Farmers Hacking Green

It’s not news that technology is both a blessing and a burden.  Every new iteration of today’s farm equipment is more efficient and allows the farmer to manage acres despite an ever-dwindling labor pool.

Today’s technologically advanced farm equipment is computer-controlled from the steering wheel to the tractor tires.  Unfortunately, John Deere uses proprietary software to control all the equipment operations, and even simple malfunctions require special software to diagnose and repair.  Of course, only your authorized John Deere dealer has access to that software, and if it is late or your farm is too far away from a dealership (or the dealership doesn’t have enough technicians to serve all the customers), a farmer could be stopped indefinitely.  Every hour of downtime costs money.

In protest, some farmers are turning to computer hacks or black market copies of diagnostic software so they can make their own repairs.  Technically, this violates the intellectual property of John Deere.  Practically, farmers believe they have no choice since John Deere is unable to provide any reasonable alternative.

Iowa is considering legislation that would allow farmers to use diagnostic software without penalty.  This is causing quite a stir in other technology markets.   While I disagree that AT&T and Microsoft would suddenly decline to sell their products in a state that allowed device hacking, I certainly can see cause for concern.

There should be a “happy medium” where both sides can prosper.  The manufacturers should provide licensed diagnostic software that allows the farmers to make their own repairs.  Those that are geographically remote or mechanically capable will take advantage of the opportunity, but my expectation is that there will still be a substantial market for dealerships to provide technical and mechanical service.

Farm labor is becoming too scarce – and this includes qualified technicians.  John Deere should embrace this change, and not only provide diagnostic software but teach classes (and provide certification).  A smart corporation can figure out how to profit from a model that make the customer happy.

For more information, check out this video:

Millennial Farmer – Harvesting Sugarcane

You should add Millienial Farmer to your social media feed.  Zach Johnson is a Minnesota Farmer that brings the world with him to work.  He talks plainly about the challenges and realities of farming.

This episode finds him traveling to Florida where crops are very different from Minnesota (or Indiana).  See the harvest of sugarcane and head lettuce in this video.

NOTE – this is a 20+ minute video.  For more information, be sure to read the show notes.

A New Meaning to the Term “Double Crop”

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.

Will You Grow Corn Under Solar Panels Someday? Via Indiana Farm Bureau

A Crop of a different variety

Buzz-word Marketing Strikes Again (Starbucks)

The latest from Starbucks is that they are going to discourage milk products at their stores.

Starbucks Taking Aim at Dairy (Bloomburg)

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.

PETA buys Starbucks Stock, Will Take Fight Against Nondairy Milk Surcharge to the Board Room (Food and Wine), December 18, 2019.

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.

 

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