To capitalise on the abundant and free resources of the sun and sea, researchers at the University of South Australia have initiated a pioneering project to construct vertical sea farms floating on the ocean. These innovative sea farms possess the capability to produce fresh water for drinking and agriculture without human intervention, offering a potential solution to the impending global crises of freshwater scarcity and food shortage, anticipated to be exacerbated by the projected world population reaching 10 billion by 2050.
Led by Professor Haolan Xu and Dr Gary Owens from UniSA’s Future Industries Institute, this inventive system comprises two main components: an upper layer resembling a glasshouse and a lower water harvest chamber. The system’s functionality bears a resemblance to a wicking bed, a concept familiar to home gardeners, but with a remarkable twist. It relies on an array of solar evaporators that absorb seawater, isolate the salts within the evaporator structure, and, when exposed to the sun’s rays, release clean water vapour into the atmosphere. This vapour then condenses on water belts and is transported to the upper plant growth chamber.
In a field test, the researchers successfully cultivated three common vegetable crops – broccoli, lettuce, and pak choi – using seawater surfaces without the need for maintenance or additional clean water irrigation. The system, powered solely by solar energy, offers several advantages over existing solar sea farm designs that are currently undergoing testing.
Professor Xu highlights that other designs incorporate evaporators within the growth chamber, occupying valuable space that could otherwise be used for plant growth. Additionally, these systems are susceptible to overheating, which can lead to crop damage or death. In contrast, the innovative design developed by Professor Xu’s team distributes the evaporator and growth chambers vertically, reducing the device’s overall footprint and maximising the area available for food production. The system is not only fully automated but also cost-effective and easy to operate, relying exclusively on solar energy and seawater to generate clean water and cultivate crops.
Dr Owens emphasised that while their design currently represents a proof-of-concept, the next step is to scale it up, utilising a small array of individual devices to enhance plant production. Meeting the growing demands of food supply will necessitate both increasing the size and number of these devices.
It is conceivable that in the future, vast farm biodomes could float on the ocean’s surface, or multiple smaller devices could be deployed across expansive sea areas. Their existing prototype is also poised for modifications aimed at achieving a higher biomass output. One such modification involves using cost-effective substrate materials like waste rice straw fibre, which would further reduce operational costs.
The research team has demonstrated that the recycled water produced by their system is of sufficient quality for drinking, with lower salinity levels than the World Health Organization’s guidelines for drinking water. This innovation is timely, given the United Nations estimates that approximately 2.4 billion people are likely to face water shortages by 2050. During the same period, the global water supply for agricultural irrigation is projected to decline by approximately 19%.
Freshwater constitutes a mere 2.5% of the world’s water, and much of it is inaccessible, and trapped in glaciers, ice caps, or deep underground reservoirs. It’s not that the quantity of freshwater is diminishing, but rather that the limited available supply faces increasing demand due to population growth and the effects of climate change. In contrast, a staggering 97.5% of the world’s water resides in the oceans, readily available.
This technology harnesses the power of the sea and sun to tackle the escalating global challenges of water scarcity, food shortage, and diminishing agricultural land. Widespread adoption of the technology has the potential to enhance the well-being of billions of people worldwide.
Rehabilitation services have gained increasing significance, as highlighted by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat during RehabWeek 2023. The demand for rehab services is growing worldwide due to an ageing population and a rising incidence of chronic diseases. To meet this demand and improve outcomes, the field of rehabilitation is embracing innovation, particularly through advancements in technology, robotics, and digitalisation.
Rehabilitation plays a crucial role in enabling individuals, regardless of age, to regain independence and participate meaningfully in daily life. With the World Health Organisation estimating that 1 in 3 people globally may benefit from rehab services, the importance of this field cannot be overstated.
Beyond individual well-being, rehabilitation contributes to productive longevity and reduces downstream medical costs when integrated into holistic care plans. Thus, it aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of “healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages.”
Deputy Prime Minister Heng shared his personal experience as a stroke survivor, emphasising the pivotal role that therapists and early rehabilitation played in his recovery journey. Early rehab interventions were instrumental in mitigating the debilitating effects of extended bed rest in the ICU. Dedicated therapists, combined with intensive rehab, enabled him to regain full functionality, underscoring the transformative potential of rehabilitation services.
