Commercially Growing Hydroponically in Australia

According to an article on New Scientist, people may soon be growing vegetables without soil, pesticides, fresh water, soil and fossil fuels on a commercial basis. Sundrop Farms has opened the first commercial growing facility to accomplish this feat in Australia’s dessert. The farm, which has been over six years in the planning, hopes to grow 17,000 tons of tomatoes annually. The tomatoes are currently on shelves throughout Australia.

The first step in accomplishing the feat of growing tomatoes in the dessert comes from piping water from the nearby Spencer Gulf to the facility. A 127 meter high tower that sits over the farm containing 23,000 mirrors provides the power to desalinate the water which is then piped onto the 180,000 tomato plants located in a greenhouse that was built over a five-year period of 20,000 glass panels.

During the warm summer months, the greenhouse is lined with seawater soaked cardboard to maintain temperatures within the greenhouse. During the winter, solar energy is used to maintain the right growing temperatures.

Salt water is also used to control conditions within the facility so that insects do not survive. The seawater also sterilizes the air on the 20 hectare farm. Instead of soil, the plants are grown in coconut husks.

The farm is very labor intensive. Therefore, the farm employs 175 workers. If any weeds grow among the plants, then they are pulled out by hand. All harvesting is also done by hand. Currently, the facility is sending eight large trucks to market each day.

This first of its kind facility was funded mostly by a private investment firm who believes that this example can help solve food shortages around the world. The Australian government also contributed a $5 million dollar grant.

While Sundrop Farms hopes that their facility is a success, there are some who do not think this project is necessary. They point out that there are many places in Australia where tomatoes grow very well using traditional farming techniques.

 

The International Fund for Agricural Development Fighting Proverty

According to a story originally published in the Huffington Post, there are 65 million forcibly displaced people in the world. This is a record high. Over 39 percent of those people live in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Many of those who are most severely hurt are farmers or come from small rural communities.

The United Nations established the International Fund for Agricultural Development in 1974. The results of this program have been amazing. The program works in depressed areas around the world to build sustainable farm systems, boost rural economies and establish financing options.

One area where the organizations has been particularly active lately is in Jordan where they have addressed the Syrian refugee crisis in a country that is in danger of even having the Dead Sea dry completely up. They have helped those communities hosting refugees to improve their farming techniques. They have especially concentrated on teaching local residents to improve the quality of the soil and to conserve water. They have taught host families to raise sheep and poultry. They have also helped establish greenhouse vegetable growing. Furthermore, they have helped women develop marketable skills that were not reliant on farming.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development has also helped refugees. They have helped them find economic opportunities in the host country. The fund has especially worked with young people to help them develop marketable skills. The program is becoming self-sustaining because the refugees can borrow loans, and then pay the loans back from their earnings. Once the loan is paid back, many continue to make payments so that others can borrow from the fund.

Jordan is not the only country where the International Fund for Agricultural Development is active. While the fund is active worldwide, it is especially active in 35 low- and middle-income countries and territories in the Middle east and North Africa. There are over 442 million people living in this area. Almost 42 percent of them live on less than $1.25 US dollars a day. In Syria alone, the fund has spent over $154.2 million on eight projects designed to encourage refugees to stay in the country, learn better skills and to be able to raise animals and vegetables to provide for their families.

 

 

Changes in Agriculture Good for Consumers

If you step back in time to the 1900, then 40 percent of America’s population lived on farms and almost everyone lived in a rural area. Today, only one percent of people live on a farm and only 20 percent live in a rural area. Yet, thanks to innovative technology, those farmers are growing more food than ever before and using less natural resources to do it, according to an article recently published in the NY Times.

Today’s farmers are planting about 80.5 million acres of corn. In order to grow the same amount of corn in 1950, it would have taken 228 million acres. Today, farmers are planting 81.8 million acres in soybeans. In 1950 in order to get the same crop they would have had to plant 101.7 million acres. Wheat is planted on 47.1 million acres today compared to 56.9 million acres in 1950. Yet, the same amount of wheat is harvested by farmers.

The same can be said for farmers that are raising livestock. Today, 29. 3 million beef cows are raised to produce the same amount of food that farmers had to raise an additional 15.3 million in the 1950s. On farms across the United States, farmers are raising 9.3 million milk cows that provide the same amount of milk as 39.3 million milk cows in 1950.

America does not need as many farmers today as it did in the past. Large farmers produce 80 percent of all food sold to grocery stores today. In fact, 4 percent of farmers each making over $1 million in sales account for 66 percent of all food sold to grocery stores.

These large farmers use technology so that they can produce more food on less land. They rely on technology to provide them with information about soil nutrients, soil moisture and productivity to make wise decisions on what to plant and how much fertilizer needs to be applied to a particular area in a field. They use GPS driven tractors to plant a variety of seeds in the sane field so that harvests can be maximized.

The future is bright for growing food in the United States. The largest land owner in the United States is John Malone who currently owns over 2.2 million acres. Most of it is in Kansas where he just purchased additional acres that had belonged to the Land Trust Preservation. This land was used to test plants that could produce crops perennially instead of farmers having to replant each year.

