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New Food-Growth Product a Bit Hairy 243

MeatBag PussRocket writes "An article from Marketplace.org reports, 'A Florida company has developed an all-natural product that it says could revolutionize how food is grown in the US. It's called Smart Grow, but it might be a tough sell. It's inexpensive. It eliminates the need for pesticides, so it's environmentally friendly, but it's human hair. Plant pathologists at the University of Florida have found the mats eliminate weeds better than leading herbicides and can also make plants grow up to 30 percent larger.'"


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New Food-Growth Product a Bit Hairy

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  • by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) * on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:07PM (#27762763) Homepage Journal

    Of dangerous chemicals, animal manure, or human hair, people are squeamish about the human hair?

    • by Morphine007 ( 207082 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:10PM (#27762799)
      1 word: cooties
    • by Smidge207 ( 1278042 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:12PM (#27762847) Journal

      Agreed and THIS: more people than that die every hour from:

      Pencil sharpener mishaps
      Loose shoelaces
      Swine flu (aka Captain Tripps)
      Paper cuts
      Choking on midgets
      Fox News
      Staring too long at Rob Malda
      Nail biting
      Smoking cigarettes
      Bad haircuts
      Forgetting to breathe
      Segway vs. Prius collisions
      Snorting bleach
      Coding in CSS
      Auto-erotic asphyxiation
      Cricket attacks
      Playing cricket while intoxicated
      Fork/toaster/musical chairs
      Chair falls
      Chainsaw juggling
      Country music
      Posting about POSIX compliance on Slashdot
      Chewing tinfoil


      • Most of those problems can be solved with alcohol or heavy anti-depressants!

        If those don't work one can always smoke and asphyxiate more ...
        Oh, nevermind, this isn't a multiple choice exam...

        Almost died of a heartstroke; a forgotten one in your list!

    • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:13PM (#27762857) Journal
      I agree. Funny, innit?

      "Oh, that pesticide is NASTY! It's like Zyklon-B or nerve gas! And manure is...is... POOP! It's full of GERMS! But: HUMAN HAIR? EeeEEEeeeewww! Gross! Gag me with a spoon! Give me the nerve gas or the cowshit! Now!"


    • by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:13PM (#27762869) Homepage

      The weird thing is that if it was something like wool, there would probably be no objection.

      • by SEWilco ( 27983 )
        Naked sheep might object to using wool. And does sheep feed grow better with wool mats, so the technology can be used to raise a larger number of sheep so more wool mats can be made?

        Don't forget to order pesticides for the new crop of clothes moths, carpet beetles, cockroaches, and biting lice which eat hair or wool. And field crickets like damp places to hide, but they'll eat the plants instead of eating the mat.

        • by ZosX ( 517789 )

          Let me guess. You must be one of those people who nitpick every good idea to death with a million reasons as to why something is a bad idea. Yeah. Hey Mr. "It will never work" how is using less herbicide as well as somewhat fertilizing the ground a possibly bad idea? Because of bugs?? Have you ever been in a garden? Its usually crawling with them. For the record, body lice feed off of your blood when they bite you, they do not eat hair. Clothes moths are certainly something else though, but why would some e

    • by TornCityVenz ( 1123185 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:14PM (#27762885) Homepage Journal
      You should see the list of chemicals or "product" some people put in their hair.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "You should see the list of extremely toxic chemicals or "product" MOST people put in their hair."

        Fixed that for you.

        And for those who are in denial, look up the ingredients in your favorite personal care products, then look for the MSDS [wikipedia.org], and then stfu!

        • by pwfffff ( 1517213 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @05:06PM (#27764419)

          Another exercise: look up the ingredients in SALT and then look up what happens when you mix Na with H2O. Can't believe people eat that stuff, ugh.

          • The point here is the dosage. Which both you and GP conveniently ignored.

            And from what I know, the "bad" stuff in most hair products is not only in a dosage that makes it not healthy, but also completely unneeded.
            Same as most hygienic products.

            Toothpaste is the best example. Everything in there, except for some tiny amount of fluoride (which are preventive) and some abrasive particles, is completely useless. These are foaming and wetting agents, flavoring, preservatives, coloring and other additives. You wo

    • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

      Of dangerous chemicals, animal manure, or human hair, people are squeamish about the human hair?

      One word: nits. :-D

    • by Gat0r30y ( 957941 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:25PM (#27763047) Homepage Journal
      and from the article -

      In China, hair is a commodity, used in wigs and even as an additive in food.

