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Châtenay-Malabry (FR - 92290), October 04, 2021
EFITA newsletter / 1006 - European Federation for Information Technology in Agriculture, Food and the Environment
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Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters - September 28, 2021 - by Steven Pinker
“In our uncertain age, which can so often feel so dark and disturbing, Steven Pinker has distinguished himself as a voice of positivity.” – New York Times
Can reading a book make you more rational? Can it help us understand why there is so much irrationality in the world? Steven Pinker, author of Enlightenment Now (Bill Gates’s "new favorite book of all time”) answers all the questions here
Today humanity is reaching new heights of scientific understanding--and also appears to be losing its mind. How can a species that developed vaccines for Covid-19 in less than a year produce so much fake news, medical quackery, and conspiracy theorizing?
Pinker rejects the cynical cliché that humans are simply irrational--cavemen out of time saddled with biases, fallacies, and illusions. After all, we discovered the laws of nature, lengthened and enriched our lives, and set out the benchmarks for rationality itself. We actually think in ways that are sensible in the low-tech contexts in which we spend most of our lives, but fail to take advantage of the powerful tools of reasoning we’ve discovered over the millennia: logic, critical thinking, probability, correlation and causation, and optimal ways to update beliefs and commit to choices individually and with others. These tools are not a standard part of our education, and have never been presented clearly and entertainingly in a single book--until now.
Rationality also explores its opposite: how the rational pursuit of self-interest, sectarian solidarity, and uplifting mythology can add up to crippling irrationality in a society. Collective rationality depends on norms that are explicitly designed to promote objectivity and truth.
Rationality matters. It leads to better choices in our lives and in the public sphere, and is the ultimate driver of social justice and moral progress. Brimming with Pinker’s customary insight and humor, Rationality will enlighten, inspire, and empower.
Are we working more than ever?
In today’s hustle and bustle world, it’s easy to assume that we are all, by and large, working more than ever. But is that really the case?
In this article from December 2020, we show that this is not the case: Working hours for the average worker have decreased dramatically over the last 150 years. This has come from working fewer hours each day, fewer days each week, and fewer weeks each year.
While working hours have declined in many countries, there are still large differences across and within countries. Studying the amount of time people spend working is crucial not only to understanding productivity, but also economic progress and well-being more generally.
In the past, we used whale oils for everything from lighting our homes to buttering our toast
Then, we invented cheaper, more abundant substitutes like kerosene and nut margarine, and whaling declined.
In 1987, the International Whaling Commission imposed a moratorium on whaling, but it was technological advancement that saved the whale.
Future Farming (NL)
> Commercial robotic asparagus harvester on the way
The New Zealand Asparagus Council (NZAC) and Robotics Plus will work alongside New Zealand asparagus growers to develop a commercial-scale autonomous robotic asparagus harvester.
> Field robots: Burro raises $ 10.9 million to commercialise field robots
Burro will use to funding expand to 500+ robots next year to meet demand from both existing and new customers.
> Field robots: Future Acres and Sun World partner to automate harvest
Sun World is currently testing Future Acres’ harvesting robot Carry and plans to begin a official pilot program during the harvest season this ye...
> Robot tractors: Ztractor electric robot tractor wins two product design awards
Ztractor, the Californian startup developing different types of autonomous electric tractors has won two European Product Design Awards.
> Crop science: Machine learning to help grow crops with less fertilizer
Machine learning can pinpoint “genes of importance” that help crops to grow with less fertilizer, according to a new study.
> crop protection: Barley crops with more resistance to powdery mildew
Australian researchers have discovered unique and potentially durable resistance genes from exotic barley lines and landraces.
> Weed control: Cromai Scan to reduce herbicide use by 65% in weed control
The Brazilian agtech company Cromai offers a weed control system that uses drones and artifical intelligence (AI).
> Automation: $ 37M funding for Blue White Robotics
Blue White Robotics will use the funding to increase rapid adoption of Robots-as-a-Service and drive U.S. sales.
Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory: Interior with Old Man by Léon Engelen (BE)
Farming Robotics Startup Marks Toyota’s First Investment in Agriculture
Led by S2G Ventures and Toyota Ventures, Burro has raised $10.9 million Series A to accelerate commercialization of its collaborative robot platform.
Semios Raises $100 million in Capital to Expand Agtech Platform Globally
New funding will further international expansion as company eyes new partnerships and acquisitions.
