The replacement of fossil fuels by biofuels is an ongoing effort in many countries. Plant biomass has been used for centuries as an energy source, for example, wood for heating. With decreasing oil reserves and increasing fossil fuel prices, bioenergy is a promising alternative. Under this scenario, biofuels are proposed as an alternative to fossil fuels, especially ethanol produced as the final fermentation product from the dedicated energy crops.

-> But the problem reside that the countries completely shifting towards biomass are looking for ways to increase the biomass yields for the same area for example, Brazil has been trying to meet his transportation energy needs from biomass generated from cane.

-> Moreover, opting for the best suitable dedicated energy crop for a certain area is also a big trouble for such countries. This choice can cause major yeild loss.

-> Finally, different strategies have been tested to improve plant saccharification and, in consequence, bioethanol yield from fermentation. Hence, this produces a need for such a suggesting algorithm that can help us improve the yield before the harvest.

What it does

Cite: Li, W. et al. A global yield dataset for major lignocellulosic bioenergy crops based on field measurements. Sci. Data 5:180169 doi: 10.1038/sdata.2018.169 (2018).

Most recent studies on bioenergy rely on energy sources derived from lignocellulosic crops that include productive perennial grasses (e.g. Miscanthus and switchgrass) and fast-growing trees (e.g. eucalypt, poplar and willow). If we intelligently produce and use biobased industrial products we may actually improve environmental quality and increase or enhance the stocks of “natural capital” such as soil, water and air upon which all life depends. Hence, our solution will be,

-> Suggesting them new ways to increase the current estimated bioethanol yield by looking at their current geographical parameteres, soil and land properties and their management.

-> Suggesting the farmers beforehand, which kind of dedicated energy crop should be most suitable for them among the five main lingocellulosic bioenergy crops: eucalypt, Miscanthus, poplar, switchgrass, and willow alongwith other herbaceous and woody crops. For example marginal land is not suitable for corn crop which can be a source of direct biomass production.

-> Providing you an estimate of your current bioethanol yield by looking at your current growth and other similar paramteres.

Relevance with Bio-informatics

As all of the services are dependent on the statistics derived by applying the techniques of data sciences on the dataset of dedicated energy crops. As, the basis of the project is all depending on the predictions made by the different algorithms of sklearn and xgBoost.

How I built it

All of the above techniques will be applied by optimizing, engineering and visualizing the dataset of  of biomass production for key lignocellulosic bioenergy crops. We are using the dataset of 5088 entries from 257 published studies to gain an insight about all the possible outcomes of applying all the possible strategies on dedicated energy crops, so we can help our farmers to get a better yield of biomass and can help in the process of saccharificaion leading to a better fermentation. Although discussing the effects of all fertilizers, pesticides and disease management techniques will be made assured of and to get all the informatics to make a better suggestor. Secondly, we have already designed the User experience and easy to use interface of the website, where the user can interact with the solution system providing him a gateway to a new world working on the best possible biomass production techniques.

Need of the hour

This problem has been a hot topic in my own country, Pakistan where we are wasting our most fertile land in the middle east asia. We are looking for ways not just for the waste utilization of crops but also the recovery of damaged or less fertile lands. In parallel, we are also bearing the shortage of energy resources hence, resulting to load shedding and we can’t even cope with our transportation energy needs. Hence, with this solution not onl we can revive the strength of our agicultural fields by harvesting energy crops on them, but we can also meet all the energy needs of our country and even worldwide. This makes it a need of the hour for not just my country but all the under-developed agricultural countries round the globe.

Benefits in the long-run

Advantages of biofuels can include a positive energy balance, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and indirect effects, such as rural development. Studies based on life-cycle analysis conclude that when ethanol from sugarcane is used to replace fossil fuels in transportation, a substantial reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions may result (from 80% to greater than 100% savings). Biomass can also be used to generate electricity, with electric vehicles presenting several advantages over combustion engines hence, reducing the dependency of the world economical solutions on the petroleum and other fuel resources.

What I learned

I have learnt a lot from the need of dedicated energy crops to the process of fermentation; from the biotechnological strategies to increase plant biomass saccharification to the land and environmental factors affecting the yield of a crop; from getting to know about the suitability of a lignocellulosic crop for a certain area to the enzyme manipulation in crops for better biomass yields. Being a computer scientist and a solo player in the competition, it was tough to start working as a botanist, although, getting help from a lot of online resources I have learnt a lot despite the fact that this does’nt fall into the paradigms of my skills. Although, considering it need of the hour and really beneficial for the current economical problems we are facing during COVID, we should really be focusing on something more economical now.

What's next for Schar

Following to designing the interface for the app and website, we will start on developing these solutions, moreover organizing researches on these major energy crops to make more confident results by our algorithm will be our next priority. As we have observed, the work on the dataset regarding the effects of different environmental paramters on such lignocellulosic crops is not really appreciated. Next, we will be collecting more information regarding the bio-informatics of these crops and efects of all the pesticides and other disease management techniques to make the best out of an area.

Finally, we will be suggesting other businesses to inherit our idea and use our technologies to help grow their crops better, alongwith creating resources for biomass production.

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