      OK as an additive in food? That is gross. Wait, hair pie? Nevermind.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Paranatural ( 661514 )

        Soy Sauce is frequently made from human hair. In fact, you've probably eaten some yourself. When you buy Soy sauce make sure you check the ingredients. And yes, I am being 100% serious.

    • by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @04:14PM (#27763735) Journal

      Of dangerous chemicals, animal manure, or human hair, people are squeamish about the human hair?

      I once heard an old gardener say that the best way to plant a rose bush is on top of a wad of human hair. Apparently this has been done for centuries.

      • This seems to be the case. I can remember my mom using hair clippings for gardening back in the mid 80's.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by GarryFre ( 886347 )
      One weed sadly said to the other.... Hair today gone tomorrow!
  • by Burkin ( 1534829 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:09PM (#27762787)

    and can also make plants grow up to 30 percent larger.'"

    Maybe someone needs to use this idea to make a super penis pill!

  • by Lonewolf666 ( 259450 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:10PM (#27762801)

    What about wool from sheep or other animals? That might be cheaper...

  • I sense a few more bald heads running around if this product starts to take off!
  • Another donor item.
  • by characterZer0 ( 138196 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:12PM (#27762833)

    Smart Grow is people!

  • by mc1138 ( 718275 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:16PM (#27762915) Homepage
    Now they really can do something about world hunger!
  • Not so bad... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anenome ( 1250374 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:16PM (#27762921)

    That's not so bad. My HS science teacher told me about an experiment where people off the street were given free chicken and asked how it tastes, etc. Later they were told that the chickens were fed plants grown exclusively from human waste. They didn't eat any more of the chicken after being told this.

    But, there's absolutely nothing wrong with eating an animal which has been fed plants grown on manure, human or otherwise :P

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by icebrain ( 944107 )

      On a field trip to MSFC in 5th grade, a couple of us were brave enough to try water from the prototype of the recycled-urine machine on the space station. Everyone looked at us funny, but it didn't taste any different.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by afidel ( 530433 )
      Yes, there is. The waste gets on the plant, the waste contains waste born illnesses, the chicken eats the waste contaminated plant and becomes a carrier/host for the infectious agent, you eat the animal and YOU become sick. There's a reason we don't feed animals meat anymore, it leads to a circle of infection that is MUCH more likely to end in food-born illness for us.
      • People fertilise crops with cow and pig manure for millennia. How come no one never thought of that?
    • I think once you tell people something like: "we just tricked you into eating something which is related to X" - people are just wary of you. It doesn't really matter what X was, just that apparently you tried to gross them out and messed with their food.
    • But, there's absolutely nothing wrong with eating an animal which has been fed plants grown on manure, human or otherwise :P

      Oh, I don't know, how about Hookworm [wikipedia.org]?

    • human waste could be -very- dangerous if not properly treated. that's why you don't see anyone fertilizing fields (food stuff) with it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ksheff ( 2406 )
      That's because the average person has become so very disconnected with how food is grown and harvested. Using human waste as a source of fertilizer isn't an unusual one. I believe I had read somewhere that one of the obstacles in building London's original sewers was that most people were collecting their fecal matter in the cellars of their houses and selling it to farmers for fertilizer. For some, I guess the profit motive was greater than the fear of getting sick and/or dying because of the fumes.
  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:18PM (#27762961) Journal
    Lots of things eliminate weeds better than herbicides. Any sufficiently impermeable material used as mulch eliminates weeds better than herbicides. Most gardeners are familiar with the concept of a weed barrier.

    I used to use sheep manure over newspaper both as a source of nitrogen (and other minerals) and as a weed barrier. It was nearly 100% effective. Given the labor involved, however, I'm sure herbicide would have been more cost-effective at preventing weed growth.

    The question is whether applying a barrier against weeds is more cost-effective than herbicides, and I don't know the answer to that, especially considering the environmental impact of herbicides. Just looking at effectiveness of the material doesn't tell us much.

    One other note -- sure it's inexpensive now, since there is an incredible amount of wasted human hair. But if this were ever deployed widely, I think we'd see prices of shorn hair go up, and I question whether there'd be enough to meet demand until it cost the same as other methods.
    • by zalas ( 682627 )
      When I listened to this on NPR, they say that they get their hair from China, because hair is apparently traded there, instead of thrown away in the barber shop. I'm sure we can get a decent amount of hair from barbershops worldwide if it becomes useful.
    • by garcia ( 6573 )

      I'm sure herbicide would have been more cost-effective at preventing weed growth.

