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Hi-Tech Helpfor Farmers
April 30, 2014   
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Polish plant and vegetable growers will soon employ new technology to produce crops better adapted to the needs of consumers and the changing climate.

The technology has been developed by growers and researchers brought together in Green Lab, a spin-off company founded in March at the University of Agriculture in Cracow in southern Poland.

According to the company’s CEO, Prof. Marcin Rapacz, the new technology makes it easier to select plants with the desired characteristics and develop new crop varieties.

The technology—based on methods such as genomic selection—makes it possible to select grains with increased resistance to either prolonged spells of hot and dry weather or harsh winter conditions. Growers will also be able to produce vegetables and grains resistant to crop diseases and new virus strains, Rapacz says.

Crop production companies are the main shareholders in Green Lab. The team-up with the university provides them with an opportunity to implement new technology. “After all, they wouldn’t find it worthwhile to build their own research laboratories. Our spin-off is a kind of a joint R&D department for all these companies,” says Rapacz.

Eight crop production and seed companies owned by the government’s Agricultural Property Agency are Green Lab’s partners. The Cracow University of Agriculture’s Innovation Center holds 28 percent of the stock. The university contributed know-how, expertise and research capacity to the company, the share capital of which is zl.100,000.

Green Lab will be a link between science and the crop growing and seed industry. The company will provide hi-tech services to the partner companies. It also plans to participate in research projects and implement innovative biotechnology methods in crop production.

Until now research conducted at the university was rarely put into practice. The scientists were unable to take outside orders from companies for research services. A plant grower could not simply come to the university lab and ask the researchers for advice on how to select the most promising crop varieties. The plant selection process was usually conducted in the traditional way—through observations in the field.

“Thanks to Green Lab, the selection process will steadily make increasing use of innovative technologies,” says Rapacz. “For instance, DNA tests of plants can provide information on how vegetables and grains will react in specific conditions. Just as in the case of human DNA tests, they can indicate susceptibility to infections or help plan a diet. This will be cheaper and faster.”

Currently, the company’s laboratory uses equipment that belongs to the university. In the future, the company’s assets will increase thanks to funds earned from various projects.

Karolina Olszewska
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