Ceres Imaging Secures $23M in Series C Funding to Fuel Development of AI in Agriculture
As drought and climate change accelerate, the aerial imagery and data analytics company readies for solution expansion across the precision agriculture landscape.
EarthOptics Raises $10.3 million in Series A Funding to Accelerate Carbon Mapping
Led by Leaps by Bayer, the investment will help accelerate roll-out of soil mapping and machine learning technologies for more accurate carbon content readings.
Intelinair Raises $20 Million in Series B to Expand Flagship Platform AGMRI
The crop health and intelligence platform leverages AI technology to monitor and proactively alert to issues before they become loss-generating problems.
Semios raises $100m to scale precision ag platform with more acquisitions likely, AFN, by Louisa Burwood-Taylor
Semios, the Vancouver, Canada-headquartered precision ag platform, has closed $100 million in late-stage funding.
The round was led by Morningside Group, a Boston-based private equity and venture capital firm. It brings the company’s total funding to $225 million, following a previous $100 million raise in February 2020.
That previous round had enabled Semios to go on an acquisition spree earlier this year: within three months, Semios acquired Altrac, Centricity, and Agworld, creating what it says is one of the world’s biggest agtech platforms with more than 120 million acres under management globally.
The acquisition of Australia-headquartered Agworld, which was valued at over $100 million according to Semios founder and CEO Michael Gilbert, brought the vast majority of those acres into the fold. It also expanded Semios’ remit into broadacre crops from its historical focus on permanent crops.
Semios was founded in 2010 to help tree, vine, and nut growers manage pests and collect data about their crops. It does this by deploying sensors to measure various data points like leaf wetness and soil moisture, as well as recommending actions like trapping insects and dispensing pheromones. After expanding the platform’s capabilities into other areas like irrigation management, Gilbert soon became aware of growers’ desire for more consolidation among agtech tools. “They didn’t want 10 different logins or to have to bring data from one tool to another, so we invested in creating a seamless process,” he told AFN in the wake of the Agworld acquisition.
Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory: Plantando Arroz para González Alacreu
Agrifoodtech is favored destination for climate-focused funding: report, AFN, by guest contributor: Thin Lei Win
Investors looking to tackle the climate crisis through clean technology over the past year were most interested in startups dealing with food and water, according to industry newsletter Climate Tech VC‘s mid-year review of venture capital funding.
The authors, who are investors themselves, tracked deals made across seven sectors — carbon, industrial, consumer, climate, energy, food and water, and mobility — between Q2 2020 and Q2 2021 and found food and water attracted the largest number of unique investors by far.
The ubiquity of food and water in everyday life and the global Covid-19 crisis are two likely factors that prompted this heightened interest, says Sophie Purdom, co-founder of Climate Tech VC and an active investor in early-stage climate technology businesses.
Food and water “are the most visceral and the most tangible of all of those climate investing categories,” she told AFN.
“Keep in mind this time period we’re tracking is also squarely during pandemic times, when maybe for the first time in a while everyone’s at home and thinking about what food they put in their body, what they’re stocking in their fridge, and engaging with the world around them and their lifestyle in a way that they hadn’t before.”
Agriculture produces just 1% of carbon credits, data suggest, AFN, by Jack Ellis
Agriculture-related emissions offsetting projects account for just over 1% of all carbon credits issued, with only transportation-related projects issuing less, according to data from the Berkeley Carbon Trading Project.
However, other types of land use — including forestry — are by far the biggest generators of carbon credits, providing nearly half of all units issued to date.
The Voluntary Registry Offsets Database, developed by the Berkeley Carbon Trading Project at the University of Berkeley, California‘s Goldman School of Public Policy, collates data from emissions reduction schemes around the world.
Lab-grown meat is supposed to be inevitable. The science tells a different story, The Counter, by Joe Fassler
Splashy headlines have long overshadowed inconvenient truths about biology and economics. Now, extensive new research suggests the industry may be on a billion-dollar crash course with reality.
“The things that we talked about today are open questions and they’re fair to raise questions about, including the tractability of how fast we can actually get there,” he said. “I don’t think these limitations should be interpreted as obituaries for the industry, though. Innovation, and new ideas, and new research and development efforts, can go a long way toward addressing challenges that people never thought could be achieved.”
But Renninger finds it “frustrating” to see so many resources going into cultured meat.
“It is a zero-sum game, to a certain extent,” he said. Money we spend chasing cultured meat is money we can’t use on converting coal plants to biomass, or scaling solar and wind, or modernizing concrete and steel.
