As a discipline that is devoted to the employment of virtual means of increasing the bank of knowledge about plants and plant life, algorithmic botany provides the botanist with the use of computer tools to study and simulate a number of different scenarios regarding plants. This usage of virtual tools to study virtual plants has already received a great deal of attention, and is the focus of a major course of study at the University of Calgary.
The process of algorithmic botany is best expressed as Biological Modeling and Visualization, more popularly known as the BMV approach. It is this approach that forms the basis of the research that is currently being conducted under the auspices of the Computer Science department at the University of Calgary. Essentially, models in algorithmic botany are developed utilizing computer science technology that are combined with various types of software to create a virtual laboratory in which the virtual plants are cultivated under strict and controlled situations. The ability to run a number of different simulations concurrently helps to speed up the process of research a great deal. Algorithmic botany creates a situation in which botanists are free to explore possibilities in a very short time frame, rather than the years or decades that similar efforts would require in real life circumstances.
The BMV groups of researchers at the University of Calgary are not alone in their work. Persons from around the world are involved at various levels in the project. The work is basically divided into three main components. Modeling is the basis component and involves the creation of the foundation for the virtual plants. Simulation builds on the basis created by the modeling and allows the researchers to introduce a range of controlled factors into the virtual environment of each model. The visualization of the plants allows for the study of the final product that is produced by the series of factors that are introduced, providing valuable information about the feasibility and desirability of utilizing those factors in a real world application.
During November 2007, people interested in the progress of algorithmic botany gathered at the Fifth Annual Functional-Structural Plant Modeling Workshop. Held in Napier, New Zealand, the workshop was open to people associated with the University of Calgary project, as well as independent researchers employing some form of algorithmic botany in their efforts.