      It is, for a few generations but over the course of time certain weeds have become at least partially immune to such spraying and thus they require more and more spraying in order to remain as effective as they once were. While those that oppose chemical sprays for farming claim it's like a drug addiction, I like to think it was a known side effect that the chemical companies were looking to exploit.

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      Most gardeners are familiar with the concept of a weed barrier.

      Now that we're on the topic of a "weed barrier", how does it work when THC can be detected in human hair for drug testing purposes, then the hair is used to grow "innocent" corn flakes or something?

      I wonder if the THC in the hair breaks down, or, is concentrated in the plant thats grown in it? There could be a market for this. Probably, due to solubilities, in oil bearing seeds? Or is that weed bearing oil bearing seeds?

  • taxes (Score:5, Funny)

    by rev_sanchez ( 691443 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:19PM (#27762981)
    Maybe I'll be able to get my head and crotch zoned as agricultural now. My efforts to get them zoned commercial were deemed illegal outside of Nevada.
  • But it's just not as craptastic as Milorganite...

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:26PM (#27763055)

    It's human hair because, being at the top of the food chain, all those nasty chemicals like herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers collect in our bodies in the highest concentrations. Thus our hair is chock-full-o-chemicals. It's no wonder human hair mats have all these wondrous properties -- they are really just recycling all those chemicals we've been putting into the environment for the last 50 years.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're close. Actually, hair is an excellent fertilizer because it's something like 14% nitrogen. Other wonderful fertilizers include bones and blood. Imagine that, dead animals make good fertilizer! This is what nature has been doing with dead plants and animals for a long, long time.

  • Alternatively, what's the risk of the various pests that plague crops adapting to flourish in human hair?

  • by Anenome ( 1250374 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:30PM (#27763109)

    So just where is all this hair coming from, exactly? Are there 3rd world hair factories where children will be surreptitiously filmed hanging from the ceiling with their hair attached to hooks to make it grow faster, videos of natives explaining just how many beads they get paid for a pound of hair which figures out to a monthly income equivalent of 63 cents, and the poor orphans trotting out missing chunks from their ear where the evil corporate barbers sheared just a bit too fast and cut them for squirming? Will we see Sally Struthers begging us for just $1 a day so the poor hairless masses CAN AFFORD WIGS?!?!

  • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:30PM (#27763119) Journal

    The idea of using mulch to control weeds is at least 4000 years old. Sure, it works really well. Why use hair? Buy bales of hay, and break off 20 cm thick flakes. Put them over the ground end-to-end, leaving spaces for the crop stems.
    And there's the reason people have moved to pesticides: it isn't labor-intensive. You don't win anything by having hand labor to install something that only increases your yield 30% unless you're a backyard gardener. You can spray pesticides over 50 acres in an afternoon.

    I use hay to mulch in my garden. It works amazingly well. At the end of the year it's broken-down enough that the tomato roots have grown up into the lowest layer, right at the ground level, to use the proto-compost. The only drawback is seeds in the hay sprouting when it's rototilled in.

    Likewise, ground cloth with holes cut out for the plants you want, works really well -- better than pesticides -- but then you have to deal with a bunch of somewhat broken-down ground cloth at the end of the year.

    • The ground cloth idea has me thinking...

      I recall a home recycling project where plastic shopping bags were cut open, trimmed, layered 4 - 6 deep, then ironed on low between wax paper. The resulting material is similar to tyvek.

      A ground cloth made from that would seem to serve as a weed barrier and likely not break down as much as something made from other materials.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by hondo77 ( 324058 )

        A summer of hot sun beating down on it would surely break it down.*

        * - Writing as someone who thought, "Hey, if using plastic sheeting on the ground for a month to kill weed seeds works, think how well it will work if I leave it on the ground for three months!" Hot sun turns plastic nice and brittle and, ultimately, into little bits of plastic blown all over the place.

    • I just mulched my flowerbeds with pine needle mulch. Cleared my street front at the same time.
      Good quality mulch, and will renew itself most likely in time for next year.

    • The only drawback is seeds in the hay sprouting when it's rototilled in.

      Use straw instead of hay and you won't have that problem. Also, straw is cheaper. Though it is nastier stuff to work with -- it's stiffer than hay, thus much 'pokier'. I've gotten some nasty cuts from straw, and I'll never forget the 1/2" splinter I got under my fingernail when I was 14.

