Purdue is testing solar installations that still allow for the row-crop production under the solar panels. While such an installation would require some adjustment in farming practices (particularly tillage), it’s an intriguing notion to be able to harvest both sun and corn in the same field.
Conventional wisdom suggests that, in certain locations, there may not be enough space for full-scale deployment of solar panels. This is one solution.
As usual, this is taking popular buzzwords (“Carbon footprint” and “Greenhouse Gases”) and using them for a marketing bump without regard for science (or for a real analysis of the entire business model or an effort to make a real change).
Even the Bloomburg article notes that Starbucks accounts for a tiny percentage of US Milk production, but also notes that the Starbucks name might be sufficient to tilt the rest of the coffee house industry in the same direction.
Interestingly, this announcement is a month after the animal-rights/vegan-pushing PETA purchases one (1) share of Starbucks stock so representatives can attend Starbucks shareholder meetings.
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:
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!
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.