.

These costs are usually offset by higher returns in the medical or pharmaceutical sectors. But so far, no such return has been made in the agricultural sector. But research in commercial agriculture and chemicals continues to cut costs and mass produce.

Large capacity for commercial purposes

The potential of nanotechnology in agriculture is high, but there are still some things to consider, such as increasing the scale of production processes and reducing costs, as well as assessing production risks. . The use of nanotechnology in consumer products has also raised ethical and social concerns in some countries, ranging from environmental health and safety to consumer perceptions and intellectual property rights.

Although the general approach to the penetration of nanotechnology in agriculture is positive, the long-term use of these materials in the agricultural sector, including pesticides, needs further investigation.

According to the Nanotechnology Innovation Council’s announcement on Sunday, at the international level, various activities have been carried out in the field of risk analysis of nanomaterials in the food and agricultural sectors.

Research into the use of nanotechnology in agriculture and the food industry has been going on for almost a decade.

In this regard, the Nanotechnology Innovation Council of the Vice Presidency for Science and Technology has supported knowledge-based enterprises active in the field of nanotechnology products as well as applied research in this field, so that more than 50 nanotechnology products widely used in agriculture have been commercialized so far.

The pace of nanotechnology development is accelerating

The trend of nanotechnology development is on the rise in Iran, with the number of nanoproducts and equipment developed in the previous Iranian calendar year (ending March 20) rising to 750 from 647 a year earlier.

Some 223 product manufacturing companies and 59 equipment manufacturing companies are active in nanotechnology and by the end of last year, they had developed a total of 750 products and equipment.

Of the 750 products and equipment registered in the nanotechnology product database, 535 were related to nanoproducts and 215 were related to nanoequipment, both of which have been on an upward trend in recent years, although nanoproducts have experienced greater growth. significantly.

The field of “civil engineering and construction” with 20% held the largest share among nano-products and equipment, followed by “medicine, health” and “industrial services and supplies” each with 13%.

Iran among the five pioneers of nanotechnology

Iran was featured as the 4th leading country in the world in the field of nanotechnology, publishing 11,546 scientific papers in 2020.

The country held a 6% share of the world’s total of nanotechnology articles, according to StatNano’s monthly rating of WoS databases.

Iran ranked 43rd among the world’s 100 fastest growing science and technology (S&T) clusters for the third consecutive year, according to the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2020 report.

The country has seen improvement at three levels compared to 2019.

Sourena Sattari, Vice President for Science and Technology, said Iran is playing a leading role in the region in fintech, ICT, stem cells, aerospace and is unmatched in artificial intelligence.

Iranian nanotechnology companies increased their sales by 100% in the Iranian calendar year 1398 (March 2019-March 2020), and their revenues are expected to reach up to 80 trillion rials (nearly 1.9 billion at the official rate of 42,000 rials), Sattari announced.

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Lana T. Arthur