  • by Trikki Nikki! ( 1516301 ) * on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:32PM (#27763137)
    I am soooo cashing in on this! I have hair down to my ass, so lets just say my shower gets clogged frequently. How much do you think they buy it for? I've never died/permed/etc...

    This is just like Christmas, only better :D
  • Hay waiter, there's a hair in my beans, and I haven't even picked them yet.

  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:36PM (#27763193)
    Plastic weed barriers are sold on rolls in your friendly local hardware store. A layer of black plastic plus a layer of bark on top is very effective and used by gardeners everywhere.
  • by Chad Birch ( 1222564 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @03:38PM (#27763221)
    samzenpus's campaign to gradually introduce awful articles that should have been in idle [slashdot.org] onto the main site continues. The plan seems to be to post one or two of these every day until we no longer think of them as odd. Then they can increase the rate a bit, eventually merge idle entirely into the main site, and voila! Slashdot can be as hip and successful of a site as digg is!

    History up to this point:
    April 28 - Tokyo Scientists Create Mobile Slime [slashdot.org]
    April 27 - Air Force One Flyby Causes Brief Panic In NYC [slashdot.org]
    April 27 - How To Have an Online Social Life When You're Dead [slashdot.org]
    April 23 - Race Car Made With Veggies And Powered By Chocolate [slashdot.org]
    April 22 - Robotic Penguins [slashdot.org]
    April 22 - Yamaha Unveils Golf Cart Powered By Cow Dung [slashdot.org]
    April 21 - Biotech Company to Patent Pigs [slashdot.org]
    April 21 - The Taste of Space [slashdot.org]
    April 17 - Philosophies and Programming Languages [slashdot.org]

    Do we really want the guy behind the worst articles I've ever seen on slashdot [slashdot.org] shaping the direction of this site?
    • It's a protein based (high nitrogen) mulch. Of course plants grow better.

      • Apparently hair takes forever to compost on it's own. If you just wanted to compost hair, and not use it as a mulch, you could probably pre-treat it with a bit of lye. Just don't make your compost pile too alkaline.

    • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @05:09PM (#27764455) Journal

      Slashdot to digg Conversion Project - Day 13 (Score:5, Insightful) by Chad Birch (1222564)

      Go check the articles posted from 3 years ago. Go back 5 years. Go back 8 years.

      These kind of articles have always been part of slashdot. Users like you have always been complaining about them.

      Get used to it. If you don't like them, don't bother reading them, or the comments to them.

  • When I was a kid.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @04:11PM (#27763681)

    When I was in High School, some of the girls there sold their hair once a year to one of the hair product companies, I believe Clairol, but I could be wrong. Pretty sure it was used for testing hair products.

    They actually got quite a bit for it, depending on the length, color and how much they treated it. I remember going to a keg party that was financed by such a girl cashing in on her hair.

    I also remember that one of those same girls always had these crazy long fingernails, as she sold those as well.

  • Who knew the stuff was good for flora, too?

  • ...but I wonder how this would work as a hydroponics medium in place of rockwool and hydroton. I'd also wonder about potential hydrogen neutrality of human hair.

  • "could revolutionize how food is grown in the US"

    Is US soil very different from what we have elsewhere, or does this company just have low ambitions?

  • Couple this with stem cell harvested human hair, we really could be yelling: "Soylent Green is PEOPLE, MY GOD, ITS PEOPLE"...

  • In the first year, it blocks growth where you don't put it. You punch a big hole, and put in a seed, I suppose, or better, yuo gorw a seedling, then thread the seedling through, crushing the rest.

    But what do you do in the second year? Is it mush by then? Will it affect the growth of that original seedling? Do you till it in before starting? Do you scrape it up and put it on a compost heap? Does it just sit there and work for 2+ years?

    Can you lay down a long a mat of these with big holes, and let that

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by demonlapin ( 527802 )

      seems like an ecodisaster

      Why? Something that doesn't degrade... isn't a problem. We make all kinds of things that don't degrade - bricks and concrete, for example - and they're not ecodisasters. They do occupy landfill space, but very few places are really at any risk of running out of landfill space. As long as they don't have toxic leachates - such as older, metallic newspaper inks - there's really very little concerning about plastics per se. (Interesting tip for the young: did you know why Styrofoam first became a bugbear o

  • So my "brunet to go" joke finally has meaning?

  • We've found that anything that smells like humans (hair, pee, etc) keeps the deer away from our plants. Peeing around the flowers is one thing, but we're not so keen on that around the veggies. So this could help there.

    Just so they scrub it for head lice!

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