The robot is your shepherd. In collaboration with cloud robotics firm Rocos, Boston Dynamics demonstrates how their robot dog Spot can herd sheep and handle other farming tasks. From the video description:
The use of autonomous robots in agriculture is increasing the efficiency of food production. Robots, like Spot from Boston Dynamics, increase accuracy in yield estimates, relieve the strain of worker shortages, and create precision in farming.
More on the Rocos/Boston Dynamics collaboration here.
And some context, albeit from 2018: "As Immigrant Farmworkers Become More Scarce, Robots Replace Humans" (New York Times)
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Janus is a darling goat born on April 5 at Nueske Farms in Wittenberg, Wisconsin. He was named after the Roman god with two faces for obvious reasons. Jocelyn Nuesks is posting updates about Janus on the farm's Facebook page. A vet examined Janus this week and apparently the kid is doing pretty well, all things considered.
"He's a normal goat," Nueske told Fox11 News. "We just have to help him. We try to help him as much as we can, and give him a break when he gets tired." Read the rest
Farmers are increasingly sick of high-tech tractors that are expensive to buy and usually impossible to fix yourself due to their integrated digital technology. According to the Minnesota Star Tribune, "Tractors manufactured in the late 1970s and 1980s are some of the hottest items in farm auctions across the Midwest these days." To be sure, the farmers buying these old machines aren't luddites. In fact, they often customize and retrofit them with contemporary tech like GPS for automatic steering. From the Star Tribune:
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“The newer machines, any time something breaks, you’ve got to have a computer to fix it,” (BigIron owner Mark) Stock said.
There are some good things about the software in newer machines, said Peterson. The dealer will get a warning if something is about to break and can contact the farmer ahead of time to nip the problem in the bud. But if something does break, the farmer is powerless, stuck in the field waiting for a service truck from the dealership to come out to their farm and charge up to $150 per hour for labor.
“That goes against the pride of ownership, plus your lifetime of skills you’ve built up being able to fix things,” (Machinery Pete founder Greg) Peterson said...
The cheaper repairs for an older tractor mean their life cycle can be extended. A new motor or transmission may cost $10,000 to $15,000, and then a tractor could be good for another 10 or 15 years.
Folland has two Versatile 875s manufactured in the early 1980s in Winnipeg and bought a John Deere 4440 last year with 9,000 hours on it, expecting to get another 5,000 hours out of it before he has to make a major repair.
Some communities across California are suing to ban cannabis operations in their vicinity because they claim the smell from the crops is nauseating. I mean, they don't call it skunk for nothing. From the New York Times
As a result of the stench, residents in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, are suing to ban cannabis operations from their neighborhoods. Mendocino County, farther north, recently created zones banning cannabis cultivation — the sheriff’s deputy there says the stink is the No. 1 complaint...
“It’s as if a skunk, or multiple skunks in a family, were living under our house,” said Grace Guthrie, whose home sits on the site of a former apple orchard outside the town of Sebastopol. Her neighbors grow pot commercially. “It doesn’t dissipate,” Ms. Guthrie said. “It’s beyond anything you would imagine.”
When cannabis odors are at their peak, she and her husband, Robert, sometimes wear respirators, the kind one might put on to handle dangerous chemicals. During Labor Day weekend, relatives came to stay at the house, but cut short their visit because they couldn’t stand the smell...
“Just because you like bacon doesn’t mean you want to live next to a pig farm,” said Lynda Hopkins, a member of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, whose office has been inundated with complaints about the smell...
image: Wikipedia/Cannabis Training University
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What pork from pigs who had a cannabis-infused diet tastes like wasn't a burning question that I needed answered. But damned if I'm not all ears for the answer. Read the rest
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service approved the growing of a new kind of cotton plant that's been genetically modified to be edible. The toxic chemical gossypol in the plant usually makes the cotton dangerous for humans to eat. Texas A&M biotechnologist Keerti Rathore and colleagues genetically stopped the production of gossypol in the cottonseed while not interfering with it elsewhere in the plant where it acts as a natural insecticide. From Reuters:
“To me, personally, it tastes somewhat like chickpea and it could easily be used to make a tasty hummus,” Rathore said of gossypol-free cottonseed.
After cottonseed oil, which can be used for cooking, is extracted, the remaining high-protein meal from the new cotton plant can find many uses, Rathore said.
It can be turned into flour for use in breads, tortillas and other baked goods and used in protein bars, while whole cottonseed kernels, roasted and salted, can be consumed as a snack or to create a peanut butter type of paste, Rathore added.
(via Daily Grail)
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I've got a lot of pals that maintain a vegan diet. Some do it for ethical reasons. Others dig it simply because removing animal products from the menu has had a tremendous effect on their overall health. Hell, I recently started a diet where I've had to eliminate carbs, reduce my meat intake, and take the majority of my proteins from nuts and other sources that haven't mooed, clucked or swam at one point or another. In just a few weeks, I found that switching it up provided me with more energy, less trouble with my guts and a significant amount of weight loss, thanks to my body entering ketosis.
