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EFITA newsletter / 1035 - European Federation for Information Technology in Agriculture, Food and the Environment
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FIRA, the Agricultural Robotics Event, launches its U.S. edition in Fresno, Calif. Oct. 18-20, 2022
An event focused on autonomous solutions for specialty crops
Specialty crops have much to gain from ag robotics and automation. Specialty crops, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture,” tend to be more labor intensive to produce and pick, and require more sophisticated technological solutions.
Walt Duflock, Western Growers vice president of innovation, is working to advance the pace of innovation in this sector through the Global Harvest Automation Initiative, which will be presented at FIRA USA 2022. One of the initiative’s goals is to automate 50 percent of specialty crop harvest in the next 10 years.
Personal opinion (GW)... Befeore decisive election next Sunday: Is France, the most truly social-democrat rich country in the world (together with Germany)?
Inequalities in France before taxes and social transfers are “normal” compared to comparable countries, but after taxes and social transfers, which are massive in France, France is the least unequal of the comparable countries (together with Germany according Our World In Data, Germany being exactly at the position than France on the following figure).
In small rich countries, however, we observe that inequalities can be less, no doubt an effect of family, local and/or informal solidarities.
Thus, according to the GINI index, France is indeed the most “socialist” country in the world. The collapse of the social-democratic left in France results, it seems to me, from the fact that it accomplished its mission, that it triumphed without realizing it.
In this context, feelings of injustice and social relegation remain understandable, but answers are difficult because they can only result from:
- the increase in income before taxes and transfers, by increasing qualifications, by initial or continuing education and training, and this does not happen overnight,
- changes to social transfers, which changes are bound to make people unhappy, for example when we affect pension systems, various housing or family allowances, etc.
The essential changes can therefore only be long and complicated to implement, which is hardly satisfactory, especially for young people. I think presidents Sarkozy, Hollande and Macron have tried and partly succeeded in moving the lines, each in their own way. Their problem, which is in fact ours, is that these changes cannot, because they are played out over the medium term at least, be very visible and satisfactory.
Conversely, we should be quite happy to live in one of the richest countries in the world and the least unequal. It is a success that should lead us to reject left or right extremists who, captive to old ideas, do not take realities into account. This is unfortunately not the case.
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La récolte de betteraves, de Camille Pissaro / The beet harvest
> Hybrid tractor from H2Trac drives, hydrogen version is on its way
At H2Trac in the Netherlands a whole new tractor is being developed: the EOX175. This tractor stands out, in part, because of its hydraulic track width adjustment and a diesel-electric drive system.
> Autonomous vehicles: Amos Power unveils two new autonomous electric tractors
Amos (Autonomous, Modular, Omni-Scalable) is a tractor design equipped with a fully electric powertrain eliminating on-site operation through autonomous technology.
> Tools & data: Topcon and MyAgData streamline access to grain cart load data
Topcon Agriculture and MyAgData have collaborated to facilitate and improve access and data sharing involving electronic grain cart load data.
> Satellite imagery: Mapping corn with lasers from space
NASA scientists have successfully used lasers mounted on the International Space Station to map where corn is grown in the U.S., China and France. In the future, the research team aims to map corn production around the world, which could be used to understand the harvest prospects of corn each year.
> Drones: Show us your application drones!
Do you design, build or convert Agriculture Drones/UAVs for applying seed, sprays or fertiliser and want to show it to Future Farming’s global farming audience – for free? Future Farming is updating our unique Application Drone Catalogue for 2022. We want to know what you offer, how it works and any special innovations that sets it apart from the crowd?
> Hybrid alternative to herbicides
Since its withdrawal in 2020, potato growers in the EU and UK have been searching for a replacement for Diquat. Trials now show that, out of the three main alternatives, a new hybrid sprayer/electrical system is performing as well, if not better than other chemical and mechanical defoliation options.
> Weeding: First Australian electro-weeding trial
A non-chemical weeding device that uses electricity to kill plants will be put through its paces in Western Australia. The use of the Swiss made Zasso Electroherb machine, based on Brazilian technology, should determine whether electro-weeding is the future of sustainable weed control for primary industries growers.
