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Machine Learning Is Making Pesto Even More Delicious

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Researchers grew basil in modified shipping containers, to control for environmental factors.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers used machine learning to grow extra-tasty basil plants.

Credit: Melanie Gonik

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have used machine learning (ML) to create basil plants that are extra-tasty.

The team used ML to determine the growing conditions that would maximize the concentration of the volatile compounds responsible for basil's flavor.

The basil plants were grown in hydroponic units within modified shipping containers so that environmental factors such as temperature, light, and humidity could be controlled.

The researchers tested the taste of the plants by looking for certain compounds using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. Then, the team fed the resulting data into ML algorithms, which found that exposing plants to light 24 hours a day generated the best taste.

Said MIT researcher Caleb Harper, "We're really interested in building networked tools that can take a plant's experience, its phenotype, the set of stresses it encounters, and its genetics, and digitize that to allow us to understand the plant-environment interaction."

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