 

 

 

Recent Developments in Beekeeping, Farming, and Agriculture

https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/02/beekeepers/

 

Most of us are familiar with the fact honeybees, an important part of thousands of ecosystems around the world, have been dying off for unknown reasons in the past few years. Even ecologic researchers with Ph.D.s are having trouble diagnose the wide sweeping effects further declines in honey bees could facilitate. Fortunately, technology is here to help bee farmers get more from honeybees with a simple to use mobile app for iPhones.

 

A beekeeper — a very intelligent one, might I add — in Sweden named Björn Lagerman is nearly finished adding final touches to BeeScanning, an iPhone mobile app that signals to farmers the presence of harmful mites, bugs, and other detriments to honeybees’ population and production.

 

BeeScanning specifically detects Varroa mites, a species touting a reputation for wiping out entire colonies of honeybees. Varroa mites attach to bees and feed off them, along with munching away the walls of hives. BeeScanning uses complex algorithms to scan over what colonies look like and what characteristics they show to detect the presence of Varroa mites without extensive, expensive testing that only seasoned biologists can accurately perform.

 

This mobile app is widely considered crucial to honeybee farmers’ success. Just as the app is beneficial for agriculture, a facilitator of effective, widely unknown agricultural techniques, agriculture serves a number of benefits for honeybees. Researchers at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture have discovered in a new peer reviewed paper that agriculture, even in the case of pesticides, are overall advantageous for honeybees.

 

Honeybees are able to more closely pack into agricultural landscapes because of decreased viruses, bugs, and other detrimental organismic factors into thriving honeybee populations. Also, food resources are more abundant in agricultural settings, especially crops with flowers. Although honeybees are not at all necessary for agricultural success, the back-and-forth giving and receiving of honeybees to agriculture and vice-versa is beneficial for both parties.

 

The release of information about the upcoming mobile app BeeScanning well complements the anticipated release of four million dollars from the United States Department of Agriculture to help honeybees survive. These grants specifically seek to increase the size of honeybee populations and the honey produced by them. Together, humans can undoubtedly save and benefit from honeybees in agricultural settings.

 

BovControl Builds Application That Helps Rural Farmers

BovControl is a company that is trying to help farmers in Brazil, the United States, and around the world to reduce hunger. They are trying to do this by helping farmers maximize meat production.

 

This company that is only five years old was started by Danilo Leao. He began farming and taking care of the land that his family owned by tracking farm animals. He tracked them with a spreadsheet and ear tags manually. The BovControl application makes it easier for farmers to speed up production in meat and dairy on farms.

 

To use the application the farmer must put the cow’s vital statistics into the data base. This means birth date, vaccinations, medications, and weight. When information is entered offline it is saved and later uploaded to the cloud. This app allows users to log information in with the technology they have available from ear tags to Bluetooth collars that record information instantly.

 

The application eventually analyzes the information entered and makes predictions about the cow. The BovControl app can predict the date of the birth of a calf if the cow is pregnant, or tell the farmers when a cow is not producing as much milk as it should. A farmer can then decide whether to keep or remove the cow from the herd.

 

The app runs better with up to date technology. When the farmer uses a Bluetooth connected device it can sync up faster and provide more detailed information. It can keep track of a cow’s weight so that a farmer knows when its ready for slaughter or should be sold. It is used on farms all over the world.

 

The applications was first used in Brazil. It changed the way farmers collected data and made decisions about their livestock. Most farms that use this app are small to medium in size. The base of users continues to grow every year. When the company first tried to introduce the app in Brazil in 2015 it was hard to find qualified applicants to work for the company. That was because most Brazilian wanted to work for a larger company.

 

When the company started they had 10 employees now they have 16. They recently signed a deal with Alianca da Terra a nonprofit that certifies sustainable farms in Latin America. They are building an app using BovControl platform that let’s dairy farmers analyze the history of their milk sales. BovControl continues to expand its business around the world.

 

The International Fund for Agricultural Development Fighting Proverty

According to a story originally published in theHuffington Post, there are 65 million forcibly displaced people in the world. This is a record high. Over 39 percent of those people live in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Many of those who are most severely hurt are farmers or come from small rural communities.

The United Nations established the International Fund for Agricultural Development in 1974. The results of this program have been amazing. The program works in depressed areas around the world to build sustainable farm systems, boost rural economies and establish financing options.

One area where the organizations has been particularly active lately is in Jordan where they have addressed the Syrian refugee crisis in a country that is in danger of even having the Dead Sea dry completely up. They have helped those communities hosting refugees to improve their farming techniques. They have especially concentrated on teaching local residents to improve the quality of the soil and to conserve water. They have taught host families to raise sheep and poultry. They have also helped establish greenhouse vegetable growing. Furthermore, they have helped women develop marketable skills that were not reliant on farming.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development has also helped refugees. They have helped them find economic opportunities in the host country. The fund has especially worked with young people to help them develop marketable skills. The program is becoming self-sustaining because the refugees can borrow loans, and then pay the loans back from their earnings. Once the loan is paid back, many continue to make payments so that others can borrow from the fund.

Jordan is not the only country where the International Fund for Agricultural Development is active. While the fund is active worldwide, it is especially active in 35 low- and middle-income countries and territories in the Middle east and North Africa. There are over 442 million people living in this area. Almost 42 percent of them live on less than $1.25 US dollars a day. In Syria alone, the fund has spent over $154.2 million on eight projects designed to encourage refugees to stay in the country, learn better skills and to be able to raise animals and vegetables to provide for their families.