Driverless Technology in Ag – Still Better than Tesla

This is not the first time I’ve mentioned that Ag technology in the field (pun intended) of driverless technology is years ahead of the autonomous road vehicle technology.  See Here and Here for previous posts.  Here is another article that shows a different application of “driverless” – this time going small instead of big:

Swarms of Teeny Robo-Tractors Will Outmaneuver Tesla’s Driverless Cars (from Medium One-Zero – free account required for repeat access)

As the farm labor pool continues to shrink and the cost of farming grows, more autonomous equipment will be deployed in the field to provide greater efficiency and just-in-time management of crop production.

So if you are interested in autonomous technology – become a farmer!

Stay tuned.

 

2020 (And Beyond) Predictions for Agriculture

Below is my Top 5 Ag Predictions for the next decade, along with the source links.  I’ve compiled this based upon what I see here, from my seat in mid-North Indiana, as an Ag Attorney and a row-crop farmer.  These are very rough, “cosmic” observations, based upon recent emerging trends:

1.  Technology – Mechanization and Automation will continue to increase.  The fast improvement in technology, the reduction in available agriculture labor, and the increased demand for food (both row-crop and table food crop (farm-to-table or produce crops) will drive more advancement in technology – particularly in areas that improve efficiency and reduce the need for workforce.  Last year, our farm drastically changed our fertilizer management technology, which reduced fertilizer application time from 30 days x 5 workers to one week and 2-3 workers.

2.  Technology – Rural Broadband improvement.  This is a “must-have” for successful farming.  The current public noise favors the improvement of rural internet access, but also woefully under-estimates the needed bandwidth (see previous rants – I mean posts – on this topic).  For agriculture to continue to meet market demand as the number of industry players shrinks and the requirement for technology increases, adequate bandwidth will be required.

3.  Production – Specialization along the production spectrum.  From row-crop to consumer production, farmers will continue to narrow their production focus.  Expensive equipment, government regulations, lack of adequate workforce, will drive farmers to specialize in those agriculture areas that are more profitable, of more interest, or are a better fit with the farmer.

4.  Farm Business – Growth of the Family Farm Operation.  The issue of “corporate farm ownership” is a myth.  There are very few non-family “corporate” farms, but as more very small farms are sold off due to lack of family successors, those family farms with a large family owner base or a strong multi-generational farming culture will continue to grow.  Unfortunately, I see a lot of farmers contemplating “next-generation ownership” in a farm landlord model, not a “boots on the ground” farm model.  Small farms will continue to be absorbed by large farms, except for the growing “niche” farm operation in produce farming, experimental technology farming, urban farming, and the like.

5.  Change for Success – Adapt, Adapt, Adapt.  The technology of farming will continue to adapt to changes in political, cultural, technological, and climate.  As new growing seasons bring new challenges, from too much water (or not enough), to tariffs (or not), to consumer demand for source information coupled with the technology to provide it, the farming industry will continue to evolve to stay profitable despite the changes.  Farmers that cannot succeed in a changing environment will leave the industry or be absorbed by farmers who can adapt.

Sources:

John Phipps, “Are Economics Driving the Future of Family Farms?” Ag Web, January 6, 2020

Linchpin SEO, “Trends That Will Transform the Agriculture and Farming Industry Outlook in 2020

Wade Barns, “What’s Ahead for Agriculture?  4 Predictions for 2020” Farm Progress Farm Business, December 30, 2019.

For purely statistical reading check out the USDA publication, “USDA Ag Projections 2020

 

Keeping Track of Details on a Nonprofit Board

The Execupundit has a great suggestion to help boards keep track of official action over time.  He notes (and I echo his experience) that Boards often do not remember official action previously taken – particularly if time has passed.

While it is every Board Member’s duty to be aware of the action taken at all Board meetings, we humans live “in the moment” and are not wired to stop and think about whether an issue has been previously addressed.  In my experience as an attorney who advises nonprofit (and other) boards, I have witnessed more than one occasion where a Board will take action directly opposite to action taken only a few meetings previously, for the simple reason that no one remembers.

Enter the Board Historian, as recommended by the Execupundit.  This person’s duties include keeping track of all official actions of the Board, and being ready, willing, and able to remind the Board of previous action taken.

I have worked with Boards that try to address the issue of “remembering official action” by keeping a running summary of all official board action, including the date, the action taken, and whether there were any dissenting votes.  This is a good idea for use by the Board Historian.

The duties of a Board Historian can be expanded to include matters of Board and Officer dates of office and terms (including when terms expire) as well as a historic list of past officers (and terms of service), as well as the basic history of the organization (when founded, when incorporated, with copies of important documents, such as the Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws (including historic copies), and Exemption documents so that they can be easily accessed if and when needed.

If this sounds a lot like part of the Secretary’s job, you aren’t wrong (Check your bylaws to see whether your definition of the Secretary’s duties include keeping track of historic information).  However, in practice the Secretary duties have been somewhat limited to just taking notes at meetings.   Expanding the role of Secretary to include Historian – or having the Historian as a separate Board Office – is a continuous reminder of the importance of both knowing and remembering official Board Action.

Thanks for the suggestion, Execupundit – terrific idea!

If you don’t read the writings of Michael Wade, The Execupundit, I recommend you add him to your list – he writes thoughtful and intersting posts.  I especially like his “First Paragraph” series and his “Find Something Beautiful Today” series.

The Great Recycling Myth

You recycle, don’t you?  You don’t worry about all the (cheap) plastic water bottles, soda bottles, and other plastic goods, because you toss them in the recycle bin, right?

I’ve been a big believer in REDUCE-REUSE-RECYCLE being practiced in that order.  I live in a rural area where recycling is difficult to accomplish, so in our family, we try to prioritize REDUCE and REUSE and create less of the RECYCLE.

This video suggests that REDUCE-REUSE should be the priority for everyone – the “RECYCLE” part is mostly a myth.

Reddit’s Mindblowing Facts (fact-checked)

Reddit is one of my favorite (and probably a lot of people’s favorite) time-waster.  It’s a terrific community of commentary, and some information is both astonishing and accurate.

Thanks to Nick Douglas at Lifehacker for the list – you should check it out (and be sure to check the citations – the supporting information for the facts is just as interesting as the facts).

(Note – some of the info, while interesting, is NSFW.)

Reddit’s Favorite Mindblowing Facts of All Time, Fact-Checked.

Fair Oaks Robotic Milking

I’ve visited Fair Oaks several times, and as an Ag attorney, I closely follow the innovations and advancements that come out of that business.

Fair Oaks is also a leader in the ag education space.  They strive to make agriculture production – particularly production on a large scale – accessible and understandable by everyone.  If you have a chance to visit (about an hour south of Chicago), I highly recommend the experience.

While Fair Oaks currently uses an automated milking system, it is not “robotic.” This article discusses a new application of robotics for milking.

Note the photos of the cows’ living area – clean, well-lit, open stalls.  This is consistent with the mission of the owners to be transparent to show how the animals are treated, and that all animals are treated well and humanely.  Happy cows produce more milk.

Ag Web:  Robotic Milking Experience to Open at Fair Oaks Farm

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