May 25, 2017

Tree to tweet about the weather and its life

Filed under: Dutch first,Nature,Technology by Orangemaster @ 10:54 am


As of tomorrow there will be a 30-year-old elm tree at Wageningen University that is going to tweet about the weather and its health – a Dutch first. It will have all kinds of devices stuck it to do so, but that’s par for the course.

Is it getting enough water, it is being properly taken care of, that sort of thing. The tweeting is of course for fun and to make the public aware of trees and their environment. The boffins taking measurements will also use the data they plan to collect for climate change purposes.

Belgium already has three tweeting trees: an oak, a maple and a beech tree, while in Germany there’s a whole ‘forest’ of them. Spain and Switzerland will have some trees on Twitter in the near future as well.

(Link:, Photo of Elm tree by Sludge G, some rights reserved)

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August 18, 2016

ResQ food waste app launches in Amsterdam

Filed under: Dutch first,Food & Drink,Technology by Orangemaster @ 7:56 am

Started up in Finland last year and already available in Sweden and Estonia, ResQ, a successful app that offers restaurants trying to sell cheap, leftover meals to hungry patrons is launching in Amsterdam this week. Other major Dutch cities such as The Hague and Utrecht are soon to follow this fall.

Research from Wageningen University claims the Netherlands throws out 51 million tonnes of food a year and that’s waste many groups would like to put a halt to. Available for iPhone and Android, ResQ will first aim at people who come from their work and want to eat something without too much fuss, like lasagna, sandwiches, salades, soups and baked goods, which are easy to sell fast rather than throw away.

In February a Dutch supermarket chain hired a chef to cook food that otherwise according to the law still had to be thrown out, but ResQ is sure to stop some of the waste.

(Link:, Photo of an endive potato mash with meatless sausage by Jasja Dekker, some rights reserved)

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May 17, 2016

Growing food for Mars and the Moon

Filed under: Food & Drink by Orangemaster @ 11:20 am

The Dutch are already involved in getting to Mars, but researchers at Wageningen University feel people need to be able to grow their own food if they ever plan on living there.

Wageningen University wants to grow vegetables in soils similar to those found on the Moon and Mars, but getting those soils is a tall order. However, NASA actually makes ground similar to that on the Moon from sand found in an Arizona desert, while Mars’ crimson ‘soil’ is scooped from a volcano in Hawaii. The first experiments started in 2013 after the university received an order of 100 kilos of NASA’s imitation ‘space soil’, which cost 2,000 euro.

Wieger Wamelink of Wageningen University decided to grow tomatoes, peas, cress and other plants in pots containing the simulated soil. The imitation ground wasn’t big on being watered at first, but soon turned out to be good potting soil. “In the Martian soil, plants were growing fast and well. They even started to flower, something that we never anticipated,” Wamelink said. The 50-day experiment was written up in the science journal PLOS One in August 2014.

The vegetables however are not necessarily safe to eat. Wamelink suggested growing other plant species such as violets to absorb the poisons. Water should be no problem as it is found as ice on both the Moon and Mars, said Wamelink. Other questions which need answers include the presence of friendly bacteria to help plant growth and what happens to plants that grow in low gravity. It’s still all very theoretical and cannot be tested in actual Martian and lunar conditions.

Part of me wonder if earthlings so fond of all kinds of foods, wouldn’t go bonkers from a steady diet of boring, never mind a lack of meat for some, alcohol and chocolate. The first person to open up a snack bar is going to rule the planet.


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December 14, 2015

Killing mosquitoes using human foot odour traps

Filed under: Science,Weird by Orangemaster @ 11:37 am

In 2006 Dutch scientist Bart Knols observed that malaria-carrying mosquitoes are attracted to smelly human feet, convincing fellow scientist Renate Smallegange’s to follow in his smelly footsteps devising mosquito traps using human foot odour. Knols figured out that when standing up, mosquitoes would go for people’s feet, prompting Smallegange to zoom in on this discovery. At Wageningen University she collects people’s smelly socks to carry out research on trapping mosquitoes who transmit malaria through their bite, affecting millions of people every year.

According to this radio interview, carbon dioxide is what first attracts mosquitoes to people, however since 2006, we also know that smelly feet do that as well. She explains that clean socks are not attractive at all to mosquitoes, smelly socks are very attractive, but when you add carbon dioxide, you could trap roughly 45 to 75% of all malaria-carrying mosquitoes. And the sock only needs to be worn for a day!

No, foot odour doesn’t work on ‘regular’ mosquitoes, and yes, the idea is to design traps with a specific built-in odour, not some African villager’s dirty socks or shipping socks over to Africa.