> Market trends: Variable Rate Technology market to grow to $ 13.7 billion by 2027
A new market report by MarketsandMarkets estimates the global agricultural variable rate technology to be valued at USD 7.4 billion in 2022. It is projected to reach USD 13.7 billion by 2027.
> Electric tractors: Amos Power unveils two new autonomous electric tractors
Amos (Autonomous, Modular, Omni-Scalable) is a tractor design equipped with a fully electric powertrain eliminating on-site operation through autonomous technology.
> Underwater farming: Siemens enables underwater farming revolution
Siemens is working with Nemo’s Garden, a start-up that grows crops in biospheres on the ocean floor. By building a “digital twin” of Nemo's Garden's sub aqua biosphere the start-up can move more rapidly towards industrialisation and scale.
At what age do people experience depression for the first time?
Depression can affect people over long periods of their lives. Some experience this condition continuously, while for others it occurs in episodes, with long stretches without symptoms.
But when do people tend to experience depression for the first time? And when are they first diagnosed?
In this article we show that it takes years before people are diagnosed, on average. But this is improving. In many countries, depression is being diagnosed at an earlier age than in the past—because of an increased openness to mental health disorders and guidance to recognize these conditions in young people.
Clariant Launches Drift Control Agent and Biological Activator for Drone Spraying
Synergen DRT is the first solution to come out of Clariant's DropForward concept for providing precision application with adjuvants and co-formulants.
Q1 2022 AgTech Venture Capital Investment and Exit Round Up
After 2021’s record breaking total of AgTech venture capital investments, the first quarter of 2022 saw the amount of money invested in the space slow down.
The Countryside in the Vicinity of Conflans Saint Honorine, 1874, by Camille Pissarro
Trust me. Agriculture needs an escrow agent when it comes to data, by By Matt Waits, President, Ag Solutions Proagrica
Digital transformation in agriculture continues to accelerate, as evidenced by precision ag businesses raising $380 million in funding for 2021’s third quarter. It is clear that industry leaders want to be able to get on with their jobs and they are looking to tech to streamline processes.
But the data opportunities in automation are frustratingly limited as (big) pockets of the supply chain still work in siloes. It is simply not as collaborative as it should be, which is hindering insights and limiting value across the industry.
And without a doubt, one of the biggest barriers to sharing this data is still trust.
It is an endemic problem in our industry as data is rightfully considered a stakeholder’s IP. This means the opportunities for data-led collaboration are limited by concerns that along with data sharing will come unintended consequences that give competitors an advantage.
In concept, the solution is a no-brainer: agriculture needs an independent third-party that stewards data across the supply chain, not in favor of any party or industry sector. And it should be one that connects every stakeholder — farmer to grocer — to make acute forecasts, manage disruption and avoid human error across the food system.
>>> How This Works to the Benefit of All Players
Most in the industry understands the benefits of sharing data, but there is still a lot of trepidation due to fear that their data will somehow be used against them.
For example, growers working with seed companies know that sharing data will offer more accuracy in recommendations through matching field-specific traits to the best products, and rates. While they understand this, they are not convinced that the value of field-specific recommendations outweighs the risk of value-pricing that may come as a result of the manufacturer having direct access to their data.
Instead, they opt for blanket recommendations on a regional scale, even though the variations in field environments mean it won’t always be the most appropriate product or recommendation.
This caution is echoed elsewhere in the supply chain, too. Take ag retailers, who are concerned that data transparency will impede customer relationships if manufacturers use it to target farmers directly, which means they risk being cut out.
This is why agriculture needs an escrow agent. It would be one that facilitates value exchange between participants, while allowing end-users to control how their data is used. One example of this would be a solution that allows a grower to share data in return for a recommendation, but where the escrow agent obfuscates the grower’s identity and the exact location of the field. Another would be a solution that allows food companies to interact with the escrow agent to validate compliance with sustainability requirements, but in a way where the buyer doesn’t get direct access to the grower’s data.