Innovations in rehabilitation leverage broader trends like robotics and digitalisation. These innovations offer precision rehabilitation, tailoring treatment plans to individual needs. They also mitigate manpower constraints by augmenting human efforts with technology.
For instance, robotics-assisted physiotherapy and games-based cognitive exercises are becoming increasingly prevalent. Moreover, virtual rehabilitation has gained prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic, enhancing convenience and empowering patients to take charge of their rehab journeys from home.
Many societies are facing the dual challenge of an ageing population and a declining workforce to provide rehabilitation services. Technology is critical in augmenting these efforts to meet growing demand. Innovations in rehabilitation enhance its effectiveness and accessibility, ensuring that patients follow through with and benefit from rehab programs.
Singapore is at the forefront of innovative rehabilitation practices. Its acute hospitals offer excellent rehab care services and conduct research to improve care. Notably, Tan Tock Seng Hospital is a pioneer in rehabilitation medicine. Changi General Hospital houses the Centre for Healthcare Assistive and Robotics Technology (CHART), facilitating the synergy between clinical needs and technological innovation.
The One-Rehab Framework is a recent innovation in Singapore, ensuring timely access to rehabilitation care. This framework enables seamless care coordination across different settings and care team members through a common IT portal and harmonised clinical outcomes. It streamlines the sharing of relevant patient information and encourages right-siting of care within the community, reducing the burden on acute hospitals.
According to Deputy Prime Minister Heng, RehabWeek serves as a platform for delegates with diverse expertise and a shared commitment to advancing rehabilitation care. It encourages the sharing of best practices and useful technologies to strengthen collective impact, especially when addressing global challenges.
Singapore stands ready to collaborate with international partners, offering its strong ecosystem in research, innovation, and enterprise to advance the field of rehabilitation for the benefit of people worldwide.
He added that rehabilitation is evolving and embracing technological innovations to meet the increasing demand for its services, especially in ageing societies. “Collaboration, innovation, and a focus on the last-mile delivery of care are crucial for ensuring that individuals can live well and maximise their potential through effective rehabilitation,” Deputy Prime Minister Heng said. “Singapore’s commitment to these principles makes it a valuable partner in advancing the frontiers of rehabilitation on a global scale.”
The Vietnamese government has said that digital transformation and green transformation are inevitable global trends. They have a crucial role in enhancing economic growth, labour productivity, competitiveness, production, and business efficiency. They also reduce reliance on fuel sources that cause pollution and minimise carbon footprint.
To discuss digital and green transformation for sustainable development and to foster networking opportunities for businesses to accelerate their green transitions, the Ministry of Science and Technology held a forum in the northern province of Quang Ninh.
Domestic and international scientists, along with representatives from organisations and technology companies, deliberated on strategies to speed up green and digital transformations. They underscored the importance of advancing technological innovation and implementing reforms in human resource management, training, and quality enhancement to create new products and processes. This, in turn, will boost business value, aid in the delivery of better goods and services to society, and expedite Vietnam’s industrialisation and modernisation processes.
Participants suggested the establishment of a support mechanism for industries implementing green and digital transformation solutions in Vietnamese businesses. They also stressed that it is necessary to promote Horizon Europe’s international cooperation programme on joint research and innovation for Vietnam and have comprehensive digital transformation solutions for businesses.
During the forum, Quang Ninh province representatives, the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations (VUSTA), businesses, and organisations exchanged memoranda of understanding regarding collaboration in the domains of digital transformation and green transformation.
Vietnam has been introducing emerging technologies in the agricultural sector to promote sustainable growth. Earlier this year, the government announced plans to introduce artificial intelligence (AI) for the optimisation of farming practices, including weather prediction, monitoring of plant and livestock health, and enhancing product quality.
AI can improve crop productivity and help control pests, diseases, and cultivation conditions. It can improve the performance of farming-related tasks across food supply chains. Advancements in the manufacturing of AI-controlled robots are assisting farmers worldwide in utilising less land and labour while simultaneously boosting production output.
