Apple Pickers, Bears, Lions, Tigers – Oh My!

https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/03/abundant-robotics-rakes-in-10-million-for-apple-harvesting-robots/

 

Automation is taking over people’s jobs, from factory workers to lawyers. Agriculture has featured a great degree of autonomy for longer than most other trades, not to say its methods are completely made efficient yet. Abundant Robotics created robots that harvest apples and do not require human workers to risk safety when high enough to pick apples. Google Ventures put forward a $10 million investment in the robotics venture.

 

Traditionally, robots have not been used to pick fruits because of their death grips. Abundant Robotics’ apple picking machine uses vacuum rather than claw to bring in apples without hurting them. A human is not even required to navigate the machine outside of regular maintenance, resulting in safety, cheaper apples, and higher capacity.

 

Increasing population on earth is not likely to stand still or decline any time soon, resulting in an insatiable need for agricultural products to keep everyone fed. Humans only hinder the agricultural process to a large extent and reduce the potential capacity of an agricultural product as more humans are integrally involved.

 

Technology has helped agriculture more than bystanders think. Robots are not the only piece of technology that can have a lasting impact on an agricultural product. FarmLead, deemed as an online hub for trading grain, recently raised more than six million dollars in venture funding efforts.

 

Farmlead works simply by requiring patrons to create an account, then purchase or offer grain for sale by taking pictures and verifying important personal information. FarmLead helps decrease shortages of grain, keeps prices stable, and overall fuels grain markets. Farmers have sometimes had trouble finding good grain sources in the past, but now, sourcing high quality grain is as easy as logging into your cellphone and participating in auctions and by selling products.

 

Technology has helped agriculture in a spectrum of ways, but not until recently with robotic apple pickers and an eBay for the farming side of the Internet. Both of these companies have focused on innovating technology in agricultural processes that are often technology free with operators not usually fond of personal technology. These two companies, along with many other brave startups, are bound to help the field of agriculture grow even further than it already has.

 

Iowa Corn Announces Scholarship Winners

While the farming and agriculture industry has seen a lot of advancement over the past few decades due to automation, it still relies heavily on people. The future of the industry will also continue to depend on the ability for farmers and other employers in the industry to find young talent. This past week, several young people across the State of Iowa were awarded scholarships to help them pursue their goals of having a career in farming.

 

The Iowa Corn Growers Association is the most prominent professional organization in the field of farming and agriculture. There are thousands of members of the organization located all over the State of Iowa and some surrounding states. The organization has been a huge proponent of encouraging young adults and kids with an interest to pursue the field. This past week they announced the winners of their Iowa Corn Future of Agriculture Scholarship for the upcoming 2017 and 2018 school year (http://www.wallacesfarmer.com/education/iowa-corn-future-agriculture-scholarship-winners).

 

Overall, the organization announced a total of eight young adults that won a $500 first-year scholarship and eight upperclassmen scholarships, also for $500 each. All of the scholarships will give direct assistance to help the winners pursue their degrees in the agriculture industry. Larry Bus, who is a spokesman for the organization and is also a full-time farmer, stated that the organization is committed to helping develop future talent for the industry. The organization believes that these students will each play an important part in developing future efficiencies and practices to help feed the world.

 

The winners of the scholarships will be awarded during the Iowa Corn Grassroots Summit, which is held in August every year. Overall, there are eight high school winners from all over the State of Iowa. The upperclassmen winners are all currently enrolled in college, the majority of which attended Iowa State University. All winners of the award went through a tough process. This included being judged an assessed on their applications, essays, grades, other activities, experience in the field, and letters of reference. They also were required to be current members of the ICGA, or be dependents of a current member.

 

Farming Prices Decline Across US

Earlier this March, thousands of farmers and other agriculture workers from around the United States supported one another on the 44th anniversary of National Agriculture Day. This annual event provides all involved the ability to reflect on how important agriculture is in the United States and the rest of the world.