Another significant challenge that I discussed in my piece is December, is that due to a lack of industry standards, systems integration is extremely difficult and therefore expensive. If an independent third party is to be successful it will have to translate data from many systems into a common data model, and by doing so can help the market achieve a level of integration that is desperately needed. Until we tackle this challenge, we will continue to suffer from the Tower of Babel problem.
>>> How the Broker Would Maintain Trusted Status
Initial efforts should be on helping growers and their trusted advisors make better use of data for the purposes of running an economically sustainable farming operation. However, industry leaders are starting to look at the bigger picture too. They want to know how sharing data will tackle future challenges affecting the ecosystem, most notably climate change, and how they can use it to demonstrate their own green standards.
AgFunder-backed GROW Impact Accelerator reveals its latest cohort of cutting-edge startups
AgFunder and agrifoodtech ecosystem catalyst GROW today unveil their latest GROW Impact Accelerator cohort – and it’s the most diverse one yet. Showcasing innovations across the value chain, the selected companies offer technologies that will drive positive transformation across our food and agriculture industry. The cohort was picked from over 360 applicants hailing from 78 countries, and seven out of the 10 teams have female founders.
The teams selected are:
- 3Bee (Italy): Cloud-based farm management system for beekeepers combined with marketplace technology, driving transparency and traceability in global honey production.
- Decomer Technology (Estonia): All natural, plant-based, functional food-grade packaging for food manufacturers and FMCG.
- LYRO Robotics (Australia): Next-gen robotic solution for food packing, working to alleviate manpower constraints and to improve efficiency on the line.
- Mycotech Lab (Indonesia): Designing and producing mycelium-based goods such as animal-free leather and building materials from agricultural waste streams, including corn and oil palm.
- Nubocha (US): Dairy-free, no-added-sugar, and keto-friendly artisanal gelato brand committed to sustainability, traceability, and owning part of the supply chain.
- Phagos (France): Addressing the looming pandemic of antibiotic resistance with bacteriophage solutions to efficiently address bacterial infections in seafood and livestock.
- Tepbac (Vietnam): Revolutionising Vietnam’s aquaculture industry with a comprehensive suite of software and hardware solutions.
- Veggie Victory (Nigeria): Offering affordable plant-based meat alternatives that match local tastes and textures, while addressing chronic protein deficiency among African consumers.
- X-Centric Sciences (US): Instrumentation systems for soil carbon analysis, allowing efficient and streamlined acquisition of vertically stratified, geochemical carbon data.
- Yeap Proteins (Israel): A complete, yeast-based protein source made from industrial sidestreams that can be used as a functional ingredient, bulking ingredient, or concentrated protein powder.
La récolte, Pontoise, de Camlle Pissarro / The harvest
The Ukraine crisis shows climate stability & biodiversity are crucial to long-term food security
AFN, by guest contributors: Helena Wright & Alexander Burr
The crisis in Ukraine has damaged an already weakened post-Covid global food system. It has also highlighted the vulnerabilities of that system’s interconnectedness. Both Ukraine and Russia are significant producers and exporters of commodities including wheat and maize, meaning that the short-term impact on food security and prices is being felt right across the world. Vulnerable populations in lower-income countries are likely to be the most affected, worsening the global hunger and malnutrition crisis. So as policymakers around the world look to respond and strengthen our collective food security, what other systemic issues and policy interventions should they consider whilst making these decisions?
>>> Climate change and biodiversity risk
When we look at the impact of the Ukraine crisis on food security over the long-term, we must not forget to consider the impacts of climate change. The outlook is increasingly uncertain in the face of accelerating and persistent interruptions. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has highlighted that 10% of existing areas for food production could be unsuitable for crops and livestock by mid-century. Unfortunately, these risks are already starting to materialize – such as the recent floods in Australia which caused significant losses and damages to crops.
