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July 2013 Archive for Growing Technology

RSS By: Ben Potter, AgWeb.com

Technology editor Ben Potter brings you the latest in technology news, and how you can apply it to farming.


What's Fluffy, White and Sustainable All Over?

Jul 26, 2013

 Sustainability has become a tired buzzword in the agriculture industry (see also "innovation" and "solutions"). But I do respect an honest effort when a farm or agribusinesses makes a play for more sustainable production. Cotton farmers are fueling the latest sustainability push, thanks to a collaboration between Field to Market and Bayer CropScience’s new e3 program.

Farmers who enroll in the program document their farm’s performance on Field to Market’s Fieldprint Calculator, which measures areas such as productivity, land use, soil loss, irrigation water use, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Farmers self-report, but their scores are verified through in-season and post-harvest third-party audits. The goal is for farmers to compare their performance with local data averages and find areas of improvement on their land.

Through Bayer’s Certified FiberMax and authentic Stoneville programs, buyers can also identify where their cotton was grown, which provides another layer of farm accountability.

Brent Crossland, fiber development manager at Bayer CropScience, says the desire for more sustainable cotton production is a common thread for farmers, textile producers, brands and retailers alike.

"Bayer CropScience is proud to bring a new and comprehensive option to the table that addresses the various and complex aspects of sustainable cotton," he says.

Olah, Inc., is providing additional assistance "downstream," where the group will serve as consultant and marketer of e3 cotton to the textile and apparel industries.

"In a world where sustainability has become a catchphrase, we are thrilled to be able to champion a cotton program that addresses the reality and science of sustainable cotton farming," says Andrew Olah, chief executive of Olah Inc.

Say Hello to Citizen Science

Jul 23, 2013

You have heard of the citizen’s arrest and perhaps citizen journalism. Now get ready for "citizen science."

Specifically, the U.S. Geological Survey has developed a suite of crowd-sourcing tools the agency says will help it monitor earthquakes, landslides and other significant events in real-time. Here are just a few ways you can become a "virtual member" of the USGS team.

Did You Feel It?

This is an online crowd-sourcing system developed by the USGS to better monitor earthquake activity. You enter data that is aggregated by zip code to show reported shaking intensity. The reports also enhance data from sensors and are incorporated in ShakeMaps used for emergency response. USGS is also tapping into Twitter as a source of rapid firsthand accounts of potential events worldwide.

Did You See It?

This is a program that lets respondents report detailed accounts of observed landslides, including photographs. Landslides cause roughly $2 billion in damages annually in the U.S.

The National Map

The National Map (TNM) is a web-based program that shows data on manmade structures like schools, hospitals, post offices, police stations and more. Users can also create their own custom maps on the TMN website.

Nature’s Notebook

Nature's Notebook is a "national, online program where amateur and professional naturalists regularly record observations of plants and animals to generate long-term data sets used for scientific discovery and decision-making."

USGS contends that "social media is no longer limited to just ‘liking’ a picture. The agency hopes it can continue to work with millions of "citizen scientists" across the globe.


Welcome to the Silicon Prairie

Jul 15, 2013

I’d like to be the first to welcome you to the Silicon Prairie. I’m just not exactly sure where it is.

The term is a nod to Silicon Valley and has been used to describe various tech innovation hotbeds in the Midwest and High Plains, including those in Texas, Wyoming and Illinois. Iowans are claiming the latest bragging rights for the Silicon Prairie crown – 5 of the 21 people that Broadband for America recently named "Faces of Innovation" hail from Iowa, including sixth generation farmer Grant Kimberley. Farmers are among the benefactors of the influx of tech startups into the rural Midwest.

"Iowa is certainly an innovative state and also the breadbasket of the country," Kimberley says. "So the moniker of ‘Silicon Prairie’ does fit very well."

He says broadband has really changed his business in the past 15 years, through the continued advances in GPS and other precision ag technologies, and through tapping into smartphone apps and other technologies.

Former U.S. Sen. John Sununu, honorary co-chairman of Broadband for America, told The Des Moines Register: "It’s really an effort to identify and provide exposure to the broadband innovators out there creating new services and applications and even new business models. They drive our economy and transform it as well. We have seen over the past decade innovation all over, from entertainment to business services, that have changed the industries."

Indiana’s Michele Payn-Knoper, a leading agriculture advocate who founded Cause Matters in 2001, also made the Faces of Innovation list. For a complete lineup, visit http://facesofinnovation.org/.

O Say Can You Sing (Pt. II)

Jul 02, 2013

Yesterday, I shared a voting opportunity to help students win scholarships for singing the national anthem. Today, cotton farmers have their own anthem, courtesy of Deltapine cotton.

The song, "Where Heroes Are Made," was written as a tribute for the company’s New Product Evaluators (NPE), who first grow and evaluate pre-commercial variety lines in large field trials. Lauren Straatmann, Deltapine marketing manager at Monsanto, says the song celebrates "those willing to put in the hard work and meet the many challenges of working the land."

"Music unites all of us," she says. "So with this in mind, we set out to create an anthem for cotton that applauds the cotton farmer. The result was ‘Where Heroes Are Made.’"

The song costs $0.99 cents on iTunes – proceeds will be donated to a cause that supports the future of agriculture in rural America (to be announced at a later date). Additionally, an official music video that features an NPE farmer and his family will debut in September.

"NPE farmers are the heart of our business, and we take great pride in our commitment to their success and the future of the cotton business," Straatmann says.

O Say Can You Sing?

Jul 01, 2013

 If you’re an American, chances are you’ve sang the National Anthem dozens, if not hundreds, of times in your life. You’ve probably never been offered $10,000 to carry that tune, however.

But that’s exactly what FMC Corporation has offered approximately 185 students with its 2013 "Stand & Be Heard Anthem Singing Contest." An online voting period between today and July 14 will help narrow the field to the top 20. These final contestants will be reviewed by a panel of musicians and agricultural group representatives, who will further trim the field to the top 4. These contestants will get to take part in a professional recording experience in Nashville, Tenn., this fall.

"We asked students to show us their talent and patriotism, and once again they responded," says Tim Thompson, FMC Agricultural Products Group North America product manager. "We’re very impressed with the talent of these students and the diversity of takes on one piece of music."

The final four will be posted to the contest website (www.FMCcrop.com/contest) and will be broadcast nationwide on Aug. 29 on RFD-TV. Final winners will be announced Sept. 18 – with the grand prize taking home a $10,000 scholarship, and the three other finalists winning $5,000 scholarships.

"Supporting students who have committed themselves to the future of agriculture is what investing in farming’s future is all about," Thompson says. "The response we received during [the contest] shows just how energetic and creative that future looks."

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