The army of small, mobile ants is set to begin construction of an artificial ant farm in southern India, which would be the first such operation in the country.
The construction, which has been completed by a consortium of universities and non-profit organisations, will be overseen by the India Antibiotic and Fungicide Research Institute.
“We have started construction of a farm in a village near Rajasthan’s Ahmedabad.
The team is comprised of students, professionals and government employees,” said the institute’s founder, Sanjeev Jain, who is also a professor at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR).”
We are not planning to produce any of the artificial ants, but will only provide them with basic maintenance and seedlings,” Jain told Al Jazeera.
Ants are small, herbivorous insects which have evolved a range of adaptations to thrive in various habitats.
They are also known to be very social animals, and often live in communities, which they feed on plants.
“We have been trying to get ants from the field and from the local ecosystem for the last 10 years,” said Jain.
“The first step was to acquire seeds from the nearby farms, which had been given away to farmers and their families,” he added.
“Then we collected the seeds, transplanted them into a large field in a nearby village and collected the ant population.
The ants then started growing in the field,” Jains said.
“Once we got a stable population, we started planting seeds in the surrounding area and the ants started reproducing.”
Jain said the ants have adapted to living in a large open area and he hopes to create a similar colony in the future.
Ants live in close proximity to one another and have been found to have the ability to sense other ants and also other animals.
The number of ants in a colony can be as high as 2,000.
Jain’s group has started collecting ants in the past from the surrounding forest to create artificial colonies in a field.
“Our goal is to establish colonies in this area to further develop our research into ants,” he said.
“We plan to establish a colony in a different field in Ahmedabad, which will have a large amount of seedlings, and will have an artificial ecosystem in the forest,” Jaine said.
Ant farms are not limited to agricultural purposes.
“The Ant Farm for Research in the Indian State of Maharashtra will also be used for agricultural purposes,” Jaina said.
India is one of the world’s largest producers of genetically modified crops, which are grown on a vast variety of crops including cotton, sugarcane, coffee and sugar beet.
The project aims to create 10,000 artificial colonies by 2030, with an aim of having at least 30,000 colonies by 2050.