 

2016 and 2017 have been interesting years for agriculture. Net income made my all farmers across the country has fallen for the third straight year and is now at its lowest point since 2009. The current drop in farm profitability was actually the largest such drop since the Great Depression. While the drop in profitability during the Great Depression was due to a customer’s inability to pay for the crop, the profitability decline today could actually be more associated with too much productivity.

 

Over the past decade, the efficiency of farming has continued to grow. In fact, farmers today are produce nine times as much crops compared to what was grown in the 1930s. At the same time, they are able to do so while utilizing far less land. Today, the amount of crops grown is actually outpacing the need for food, which has helped to reduce the level of hunger across the world. There are now an estimated 5 billion bushels of crops stored all over the United States. While this has been great for the world, it has led to a reduction in the value of the crops.

 

With all of the excess crops sitting around, many are looking for better ways to put it to use. One of the most likely uses will be to continue to increase the usage of biofuel. There are already biofuel stations for consumers in 29 states across the country and there is now enough crop to help grow that number. This would also help to reduce the need to rely on foreign oil, which could provide additional economic benefits to the United States. At this point, the oil companies are fighting the plan, but it appears that more government intervention could come that will increase the production of biofuel across the country.

 

Moving Farming from Corporate Farmers to Small Scale Farmers

There is a need for the US government to make a progressive movement to the interior communities. For that reason, it needs to stop subsidizing corporate farms and rather return the land to the small family farmers who work on the farms. Farming should not be restricted to farmers who owns 20, 000 acres of the rented land just to make a living. It is also important that everyone including the city dwellers be enlightened about the basic literacy regarding agricultural shifts that have encompassed the United States and what needs to be done regarding moving agriculture from corporate agriculture on a mass scale.

 

 

Farming business has not changed for over 200 years. We have cultivated two types of crops that are soybeans and corn. For some time, this system has benefited farmers. Over the years, there have been strong established markets for the product, and proven farming techniques. Improvement of machines over the years has improved efficiency. Well developed seeds and planting methods that have increased the yield with time. The greatest transformation that has happened to farm is the rise of large farms. Along with the two crop system, the big farms are a problem to the agriculture and the economics of agriculture.

 

 

One of the significant challenges with the big corporate farms is that, for instance, if there are just 12 of us for the 20,000 acres, we earn an average income. For us it is a better living compared to others in the field; we are happy. That may seem good until you consider that no more than 30 years, 20,000 acres provided a living for over 100 families. Is there any solution to this problem?

 

 

There is a solution to these challenges. The initial solution is that we need to stop subsidizing the current business model of large farms and the two crop system that it supports. Another solution is to create a system that would return the farms to the small family farmers who work on the rented land. Through this, we will be taking full advantage of the most valuable resource that we have; land. We must do it in a way that refrains from corporate exploitation and invests money to our farmers.

 

Agriculture Projects In Africa May Be Worsening Segregation

Climate change, food insecurity, low crop yields and significant growth in the population are four of the factors that will dictate the agricultural and economic shape of Africa during the next century. Even if the continent’s countries can successfully negotiate more lucrative trade deals and policy reforms, Africa will still have to produce more food for its people.

 

For this to happen, updated agricultural practices have to become the norm, and it’s up to smallholder farmers to make this happen. This requires having information that is relevant to the area and accurate. Unfortunately, smallholder farmers in Africa have limited access to these details, and this is largely due to a lack of modern technology.

 

Agricultural extension services could prove to be a solution to this problem. The services involve employing extension officers who promote the incorporation of new technology and methods. However, this program is severely under-funded. It’s also fairly common for government extension officers to be responsible for thousands of households, and this is difficult and sometimes impossible to manage.

 

As a solution for the government extension officer shortage, many governments in Africa are embracing the farmer to farmer extension program. This is where local members of the community become leaders for farmer and deliver necessary information to those who are growing and cultivating food for the area.

 

Fourteen months of fieldwork was conduct to see whether the farmer to farmer program is effective. Six countries in southern and eastern Africa participated in the project.