Vietnam’s commitment to technological advancements in agriculture extends beyond AI, as highlighted by the government’s plans to harness biotechnology. In September, the Politburo issued a resolution under which Vietnam aims to be among the top ten Asian countries in biotechnology production and services by 2030.
As OpenGov Asia reported, the biotechnology sector is on the verge of becoming a significant economic and technological industry, with an expected 50% rise in the number of companies in terms of investment size and growth rate. Additionally, it is projected that half of the imported biotechnology products will be substituted by domestic production. This sector is anticipated to make a 7% contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Vietnam aims to establish a thriving biotechnology sector by 2045, positioning itself as a prominent centre for smart production, services, biotechnology startups, and innovation in Asia. This sector is expected to contribute 10% to 15% to the GDP by that year.
As a result of its tropical climate and its economic shift away from agriculture, biotechnology plays a vital role in Vietnam’s industrialisation and modernisation efforts. It contributes significantly to ensuring food security, facilitating economic restructuring, and promoting sustainable development. Furthermore, in environmental conservation, biotechnology has brought forth numerous solutions. These include the breakdown of inorganic and organic pollutants, waste treatment, industrial waste processing, and the use of microorganisms to address oil spills and incidents of oil contamination.
Vietnam can focus on developing various aspects within the biotechnology sector, such as agricultural advancements in crop and animal breeding, manufacturing veterinary drugs, developing vaccines, and creating bio-fertilizers.
The agricultural sector continues to experience technological advancements. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a part of the modern agricultural industry. AI technology is used in various aspects, from production and management to marketing. Agriculture heavily relies on weather, soil, and the environment. Therefore, AI technology related to drones and sensors is essential to support precision agriculture
Drones’ ability to rapidly scan areas with high-quality sensors is beneficial in various applications, including crop mapping, soil analysis, environmental surveys, livestock monitoring, and infrastructure surveillance.
In light of this, the Food Crops Research Centre (PRTP) of the Agriculture and Food Research Organisation (ORPP) under the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) held an occasion regarding AI technology in the development of drones and sensors and its applications in agriculture.
Puji Lestari, the Head of ORPP BRIN, expressed that this occasion would benefit BRIN and other stakeholders. She emphasised that combining drone and sensor technology would create innovative solutions to address food availability challenges.
Furthermore, Puji also highlighted that precision agriculture is closely tied to the availability of tools. Implementing AI in rapid data analysis as a basis for decision-making, ranging from planting and feeding to irrigation and harvesting, is expected to benefit farmers.
The AI-based capabilities, including high-quality sensors and scanning, enable rapid work and real-time data processing, plant identification, and decision-making to support productivity targets. Therefore, the Food Crops Research Centre should provide more opportunities to utilise AI-based technology that supports increased crop productivity,” he emphasised.
At the same time, the Head of PRTP BRIN, Yudhistira Nugraha, also acknowledged that technological advancements have become inevitable. Through the science community, AI researchers are expected to actively contribute to utilising AI technology, turning it into a valuable science that can be applied to agricultural development in Indonesia.
“We can gain many benefits using AI technology for monitoring agricultural land, including fertiliser usage, fertility identification, plant growth, and with the help of AI technology, farmers can make decisions and take actions that can be applied in the farming system to increase productivity,” he explained.
Tri Surya Harapan, Research Manager at a company that provides sales of drones and surveillance services for agriculture, the environment, defence, forestry, and marine purposes, explained about multispectral cameras that provide information on plant health and management.
“AI is widely known for replicating human intelligence and can be simulated using computer systems. Automation sensors embedded in drones, such as camera sensors, LIDAR sensors, or other advanced sensors, provide valuable information as decision-makers in the field without direct human intervention,” he said.
“The use of AI with drone and sensor technology requires relatively high service costs, so in its implementation, collaboration with stakeholders on a large scale is needed,” Tri clarified.
Meanwhile, Senior Researcher at PRTP BRIN, Muhammad Aqil, discussed the Utilisation of Drone Technology in Food Crop Research. This is in line with the direction of the President of Indonesia in the 2021 National IPTEK Coordination Meeting, which emphasises the use of modern technology and contribution to the era of Industry 4.0, including the application of artificial intelligence technology to support all fields/activities, including agriculture.