Le Laboureur au Valhermeil Auvers Sur Oise, de Camille Pissaro / The plowman
Farmer Field Schools: building capacities to achieve a successful agroecological transition, Teatske Bakker, Anne-Sophie Poisot, Katia Roesch
The way in which the Farmer Field Schools are run influences farmers’ decisions. In Burkina Faso, the Farmer Field Schools were consultative, with their content (crops, technical options to be tested, plot monitoring indicators) chosen by experts prior to implementation in the field. The farmers involved made few changes on their farms.
In contrast, in Togo, the Farmer Field Schools were collaborative, with content chosen by farmers during a diagnostic workshop at the start of each Farmer Field School, assisted by a facilitator. Subsequently, the farmers tested different practices on their farms while continuing to adapt them. The objectives were reached and sometimes even exceeded: the farmers improved their ability to experiment and implemented innovations themselves (for example, surveys revealed a wide diversity of maize-soy intercropping).
According to the NYT newsletter received on April 3, 2022, it is not unthinkable to succeed in limiting our greenhouse gas emissions
US private universities are increasingly expensive, 50% of average annual income 20 years ago, 70% today
We must scale US agtech innovation to fight the looming food, energy crisis, AFN, by guest contributors
As we watch the ongoing horrors of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we also witness in real-time the far-reaching implications on food and energy security – both historical catalysts for global unrest.
Last month, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned of the impacts of the Ukrainian invasion on the world food system, noting “All of this is hitting the poorest the hardest and planting the seeds for political instability and unrest around the globe.”
Russia and Ukraine supply half of the world’s sunflower oil and 30% of the world’s wheat, and Ukraine is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of corn. Yet, as Russian bombs delay Ukraine’s spring planting and destroy global food stores, it’s increasingly clear we are looking down the barrel of an unprecedented hunger crisis.
But we can solve this crisis.
For generations, US agriculture has worked to feed the world through advancements in mechanization, plant breeding, and chemistry, resulting in increased crop productivity. The Green Revolution saved an estimated one billion people from starvation. We must rise to the challenge yet again.
As one of the planet’s largest food-producing countries, it is a moral imperative to protect our domestic food security and agricultural interests. One immediate way is by improving the efficiency of fertilizer utilization in cropping systems via technological and biological agtech innovations.
New solutions to improve fertilizer efficiency lower agriculture’s carbon footprint, increase crop resiliencies and lessen the impacts of geo-politics on a world food production system dependent on globally traded fertilizer.
Threshing, 1906, by Carl Larsson (1853-1919 - Sweden)
Unforgiving math of intensive agriculture? Agricultural Intensification and the Ecomodernist Manifesto
Ted Nordhaus of the Breakthrough Institute and one of the authors of the controversial "An Ecomodernist Manifesto," wrote that intensive agriculture is needed to fight climate change and feed 10 billion people.
To mitigate climate change and preserve the natural world while meeting the needs of a growing and increasingly prosperous human population, environmentalism would need to recommit to one foundational concept, the idea that environmental protection requires shrinking the footprint of human activity, while abandoning another, the notion that ecological salvation requires tethering human societies ever more closely to natural flows of energy and nutrients.
The 2018 comprehensive study from the World Resources Institute embraced "agricultural intensification as the only way to simultaneously close what it calls the food gap, the land use gap, and the greenhouse gas emissions gap."
Over the last few years, a lot of research has gone into looking at agricultural intensification and cropland expansion. I summarized the article "Global impacts of future cropland expansion and intensification on agricultural markets and biodiversity" (Nature Communications, June 2019) on February 26th, 2020.
The study simulated 17 different crops with scenarios for expansion and intensification. It takes into account factors like soil quality, climate change, topography, and socio-economic conditions like consumption growth and population patterns.
This study concluded that intensification would be more prevalent in China and India (areas with low productivity) while cropland expansion is most likely to happen in Central and South America.
>>> Intensification and Land Sparing Potential
It was interesting to see a paper published in Nature Communications a few days back: "The global cropland-sparing potential of high-yield farming." This study looks at intensification only to reduce the cropland footprint. The study looks at two scenarios that show theoretically that the cropland area could be reduced by almost 40% to 50% while maintaining present production volumes. Raising productivity in most parts of the world can accomplish the reduction. The two scenarios are:
1. MLS or Maximum Land Sparing scenario
2. TLS or Targeted Land Sparing scenario
The study considers crops that represent 85% of global cropland cultivated with annual crops. It comprises of more than 7% of total cropland area, calorie supply from vegetables and fertilizer consumption.
