Electricity may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you want to sterilize something, but that is exactly the tool UK-based startup Zayndu is using on seeds. As AgFunder reports, Zayndu uses plasma to ensure that seeds don’t carry disease or fungi with them when planted in the ground.
Afflicted seeds may not germinate as well, or worse, bring infection into the soil and damage future crops. Sterilizing seeds before planting helps mitigate these issues.
Based on decades of research from Loughborough University, the early stage Zayndu’s technology works by placing seeds in a rotating drum and then running an electric current through the air inside the chamber. As Ralph Weir, CEO of Zayndu explained to AgFunder, this electric current creates plasma, which is a combination of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species [RONS]. These RONS are disinfectants, which destroy bacteria, fungi and viruses without damaging the seeds themselves. When the chamber is open, all that is left are sterile seeds and fresh air.
According to Weir, Zayndu’s plasma technology sterilizes seeds better than existing chemical treatments do. Chemicals have can have a negative environmental impact and are increasingly expensive. Additionally, chemicals don’t work on every seed disease.
Zayndu is actually the second startup we’ve covered using plasma to prevent food loss. Clean Crop Technologies uses High Voltage Atmospheric Cold Plasma to zap food post harvest to remove toxins, molds and pests, and extend the shelf-life of perishables.
If the promise of these technologies bear out, and are able to scale, we could be seeing more plasma-related startups and technologies applied to our meal journey in the not-too distant future.