“We have gone through several stages before reaching Industry 4.0, and now it’s time to use drone technology to monitor the nutrient status of plants, quickly detect pest attacks (OPT – Plant Pest Organisms), check strain contamination, inspect seed production data cells, and determine the harvest time,” said Aqil.
Aqil concluded that the vegetation index-based model developed for the selection of corn genotypes, which are tolerant to both NDVI and NDRE, has proven capable of predicting harvest yields and the best genotype types in corn variety selection in the field.
“By integrating drones and image analysis, it could support research activities, especially in the field,” Aqil added.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has inaugurated several digital projects for the Defence Accounts Department (DAD) as part of its 276th Annual Day celebrations. The initiatives include:
The Summary of Accounts, Budget, and Expenditure for Raksha Mantralaya (the Ministry of Defence) tool aims to provide a more accurate and objective view of defence financial information like payment, accounting, and budgeting in India.
This analytics tool integrates, compiles, sanitises, and standardises financial data from various applications, data sources, and databases. It then offers a real-time, comprehensive platform with dashboard features, allowing users to visualise trends, display metrics, present graphs illustrating key performance indicators, and generate reports, among other functionalities.
SARANSH will function as a complete dashboard for higher management, offering a quick overview of all defence expenditures. It enables centralised monitoring and encourages data-driven decision-making for all defence organisations.
The Bill Information and Work Analysis System will function as a dashboard for various Principal Controllers of Defence Accounts (PCsDA)/ Controllers of Defence Accounts (CsDA), providing different infographics to monitor and analyse the whole process flow of bill management. It will also generate reports on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). It provides real-time detailed analyses of bill processing, with interactive visualisations of granular data flowing through the various office automation systems within a controller office.
E-Raksha Awaas is a centralised and comprehensive software package designed to enhance and streamline the process of generating rent and related charges for rentable buildings within Defence Services. It also facilitates the prompt remission of these charges to government accounts. This package acts as a unified online platform for all stakeholders engaged in the generation, recovery, and remission of rent and allied charges.
Minister Singh described the DAD as the guardian of defence finance and commended its efforts to strengthen the country’s defence capabilities through transparent and efficient systems, praising its prudent resource management and output optimisation.
He suggested ways to improve the department’s efficiency such as encouraging DAD officials to enhance their professional skills to address the challenges posed by “constantly evolving times”. He urged them to partner with organisations like the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) to create and implement customised training modules, as per requirements.
Providing financial advice is one of the DAD’s most crucial responsibilities, the Minister noted. The DAD should consider two key aspects when offering financial advice: a realistic assessment of the demands of the user agency and a thorough understanding of the product’s market.
He explained that it is important to evaluate whether there is a need to purchase a product and whether a similar product of equal or greater effectiveness is available in the market at a lower cost. This understanding will enhance the quality of financial advice.
Furthermore, to foster such an understanding, Singh suggested establishing an in-house mechanism—a standing committee of experienced individuals who can research and analyse market forces and offer valuable insights to field officers. “Big banks and financial institutions develop in-house economic intelligence and research teams. On similar lines, the DAD needs to develop an in-house team for market research and intelligence,” he stated.
It is also vital to strengthen the internal vigilance mechanism to detect and review suspicious activity. This will not only expedite addressing issues but also enhance public trust in the department, the Minister said.
Scientists from Washington University in St. Louis have created a sonobiopsy method to diagnose brain disease. The Sonobiopsy method employs ultrasound and microbubbles to momentarily breach the barrier, enabling brain RNA, DNA, and proteins to enter the bloodstream for analysis. While this technique was initially tested on animals, a recent study demonstrates its safety and viability for human use. This innovation may pave the way for non-invasive brain disease and tumour diagnostics.
Eric Leuthardt, MD, co-senior author and co-inventor of the technology, stated that Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) drastically transformed brain disease diagnosis in the 1980s and ’90s, offering structural and functional brain imaging capabilities.