Crop distribution was done spatially by using a linear optimization algorithm under the following conditions:
1. Minimize the extent of current global cropland.
2. Maintain 2011-2015 global production volumes for each crop (17 major crops considered).
3. Avoid novel expansion of cropland locally.
>>> Results of the study
The results of the simulation on other attributes like N, P, water requirement, etc., are summarized below:
- Cropland area reduction by 50% for MLS and 40% for TLS.
- Total N and P applications increase by only 6% for MLS and decrease by 1-4% for TLS.
- Crop water requirement from irrigation decreased to 65% of baseline for MLS and 78% of baseline for TLS.
Modern crop improvement takes a historical approach, by Nicholas Karavolias
orghum, rice, wheat, maize and barley are hugely important in the human diet, with more than 50 percent of all calories consumed coming from just a few key cereal crops. Now scientists are pairing modern gene editing with a look at the past to improve the performance of these powerhouse plants.
Before they occupied such a gargantuan portion of our diets, these organisms didn’t look much different than the weedy grasses gardeners and farmers pluck from their plots.
To make them edible, wild crop ancestors were subjected to a process known as domestication. Humans selected varieties of these species for favorable traits, such as larger and more numerous grains and loss of seed dispersal so that precious grains didn’t fall to the earth prior to harvesting.
The process of domestication undertaken by early agriculturalists to develop hearty crop varieties resulted in huge shifts in plant performance. Major genomic shifts underlie the significant transformations observed in the transition from weedy progenitors to domesticated crops.
Researchers are now able to study the genes that were selected for in the process of domestication by comparing the genomes of wild crop ancestors to those of modern varieties. Then, by comparing sets of genes selected during domestication from one crop to the next, researchers are able to generate an even more robust understanding of this process that can be leveraged for further crop improvement.
The potato harvest, 1905, by Carl Larsson (1853-1919 - Sweden)
Eggs-ploring why chicken eggs are laid in different colors, shapes, shades
Have you ever been curious about why chicken eggs can be different colors? While most eggs are white or brown, they also come in colors like cream, pink, blue and green. In addition — and this is no “yolk” — some are even speckled. Nature has provided chickens with diverse color patterns for their feathers, skin patches and eggshells for various purposes, including camouflage, protection from predators and to signal individual identity.
According to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service poultry specialist, the color of an egg is mainly determined by the chicken’s genetics. That means the breed of hen will usually indicate what color of egg will be produced. For example, Leghorn chickens lay white eggs, while Orpington’s lay brown eggs, and Ameraucana lay blue eggs. And the “olive egger” breed lays, wait for it, olive-green eggs.
But appearances aside, all chicken eggs have no major differences in taste or nutritional composition.
To live happily, pay taxes, proof by Denmark and France
For a low life expectancy, Americans have huge healthcare costs
French healthcare costs are still reasonable
Developing countries have the highest social inequalities
In France relatively high incomes and considerable social benefits
Our catastrophic imports of Russian gas
A first thought for today
This habit of forming opinions, and acting upon them without evidence, is one of the most immoral habits of the mind. ... As our opinions are the fathers of our actions, to be indifferent about the evidence of our opinions is to be indifferent about the consequences of our actions.
James MILL, philosopher (1773-1836)
A second thought for today
I do not want art for a few, any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.
William MORRIS, poet and novelist (1834-1896)
A third thought for today
A scholar is just a library's way of making another library.
Daniel DENNETT, philosopher, writer, and professor (1942 -)
Ag Day 2022: Growing A Climate for Tomorrow
This year the theme of Ag Day is “growing a climate for tomorrow.” It’s an incredible opportunity to brag about agricultural production in the U.S. Why? Because modern agriculture is a leader in sustainability! Here’s the proof:
Beef. U.S. beef producers have reduced GHG emissions per pound of beef by more than 40%, while also producing more than 66% more beef per animal since 1961.