 

African farmers reported that there are several factors that make the system dysfunctional. One of the issues was trust, since some lead farmers were not approachable due to gender or religious biases. Lead farmers were also handling certain agricultural issues correctly, according to the farmers under their leadership. Jealousy was also a huge factor, since the lead farmers were often supplied with all they needed to try new technologies, while the farmers under them still struggle financially and agriculturally. This led many farmers to feel as though the system is unfair and does not benefit African communities as a whole.

 

For more information on agricultural disparities in Africa and possible solutions, check out the Huffington Post website.

 

How Do Organic Farms Keep Production Efficient?

Organic farming is becoming all the rage nowadays. You can’t go into any supermarket without finding information and products specifically made using organic methods. Organic farming is far different from any other type of production available. If the farm is certified USDA organic, they must follow strict regulations and guidelines in order to achieve and maintain that seal of approval. This means that the farm cannot use any type of chemical pesticide that is harmful to the environment and consumers’ health.

 

The problem with organic farming is that production can be slow and the yield of crops can be small because chemicals are not being used. The farm cannot use growth hormones or chemical growing agents because they will lose their USDA organic seal. Because of this, many farmers are using natural methods to grow their crops and keep the plants in good shape. There are many natural methods to get crops to grow stronger and for longer periods of time. Greenhouses are often used in organic farming because they use the natural sun to encourage growth and vitality. Because the plants are protected in a greenhouse, pests are often not an issue for these particular farmers.

 

Organic farming is more expensive to those working on the plants and this price is reflected in the product you’ll find in your local supermarket. It’s not uncommon to pay two or three times the price for organic produce than you’d pay for the chemical-riddled crop next to it. However, you can save money by visiting farmer’s markets and looking for supermarket sales and discounts specific to organic produce. Once you get in the habit of buying only GMO-free and organic products, you’ll find that going back to your old way of shopping seems “off”. You just won’t feel right buying chemical-produced items that you know are not healthy for your loved ones. While buying organic is more expensive and can be frustrating because crops are generally much smaller in size, it is well worth the price of admission when you look at all the health benefits of going on an all-organic diet.

 

How to Shop for Organic Produce in the Supermarket

Gone are the days when it was considered normal to spray our farms with hundreds of gallons of pesticides to keep the plants healthy and pest-free. Nowadays, most people are aware of the dangers that these chemicals impose upon our health and why it’s crucial we begin to avoid them altogether. Unfortunately, shopping for organic can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that you can buy your organic produce at a supermarket for the same price as its pesticide-riddled neighbor. This simply isn’t true because organic farming is much more costly to farmers and workers, thus putting that price back into the produce that they yield.

 

To save money on your organic produce, you can look for sales in your local grocery store. Most stores have sales going from week to week and you’ll be surprised to find that many of these discounts include organic produce. If you’re able to find a great sale, you could essentially get organic at the same price as other pesticide produce. Another way to buy organic is to visit your local farmer’s market. If you live in a rural area, there should be no problem finding a great market that sells a wide range of homegrown vegetables and fruits. You may have to travel to get to the farmer’s market if you live in the country, but it is well worth it and you can stock up on all the produce you need to feed your family for months.

 

It’s important to note that not all organic products cost the same. You might find cucumbers that cost different prices because one type comes from a specific organic farm and the other comes from an entirely different GMO-free organic farm. Comparison shopping is yet another benefit when you’re looking to save money on healthier options. Even different stores charge varying prices for their organic produce, so it pays to look at shop advertisements before making your trip. When you switch to organic produce for your loved ones, you’re doing something great for your family and they’ll appreciate it because they’re living healthier lifestyles.

 

Why More People are Setting Up Their Own Organic Farms

Organic farming is a growing trend found all throughout the country. It’s estimated that for every five regular farms being established, there is at least one organic farm being created. This is an amazing shift in our way of farming, since there has been an enormous problem with the use of pesticides in recent years. Pesticides are hazardous to our health, making it difficult to feel safe consuming the fruits and vegetables that we buy from our local supermarkets. Thankfully, many people are forgoing supermarket produce shopping altogether and are choosing to set up their own organic farms in their backyard.