There’s a reason that the U.S. government employs people like Humbird to do rigorous due diligence on attractive new ideas. When billions are spent on science that doesn’t come together, the biggest losers aren’t really the private companies and trade associations, or the class of professional investors who get rich on speculative tech. Instead, the public loses out—and we lose time we don’t have.
As Humbird put it, “If society pays for it and it doesn’t work out, then society’s left holding the bag.”
The environmental ravages we face are vast, destabilizing, and encroaching on our real lives right now. The fires, the floods, are already at our door. In all this, it would be so good to know we have a silver bullet. But until solid, publicly accessible science proves otherwise, cultured meat is still a gamble—a final trip to the casino, when our luck long ago ran out. We should ask ourselves if that’s a chance we want to take.
Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory: La siega del arroz para González Alacreu
Brexit paves the way for gene-edited crops, by Pallab Ghosh
The UK government is to relax the regulation of gene-edited crops to enable commercial growing in England.
The plants are to be tested and assessed in the same way as conventional new varieties.
The changes are possible because the UK no longer has to follow European Union regulations, which are the strictest in the world.
The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments will get to decide whether to adopt or opt out of the changes.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said that he would be working closely with farming and environmental groups to help grow plants that are stronger and more resilient to climate change.
Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory (?????): L'Abreuvoir, 1895, de Eugène Burnand (1850-1921)
Perspective: 'Silent Earth' is simply alarmism from an anti-pesticide trustee, By Amanda Zaluckyj, The Farmer’s Daughter USA
Silent Earth author David Goulson presents like a trustworthy scientist, but he's a trustee for an anti-pesticide group and is far from unbiased.
Crop farmers are well acquainted with pests. They come in a variety of forms — insects, weeds, fungus, bacteria, and viruses. And left unchecked, these nuisances can decimate plants, fields, and entire farms. Luckily, we live in a time when science and technology have developed numerous effective and safe ways to combat them.
But not everyone appreciates our pest-solution innovations, especially pesticides. And those voices had something to celebrate this past week: Dave Goulson’s book, Silent Earth, was released.
Goulson touts his theory that the global population of insects is dwindling so dramatically that we’re facing an armageddon. To Goulson, modern life is to blame, and eliminating pesticides is the only logical answer.
The insect apocalypse isn’t a new idea. It’s been around for a couple of decades, though it’s captured more interest over the past three or four years. And Goulson is often quoted talking about the impending doom and the evils of conventional agriculture practices.
For his part, Goulson presents like a legitimate and trustworthy scientist. He’s a professor in biology at England’s University of Sussex, and he’s written several books about bees.
But it won’t come as any surprise that Goulson isn’t an unbiased and impartial researcher. He’s a trustee for the Pesticide Action Network UK, an activist organization that strives to reduce the use of “hazardous” and “chemical” pest control. Worse, some circles consider Goulson a “scientist for hire.” In other words, his studies elicit the results his clients want.
The good news is that Goulson is wrong. The surveys and studies he’s conducted and relies upon are flawed and incomplete, to say the least. Fortunately, scientist Matthew Moran and his hand-selected team published a comprehensive study in 2020 that challenged Goulson’s conclusions. Moran’s approach took raw data spanning decades for various insects in North America. Guess what? They found no significant change in population.
Unfortunately, “all fine here” doesn’t garner as many clicks as “the world is ending.”
Maybe I’m being too hard on Goulson. After all, he’s from the UK, so maybe he doesn’t know that U.S. farmers’ use of pesticides has changed significantly since the 1960s. In fact, we’ve reduced the amount applied per acre by almost 60 percent. We’ve slashed pesticide toxicity by 98 percent. And we’ve curtailed pesticide persistence in the environment by half. Pesticide use peaked in 1972, and it decreased most years afterward through 2008.
And here’s the more important thing: We have really, really good reasons for using those pesticides. For example, the Weed Science Society of America worked with Kansas State University to determine what would happen if weeds were left uncontrolled in North America’s corn and soybean fields. They determined it would slash yields by 50 percent and result in annual economic losses of $43 billion. Food security nationwide would be devastated.
Pesticides also help promote soil-friendly production practices. The development of herbicide-resistant crops have made no-till and cover crops available to more farms across the country. These methods promote soil health and reduce erosion. Yet Goulson is opposed to genetically modified crops solely because he doesn’t like the corporations that have created them.