(Link:, Image by A.E. Goeldi, in the public domain)

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February 11, 2015

Dutch professor invents robot that collect eggs

Filed under: Food & Drink,Technology by Orangemaster @ 10:35 am


Dutch robotics expert Professor Edvert van Henten from Wageningen University is developing a robot that will help egg producers help put a stop to wasted eggs. “The hens have to lay their eggs in nests, but 30% are laid on the floor. They cannot be sold as quality eggs and encourage other chickens to lay there as well so the farmers have to collect them by walking through twice a day, which is challenging.”

The technology is not yet available, and much like milking machines in the dairy industry, much needs to be done to make them commercially available,” says Van Henten.

Why is there a feather on the eggs in this picture some North Americans readers may wonder. Because the rest of the world believes in the natural protective coating placed on eggs by hens and that washing them straight out the chicken forces North Americans to wash and then refrigerate their eggs, which has been proven to be more susceptible to bacteria.


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March 27, 2014

Government buys into harnessing electricity from plants

Filed under: Nature,Sustainability,Technology by Orangemaster @ 10:58 am


Plant-e , founded by David Strik and Marjolein Helder in 2009, is a spin-off company of the Environmental Technology of Wageningen University. After obtaining her PhD in November 2012 Helder became the CEO of Plant-e, while Strik works as an assistant professor at the university, supporting Plant-e’s research and development one day a week.

On March 12, coinciding with Dutch Arbour Day (‘Nationale Boomfeestdag’), Plant-e signed a deal with the Dutch government to build a plant-driven power plant. The plants will be grown on the Hembrug military terrain in Zaandam, North Holland and will be used for outdoor lighting and charging mobile phones.

Thanks to photosynthesis, a bioenergetic process used by plants to convert light into energy, plants create organic material. The roots of these plants contain bacteria that breaks down organic material, giving off electrons. Plant-e has created technology that captures these electrons as carbon electrons, which can be used directly as electricity.

Just this month we told you about a table that uses plant energy to charge mobile phones.

Watch the promo video (in English):

(Link:, Photo of Charging station by Katja Linders, some rights reserved)

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October 27, 2011

Hardcore brown rats run amok in posh Amsterdam

Filed under: Animals,General by Orangemaster @ 4:42 pm

Amsterdam and surely many other Dutch cities have lots of rats, what with these damp, age-old canals and all. And no, not the cute little grey mice that could adorn some Anton Pieck painting, but the bigguns that a posh neighbourhood like Amsterdam South is not expected to have running around.

According to newspaper De Telegraaf, the Marie Heinekenplein is “swarming” with them. The square has many outdoor cafés as well as a supermarket where a woman claimed to have seen about 30 of them in one go. As usual, businesses and locals have complained about the situation, but are being ignored by the city. Although everyone is responsible for making sure there’s no food left around, the city apparently does not pick up the trash often enough, which doesn’t help. Amsterdam’s innercity garbage collection is mostly done by stacking it someone twice and week as if it were the suburbs, which is not something other big European cities do.

And poisoning them is an option, but apparently about 39% of these rats can take it. “Research done by Wageningen University shows a large number of rats in the Netherlands have a genetic make-up which allows them to develop resistance more quickly.”

(Links:,, Photo of Brown rat by Jean-Jacques Boujot, some rights reserved)

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March 23, 2010

Turning green waste into biodiesel

Filed under: Food & Drink,Science,Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 12:14 pm

Having obtained her Ph.D on 19 March from Wageningen University, Kirsten Steinbusch found a new method of turning organic waste into energy, which can be used to produce biodiesel. Her method uses ‘volatile fatty acids, formed when microbes break down the waste. Apparently, it stinks like you wouldn’t believe. However, Steinbuch was able to apply micro-organisms and some hard chemistry to transform them into biodiesel.’

The process Steinbusch has developed provides more energy than burning green waste or extracting methane gas through fementation. “Extracting energy from green waste is sustainable, but it has to be energy efficient; you should not have to put more energy into it than comes out of it”, Steinbusch explains. Her approach doesn’t need any land or crops and has no negative impact on food production.

(Link:,, Photo of Green waste by canonsnapper. Used under the terms of GNU FDL.)

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October 27, 2008

Healthy purple tomatoes may fight cancer

Filed under: Food & Drink,Science by Orangemaster @ 7:00 am
Purple tomato

British and Dutch scientists have developed a new, purple-coloured tomato. Research shows that this tomato is very healthy and protects people against the onset of some types of cancer.

According to the research institute Plant Research International of the Wageningen University, two genes of the snapdragon flower (antirrhinum) have been added to the tomato through genetic modification. These genes are needed to produce anthocyanins, purple-coloured antioxidants, which can also be found in blackberries, strawberries and cranberries.

Not only do anthocyanins protect against certain types of cancers, but also against heart and vascular diseases. Moreover, anthocyanins are said to be anti-inflammatory. The new tomatoes worked well on mice that are very prone to getting cancer.

(Link and photo:

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