Leuthardt, the Shi Hui Huang Professor of Neurosurgery and a professor of neuroscience at the School of Medicine in biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering referred to sonobiopsy as the third revolution, emphasising its molecular aspect. This innovative technique allows blood sample collection reflecting gene expression and molecular characteristics at the brain lesion site, essentially performing a brain biopsy without the associated risks of surgery.
Eric Leuthardt and Hong Chen, PhD, Associate Professors of Biomedical Engineering at McKelvey Engineering and Neurosurgery at the School of Medicine, developed the groundbreaking technique, focusing on multidisciplinary research to create engineered solutions for neurological diseases.
The technique employs focused ultrasound to target a brain lesion at a millimetre scale. Subsequently, microbubbles are injected into the bloodstream, travelling to the designated area and bursting, creating minuscule, temporary openings in the blood-brain barrier. These openings naturally close within a few hours, causing no lasting harm. Within this time frame, brain lesion biomolecules can exit the bloodstream, facilitating their collection through a standard blood draw.
Hong Chen, another Senior Co-author and co-inventor of the technology described this innovation as initiating a new field for brain-related conditions. It offers the capability to noninvasively and nondestructively access all brain regions, enabling the retrieval of genetic information about tumours before surgical procedures.
This information aids neurosurgeons in determining the best approach to surgery, helping confirm the nature of suspicious findings on imaging. Furthermore, it paves the way for studying diseases that typically don’t undergo surgical biopsies, including neurodevelopmental, neurodegenerative, and psychiatric disorders.
Initially, the researchers utilised a commercially available ultrasound device combined with an MRI scanner, a setup limited by cost and MRI availability. To streamline the procedure, Hong Chen’s team designed a portable, handheld ultrasound probe that could be attached to a stereotactic pointer commonly used by neurosurgeons for pinpointing brain lesions. This device was seamlessly integrated into the clinical workflow, requiring no additional training for neurosurgeons.
Eric Leuthardt emphasised the user-friendliness of this device, stating that it was efficiently utilised during the study in the operating room but could also be employed in a clinic or at a patient’s bedside in a hospital. He noted that this approach was a significant step toward making advanced diagnostics more accessible, enabling the examination of patients’ brains without needing a high-tech, multimillion-dollar scanner.
In their research, the team conducted sonobiopsies on five individuals with brain tumours using this device. Subsequently, the tumours were removed surgically following the standard care protocol.
The analysis of blood samples collected before and after sonication revealed that the technique increased circulating tumour DNA, ranging from 1.6-fold to 5.6-fold, depending on the specific type of DNA examined.
Circulating tumour DNA holds crucial information about genetic alterations in a patient’s tumour, which guides treatment decisions regarding the tumour’s aggressiveness. Notably, the procedure showed no signs of causing damage to brain tissue, affirming its safety.
A collaboration in science and technology has emerged as the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation of Thailand (MHESI) joined forces with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) of the People’s Republic of China. The two nations came together to review the progress of ongoing collaborative projects and chart a course for future technological innovations.
The meeting was attended by figures in the field of science and technology, including Prof Dr Sirirurg Songsivilai, Permanent Secretary of MHESI, and Mr Zhang Guang Jun, Deputy Minister of MOST. Notably, Executive Vice President Dr Uracha Ruktanonchai represented the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), underlining the significance of the collaboration.
One of the projects under this collaborative effort is centred around rail technology. It combines the expertise of the Rail and Modern Transport Research Centre of NSTDA, the Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (TISTR), and the China Railway Company. Their goal is to establish the China-Thailand Belt and Road Joint Laboratory on Rail Transit.
Public transportation is vital to modern urban life, shaping how people move within cities, reducing traffic congestion, and minimising the environmental footprint. As Thailand and China embark on collaborative endeavours in rail technology, they contribute to enhancing public transportation systems, which stand as a cornerstone of sustainable mobility.
This laboratory will be a hub for cutting-edge research and testing on rail transit systems. With Thailand’s high-speed train project on the horizon, this laboratory is poised to play a crucial role in ensuring its successful implementation.