Goulson and his friends don’t care about nuanced conversation. Instead they promote a blind agenda to eliminate the use of all pesticides, and redirect agriculture to organic production. The irony is that Goulson admits organic farming has significantly lower yields and also uses pesticides at levels toxic to insects.
Goulson suggests we can overcome those problems by simply reducing or eliminating food waste. That’s optimistic. But it would still cause our food supply to shrink and our food prices to skyrocket. I’m not sure those already struggling from hunger and malnourishment will find his ideas comforting.
And all of this to prevent a problem that doesn’t exist, at least not in North America. Silent Earth is nothing more than an alarmist piece of propaganda filled with half-truths and disinformation. The insect apocalypse isn’t imminent.
Our insects are fine. Our farms are fine. It’s all fine.
New vaccine appears to block the spread of African swine fever
A commercial vaccine for African swine fever virus will be an important part of controlling ASFV in outbreak areas and international markets.
Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory: Le taureau, 1903, de Eugène Burnand (1850-1921)
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations
- 44.4% of the world population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
- 6.11 billion doses have been administered globally, and 25.54 million are now administered each day.
- Only 2.2% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.
Singapore's Covid Response Overlooked a Major Factor: Fear, By Rachel Rosenthal
Mastering data is only half the battle. A major reason hospitals were getting overwhelmed is because people were scared, and the government missed an opportunity to send the right message.
Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. We are all losing out because of this.
To make progress against the many large problems we face — disease, climate change, poverty, the list goes on — we need ideas and innovations.
In this article from September 2019, we describe how creative and talented people who can contribute to this important work are everywhere, but the opportunity to develop is limited only to a small number of well-off children.
As a consequence, we all — the entire world population — are missing out on the creativity and innovations that would enrich our world and help us move forward.
Tomato is first CRISPR-edited food to go on sale in the world, By Michael Le Page (24 September 2021)
For the first time ever, you can now buy a food altered by CRISPR gene editing – at least, if you live in Japan, where the Sicilian Rouge High GABA tomato has just gone on sale.
“We started shipping the tomatoes on September 17,” says Minako Sumiyoshi at Japanese start-up Sanatech Seed, which is selling the tomatoes directly to consumers. She says demand for the tomatoes is “not too bad”.
Since the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA in 1953, the genetic makeup of many living organisms- human, animal, and plant species- has been studied in detail and the roles played by different genes have been and are continuing to be discovered. More recently, research by worldwide scientists led to the 2012 development of a technology called CRISPR/Cas9 (hereinafter referred to as CRISPR). This technology enables “gene editing,” or the process of cleanly and efficiently changing the DNA sequence of an organism’s genes in a targeted manner and without introducing any “foreign” DNA from another species. The CRISPR gene editing technology holds great potential for developing the next generation of agricultural crops, thereby contributing to food security and sustainability, as well as to improving the nutritional, processing, storage, and health (e.g., reduced allergenicity) qualities of food.
Dr. Hiroshi Ezura, Director of the Gene Research Center and Professor of Life and Environmental Sciences, Plant Molecular Breeding & Vegetable Crop Sciences, at the University of Tsukuba, is a leading researcher in this technology. He successfully applied the CRISPR gene editing technology to develop a heart-healthy tomato with higher GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) content. He is working with Sanatech Seed as a Chief Technology Officer and a member of the Board of Directors to bring these heart-healthy tomatoes to consumers.
Newsweek Exploits Farm-Family Tragedy to Push Anti-Meat Agenda, September 8, 2021, by Amanda
Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory: Die Dorffeuerwehr auf dem Wege zum Brandherd von Eugène Burnand / Les pompiers en route pour combattre un incendie
The Age of Ignorance (the funny aspect of this paper is that ignorance mainly appears in extremist people, from the anti-capitalist extreme left to the racist extreme right, without any clear relationship with capitalism that is accused of all evils here - GW)
Why We Live in a Time When Ignorance Proudly Parades Itself as Enlightenment?
Anti-maskers violently yelling at school board meetings to stop their kids…from wearing masks…during a pandemic. Anti-vaxxers refusing to get vaccinated and dying from COVID. People pretending the pandemic is over while Covid goes permanent.
When I look around the world today, I see shattering ignorance at work, like never before in our lifetimes. Shall I name a few kinds? Bigotry, racism, hate, xenophobia, nationalism, greed, spite, cruelty, fascism. Ignorance upon ignorance, of all the devil’s many kinds.