 

Setting up your own organic farm in the backyard is great if you’re tired of the high cost of produce and the insecurity of knowing where your food is coming from. The only disadvantage to having your own farm and relying solely on its production is that certain foods can’t be done all year and are specific to certain seasons. This limits the amount and type of produce you’re able to yield. Other than this minor inconvenience, organic farming in your backyard is a marvelous way to regulate what’s being put onto your foods before you chow down.

 

To set up your own farming spot, you’ll need an adequate area in the backyard that gets both sun and shade throughout the day. Most crops do best in partial sun and shade, allowing them time to heat up and cool down during the hotter months of the year. You need to keep your crops watered daily to prevent them from burning and drying out, especially if you’re living in a hot climate. If you can’t plant the crops directly in the earth, consider building a vegetable box and filling it with dirt and organic matter to encourage the plants to grow their best.

 

You should begin to see a yield of crops within the first couple of months after doing your planting. You need to read all directions for the specific plant you’re putting into the ground as some require more or less water and full sun to keep them healthy.

 

Why More People are Getting Into Chicken Farming

People are starting to realize that it is better for them to live off the land and be able to provide for themselves. Because of this, you’ll notice a growing trend around the country of people doing their own chicken farming. Chicken farming is a relatively easy hobby to get into and it doesn’t result in near the amount of work as typical livestock farming demands. In fact, most areas allow for chickens to be kept on your property, so unless you live in a very city-like urban environment, you shouldn’t have to worry about any laws governing the ownership of chickens.

 

Chicken farming isn’t just a fun and relaxing hobby, it is also a great way to produce eggs that you can use in your own home for cooking. The typical hen will lay one or two eggs each day, allowing you to have a fresh supply of eggs at any given time. Not only will this save you a lot of money, but you will know where your eggs are coming from and that they are completely organic and laid by free range chickens.

 

Most farm supply stores sell all of the necessary equipment that you’ll need to start your own coop. Certain stores, such as Tractor Supply, even have chickens and ducks for sale in the early spring months for people who would rather buy their birds locally as opposed to ordering them online. When you order your chickens online, they’ll be shipped next-day to ensure that all of the animals arrive healthy and alive. If you live in a cold area, it is imperative that you provide the chickens a warm place to stay when temperatures drop.

 

Once you’ve set up your coop, you should maintain it on a daily basis to keep your chickens happy. Provide the chickens with warmth, water and plenty of food and they’ll reward you by laying eggs daily. It’s crucial that you keep your chickens away from predators and other animals that could eat the eggs, especially if you live in an area that deals with a lot of wildlife.

 

The Rise of Organic Farming

We all know about the dangers of pesticide use in farming. If you’re not buying organic, chances are that you’re purchasing crops that have been sprayed with some type of pesticide. Large farms and corporations use these chemicals to yield more products. If they have less pests eating away at their plants, they will produce more crops and be able to keep their prices to a minimum. Unfortunately, we pay for it by receiving veggies and fruits that are literally riddled with chemical pesticides and fungicides that are difficult to wash off.

 

You’ll notice a significant growth in organic farming all across the country. Organic farming is more difficult because farmers need to resort to natural methods to keep their plants lively and pest-free, but it is healthier for the consumers when they do not need to worry about the chemicals sprayed onto their foods. In fact, you may notice that most foods in your local supermarket are going organic because there is a high demand for this type of product. No one likes that their food is dangerous to eat, so they are opting to pay a little more and buy organic and GMO-free.

 

One of the major cons of organic farming is the slow production and price. You might hear certain people say that eating healthy is cheap and easy, but it truly isn’t. Organic produce costs, on average, two or three times the amount compared to non-organic vegetables and fruits. This hike in the price is problematic for people who are on strict budgets and can’t afford to spend more just to avoid chemicals they can’t even see. Organic farmers are realizing this dilemma and are starting to slowly drop their prices to reflect the financial needs of their customers.

 

In order to go organic, you need to read labels carefully. If a product or piece of produce has the USDA seal for organic on it, it means it is organic. If something says it’s natural, it does not mean it is necessarily free of pesticides or other chemicals. Be cautious when purchasing anything if you’re trying to live a completely organic lifestyle as many products have chemicals in them without stating it on the label.