The Thailand-China Technology Transfer Centre (TCTTC), a collaborative initiative led by NSTDA, represents another milestone in this partnership. TCTTC has fostered collaboration by facilitating researcher exchanges, supporting training programmes, and enabling business matching between Thai and Chinese enterprises. These initiatives have yielded positive outcomes for both nations.
As the collaboration looks ahead to 2024, TCTTC has set its sights on ramping up technology transfer activities in several key areas. Notably, the focus will be on digital technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and technologies. These forward-looking endeavours are driven by a shared commitment to addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and leveraging innovation for sustainable growth and development.
The plans for 2024 reflect the landscape of technology and innovation. They also underscore Thailand and China’s shared commitment to harness innovation’s power for sustainable growth and development. As technology continues to reshape the global landscape, these collaborative efforts are set to make significant contributions across various sectors. Together, these two nations aim to create a powerful technological synergy that promises a brighter and more connected future on the global stage.
This recent meeting between MHESI and MOST marks a promising partnership at the intersection of science, technology, and innovation. With ongoing endeavours in rail technology and technology transfer, as well as forward-looking plans for digital technology and AI in 2024, the collaboration is poised to make significant contributions to the advancement of both Thailand and China. As these two nations combine their strengths, they stand to create a technological synergy that promises sustainable development and a brighter future on the global stage.
The advent of big data has opened up new possibilities for driving sustainable development and informed decision-making. In the context of New Zealand, harnessing the potential of big data presents numerous opportunities to address social, economic, and environmental challenges.
Police agencies in New Zealand are increasingly turning to advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technology to bolster their emergency response and risk assessment capabilities. Recent tragic incidents, such as the shooting of an unarmed constable in West Auckland in 2020, have prompted the development of innovative safety programmes aimed at improving law enforcement effectiveness. One intelligence system has emerged as a central component in this technological transformation.
By collaborating closely with major multinational technology companies specialising in data-driven policing systems, police agencies are harnessing the power of AI to redefine how they assess risks during emergencies. The intelligence system represents a leap forward in enhancing police intelligence systems, enabling law enforcement officers to make more informed decisions swiftly.
One of the critical achievements of the intelligence system is its ability to overcome the limitations of previous intelligence systems. The traditional system struggled to access essential information about criminal organisations, particularly gangs and firearms. This fragmentation hindered the ability of law enforcement to connect the dots and respond effectively to emerging threats swiftly.
However, the intelligence system has revolutionised this process by providing instant access to vital connections and associations. This newfound capability significantly enhances police efficiency and decision-making in the digital age.
The intelligence system’s impressive functionality extends beyond mere data access. It leverages advanced AI technologies to deliver more valuable intelligence, particularly concerning firearm-related threats.
By integrating data from various sources and employing machine learning algorithms, the intelligence system rapidly analyses and disseminates pertinent information. Front-line officers now can receive real-time updates directly on their smartphones, enabling them to respond effectively to evolving situations.
While the incorporation of advanced AI technology in law enforcement holds promise, it inevitably raises concerns surrounding privacy, transparency, and potential bias. This is not an isolated issue, as similar data-driven policing systems worldwide have grappled with these challenges. To address these concerns effectively, it is essential to conduct comprehensive privacy impact assessments and ensure the utmost transparency in the deployment of such technology.
Furthermore, the emergence of the intelligence system underscores the critical role of collaboration among organisations and the need for strategic partnerships to drive innovation. This initiative exemplifies how technology partnerships can push the boundaries of what’s possible and enhance capabilities beyond individual and organisational limits. In an era marked by rapid technological advancements, collaboration stands as the linchpin of resilience, enabling organisations to collectively address multifaceted challenges and fortify their defences against cyber threats.
The integration of advanced AI technology, exemplified by the intelligence system, into law enforcement operations, has the potential to bring public safety and police effectiveness. However, it simultaneously underscores the paramount importance of ethical considerations, transparency, and the responsible use of such technology to mitigate potential risks and biases.
In the pursuit of a safer and more secure digital future, collaboration remains indispensable, not just for technological advancement but also for achieving the overarching goal of creating a society where innovation thrives and security reigns supreme.