But the really strange, bizarre, and weird thing isn’t all that — ignorance has always been around, hasn’t it? It’s that today, ignorance is willful. Deliberate. Proud. Boastful, cocky, and exultant.
Pompous, high-sounding, and aggrandizing. It waves banners and sings chants and discusses philosophies. Ignorance today thinks of itself as Aristotle by way of Descartes and Kant. The really strange thing about now is that ignorance parades itself as enlightenment.
Ignorance — of every kind, day after day. That’s bad enough. But ignorance proudly presenting itself as wisdom, truth, and enlightenment? In bestsellers, through YouTube “personalities”, by college professors? Now that’s tragedy and comedy both. And yet people buy it. Why? I think this weird phenomenon — of flaunting ignorance as grand-sounding enlightenment — is made of a fatal cocktail of cognitive dissonance, infantile regression, and malignant narcissism.
Yet the malignant narcissist has come to exist because predatory capitalism has made him a mirror image of itself — it has left nothing in him at all, not even a self. There’s just an absence, an emptiness, where a self should be — which is insatiable. And so it must be fed with aggrandizing myths, that the narcissist is the only one who matters, counts, exists. But that means that his existence must come at the price of you, me, facts, reality, and, ultimately, even the whole world burning down. The more you suffer — the more I exist. The only thing that makes you feel powerful is my powerlessness — because capitalism has burned a hole through the place where a self should be.
Hence, ignorance parading itself as enlightenment. It’s the defining mood, phenomenon, way of the times we live in. Perhaps you and I, though, should be wiser than those who proudly, boastfully devote themselves to it.
Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory: The Hay Cart by Camille Pissarro
Precautionaria: An Affluent Disease Spread by Fear and Ignorance, by Riskmonger on September 24, 2021
Europe has been suffering from a disease outbreak that is debilitating its population, leading to economic malaise and destroying its innovative culture and entrepreneurial mindset. It’s called “precautionaria” and while often poorly diagnosed, it has been the source of a wide range of self-inflicted harm, irrational decisions and unnecessary anxiety. Also referred to as risk aversion, those afflicted with precautionaria leave themselves open to exploitation by unscrupulous actors and fear-mongers.
Sufferers of precautionaria often perceive the world through paranoid apocalyptic scenarios, express largely fear-driven reactions to irrational uncertainties and hold that the best corrective measures (to deliver a safe, secure situation) is to stop all related actions (regardless of the consequences). They express a pathological distrust of humanity, technology and innovative solutions. These sufferers often long for some idealised simpler times in the past which, when combined with an incapacity to properly perceive reality, leads to the voluntary rejection of many great human achievements.
Until now, most people have not seen the severity of precautionaria, a disease feeding off of fear, ignorance and misinformation. Below is a brief description of the symptoms and causes with some suggestions on how it can be treated.
Always Politically incorrect As Usual? Jeff Foxworthy (the joke really seems deeply racist, only its conclusion is saving it – GW)
Have you ever wondered why it's OK to make jokes about Catholics, Jews, Christians, the Pope, the Irish, the Italians, the Polish, the Hungarians, the Chinese, the French (including French Canadians), the elderly, bad golfers, men/women, blacks/whites, etc., but its insensitive to make jokes about the Muslims?
Well, it's time to level the playing field and be politically incorrect by including our friends, the Muslims, on this grandiose list.
So Jeff Foxworthy did his part to include the Muslims on his list...
1. If you grow and refine heroin for a living, but morally object to the use of liquor, you may be a Muslim.
2. If you own a $3,000 machine gun and a $5,000 rocket launcher, but can't afford shoes, you may be a Muslim.
3. If you have more wives than teeth, you may be a Muslim.
4. If you wipe your butt with your bare hand, but consider bacon to be unclean, you may be a Muslim.
5. If you think vests come in two styles, Bullet-proof and suicide, you may be a Muslim.
6. If you can't think of anyone that you haven't declared jihad against, you may be a Muslim.
7. If you consider television dangerous, but routinely carry explosives in your clothing, you may be a Muslim.
8. If you were amazed to discover that cell phones have uses, other than setting off roadside bombs, you may be a Muslim.
9. If you have nothing against women but think every man should own at least four, then you, too, may be a Muslim.
10. If you find this offensive and do not forward it, you are part of the problem here in America... but if you delete this, you are most likely a Muslim.
Historical fact: Who says building a border wall won't work? The Chinese built one over 2,000 years ago and they still don't have any Mexicans!
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