Yet, as much as I respect veganism, and the various shades of vegetarianism out there, I have to agree with a recent op-ed from the aptly named Isabella Tree, published in The Guardian: eating plants isn't going to save us from global warming or other environmental disasters.
From The Guardian:
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Much has been made of the methane emissions of livestock, but these are lower in biodiverse pasture systems that include wild plants such as angelica, common fumitory, shepherd’s purse and bird’s-foot trefoil because they contain fumaric acid – a compound that, when added to the diet of lambs at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, reduced emissions of methane by 70%.
In the vegan equation, by contrast, the carbon cost of ploughing is rarely considered. Since the industrial revolution, according to a 2017 report in the science journal Nature, up to 70% of the carbon in our cultivated soils has been lost to the atmosphere.
Flame weeding involves strapping a tank of propane to the back of a tractor and running specialized equipment down rows of crops, burning any non-crop stuff that gets in the way. Read the rest
Farming is undergoing a quiet but radical transformation as machine learning and automation innovations reduce waste. One especially promising new technology targets individual weeds. Read the rest
Ordinary scarecrows cower in fear at the Super Monster Wolf, an animatronic beast invented to protect rice and chestnut crops from wild boar. The Super Monster Wolf has proven its value during trails near Kisarazu City in Japan. When an animal approaches, sensors on the Monster Wolf trigger its creepy eyes and hellish howl. From BBC News:
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The Japan Agricultural Cooperatives say that crop losses have noticeably decreased in areas where the Super Monster Wolf has been present. Beforehand, farmers around Kisarazu were resigned to giving up at least part of their crops to wild boar every year.
Speaking to the Chiba Nippo news website, Chihiko Umezawa of the agricultural cooperative says that the device has an effective radius of about one kilometre, suggesting it is more effective than an electric fence.
Now, the robot wolf is going into mass production, with units costing about 514,000 yen ($4,840; £3,480) each, but there are options for farmers to pay a far cheaper monthly lease on a wolf instead.
Years ago, I used to party with some folks from Centerville, Virgina's Cox Farms, a well-known and well-loved family farm, produce market, and host of an amazing annual Fall Festival. I found them a bright, creative, and fun-loving gaggle of humans who were extremely passionate about food production and building community around food. There was always a sense of mirth and mischief about them, too. Back in the 80s, their T-shirts and bumper stickers read: "You can't lick Cox for fresh produce" and (IIRC) featured a cartoon of a picker holding a basket full of phallic-looking vegetables. They've also displayed messages like: "Dad loves Cox, too!" (for Father's Day) and "We're so excited, we wet our plants!"
No stranger to the negative reaction of their provocative signage, the Cox farmers have created a new round of controversy with their latest series of signs taking a stand against white supremacy and Islamophobia. The response they posted on Facebook is wonderful. It's astonishing that speaking out against white supremacy would be a controversial position, but hey, not here in The Upside Down. Here is their response to the naysayers in the community:
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Our little roadside signs have power. Most of the time, they let folks know that our hanging baskets are on sale, that today’s sweet corn is the best ever, that Santa will be at the market this weekend, or that the Fall Festival will be closed due to rain. During the off-season, sometimes we utilize them differently. Sometimes, we try to offer a smile on a daily commute.
Chef Anthony Bourdain hosts this interesting documentary on the massive amount of wasted food in our current supply chain, and how it could be diverted from landfills to feed humans, animals, and plants. Read the rest
This NASA photo taken from the International Space Station shows crop circles in southwest Egypt's Sahara Desert. The crops thrive in the middle of the desert thanks to either secret alien technology or the amazing underground Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System that covers two million square kilometers. From the NASA Earth Observatory:
The crop circles are a result of center-pivot irrigation, an efficient method for water conservation in agriculture. Groundwater from the Nubian aquifer is drawn up from wells in the center of the circles, and it is sprayed or dripped out of long, rotating pipes that pivot around the center.
Most of the crops pictured here are likely potatoes (darker green circles), wheat (lighter brown circles), or medicinal and aromatic plants such as chamomile. The light, tan-colored crop circles likely have undergone controlled burning to remove excess plant matter and essentially clean up the land for the next crop.
"Crop Circles in Sharq El Owainat" (NASA via the Daily Grail) Read the rest
Lufa Farms is a commercial rooftop greenhouse built in 2010, one of three such gardens that help feed 2% of Montreal. Read the rest
Buckets hanging on maple trees may have worked great 200 years ago, but modern producers use a system like the internet: a series of tubes! Read the rest
Justin Rhodes profiles an urban market gardener who leases other people's residential yards for planting produce, which he harvests and sells up and down the east coast of the United States. He makes over $5,000 a month. Read the rest
I was enjoying a dried seaweed snack the other day and wondered how they harvested seaweed. The answer was even cooler than I expected, involving underwater farms and a giant vacuum. Read the rest