GMOs. Adoption of genetically modified crops has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, while increasing yields by 22%.
Soybeans. Over the past 25 years, soy growers have decreased energy use per tonne of soybeans by 46%.
Dairy. From 2007 to 2017, U.S. milk production used 30% less water, 21% less land, and had a 19% smaller carbon footprint.
Corn. Between 1980 and 2015, corn growers reduced soil erosion by 58%, energy use by 41%, and GHG emissions by 31%
Eggs. From 1960 thru 2010, egg production in the U.S. lowered its GHG emissions by 71%!! Today’s hens produce 27% more eggs and live longer than ever.
Wheat. Farmers have improved soil conservation by over 30% from 1980 to 2015.
Almonds. U.S. almonds are grown with 33% less water than 20 years ago.
U.S. agriculture is sustainable agriculture.
ARS Unveils New Disease Resistant Honeysweet Plum
Plum pox virus is a devastating disease that infects stone fruit trees. Eradicating the virus is costly because infected trees need to be identified and destroyed and all trees in a 500-meter area around the infected tree are also destroyed to prevent virus spread.
ARS researchers have used RNAi technology to create a plum variety that’s resistant to the devastating disease.
The WHO recently released a statement claiming that 99% of the world's population breathes unhealthy air. Air pollution is a serious threat to public health, but we need to put such claims in context.
As this chart from Our World in Data demonstrates, the air in developed countries is pristine compared to the past, and air pollution in developing countries is not unprecedented.
Ultra-processed foods: how functional is the NOVA system? by Véronique Braesco, Isabelle Souchon, Patrick Sauvant, Typhaine Haurogné, Matthieu Maillot, Catherine Féart & Nicole Darmon
Overall, our results suggest improvements should be made to the NOVA classification system to enhance assignment consistency.
Indeed, we observed that a large percentage of the food assignments were discordant, regardless of whether ingredient information was provided.
This finding raises questions about how functional NOVA is in its current form. It should also spur reflection on the reliability of conclusions from epidemiological studies that use NOVA as well as on NOVA’s ability to guide public health policy or provide useful information to consumers.
While the concept of ultra-processed foods has certainly entered the consumer consciousness, our results indicate that NOVA criteria do not currently allow foods to be unequivocally defined as ultra-processed.
Braesco, V., Souchon, I., Sauvant, P. et al. Ultra-processed foods: how functional is the NOVA system?. Eur J Clin Nutr (2022).
See European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Harrowing the field, by Carl Larsson (1853-1919 - Sweden)
Jewish dispute, like the French ones
A synagogue is having an ongoing dispute that started small, but is now getting completely out of hand. It’s over whether you sit or stand during the Shema.
The argument is incredibly bitter. There are people who are not talking to each other. There are people who are threatening to leave the synagogue unless they get their way. Family relationships have been destroyed.
The rabbi doesn’t know what to do, so he finds out that one of the founders of the synagogue, old Mr. Bernstein, is still alive in the Hebrew Home.
He sits on the porch in a wheelchair when the delegations for each viewpoint pay a call.
Before the rabbi can complete his opening spiel, one of the partisans bursts forth: “Mr. Bernstein, Mr. Bernstein, isn’t it the tradition in our synagogue that you stand during the Shema, so as to show your respect to God?”
After a couple of seconds pass, he just shakes his head slightly and says “No.”
So an advocate from the other side says: “So, isn’t the tradition in our synagogue that we always sit to show our humility before God?” Mr. Bernstein shakes his head and again says “No.”
The rabbi and the rest of the delegation look at each other.
Finally the rabbi says, “Mr. Bernstein, that can’t be right. It has to be one or the other because the synagogue is tearing itself apart. There are people who hate each other and families that aren’t speaking to each other and we’ve practically got fist fights in the parking lot. We’re just constantly at each other’s throats.”
And old Mr. Bernstein smiles, nods and says, “That’s the tradition!”
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