Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Harvesting the Benefits of Facebook and Twitter

August 25, 2009

The following article was originally written by Michele Payn Knoper on her blog Cause Matters. Michele is an accomplished professional speaker and writer.

Harvest is rapidly approaching, a season filled with measurements of a farmer’s success. Agriculture needs to look at yields in areas beyond the combines and choppers. One of those needing yield improvement is consumer understanding of agriculture. I’d encourage you to look at the millions of opportunities in social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Ning, et al) as a critical tool in improving perception measurements about the agrifood business. Why?

Networking: People with multiple decades working in agriculture have told me that they’ve never found a better networking tool than social media. For example, Twitter’s #AgChat on Tues., 8-10 p.m. Eastern, has brought together hundreds of people in the business of raising food, feed, fuel and fiber. In addition to discussing timely issues and educating others about agriculture, participants in in #AgChat regularly dialogue about what they’re doing in the field, the latest equipment, ways to improve practices and experiences in animal care.

Listen louder: Identify trends and thought patterns shaping opinion about what you do on a daily basis. Social media offers an early glimpse of emerging trends – and media outlets have been using tools such as Twitter to break news, as well as source it. Social media gives you the opportunity to really listen to people’s thoughts, needs and worries – and respond to them.

Share sound bytes about agriculture: Create greater understanding of what’s happening on the farm, in the field, the role of agribusiness and the challenges faced by those who produce food. In a society two or three generations removed from the farm – this is a critical business tool to ensure your long-term success. Don’t expect people to understand ag if you don’t tell them about it. Many of my speaker friends comment on the food facts I post on my Facebook and LinkedIn, noting their surprise. You’ll likely be surprised with the feedback you get from your social networking – people enjoy hearing about farm, food and your family.

Build collaborations: Many groups are interested in exposing misinformation campaigns and improving people’s critical thinking skills. For example, biomedical researchers and pet ownership groups have similar interests as agriculturists do in exposing animal rights activists. Broaden your circle and you may be surprised at what you learn – and who you meet.

Put a face on the plate: Connect with consumers and influencers – by the millions. Take two minutes a day to share what you’re working on your farm, in your agribusiness, or challenges in the business. If you’re not telling people, how do you expect people to know? When I began tweeting a weekly food fact (there’s now #agfact Tues. and #foodfact Thurs.) back in January, I saw my followers begin to diversify. People are hungry for information about food and it’s a tremendously polarizing issue. The day the L.A. Times Food Section began following me was the day I figured out Twitter is a very useful business tool.

Engage in debate with people from different backgrounds: This is particularly true when misinformation is running rampant. Blogs and Twitter have taught me how single-minded some people can be in debates about sustainability, local food, biotechnology, organics, animal rights, urban gardeners, et al. Time spent in civil discourse is constructive if it builds understanding of both parties’ opinions. Frankly, it also provides reason to step back and assess if agriculture is too single-minded.

The yield potential is significant. An estimated 1.9 million tweets are sent daily. There are more than 225 million people on Facebook and it reached 150 million users nearly three times faster than cell phones. Do the math about how many opportunities you have to connect agriculture if 98.5% of those people aren’t actively engaged in farming. Call social media a fad if you wish, but know that agriculture is missing an opportunity to be proactive if you don’t take the time to harvest the benefits of at least one of the tools. What’s holding you back?


ILC 2009: Part 1 – Dr. Bruce German The Future of the Personalized Diet

July 23, 2009

I firmly believe that the food system and farmers will always adjust to changes in eating patterns in the world.  Dr. Bruce German of the University of California, Davis describes one of these changes. He believes that the notion that there is an ideal diet for everyone is nonsense.  Dr. German feels that creating technologies on and off farm to supply the personalized diet is essential to the evolution of food consumption. 

More International Livestock Congress Content   

Biotech Wheat Coalition is Formed to Push the Need For Biotech Wheat

May 20, 2009
Canadian, Australian and American wheat organizations have formed the Biotech Wheat Coalition “in support for more efficient, sustainable and profitable production of wheat around the world”. See the Joint Statment Here

As has discussed before the need for biotech wheat is rising and the usual roadblocks are presenting themselves as discussed by the Canadian Wheat Board in a Reuters Story on May 15th.
  • Wheat Board wants assurance of market acceptance
  • GM wheat seen unpopular with many overseas customers
  • Must be assurances that the GM wheat could be segregated from the non-GM wheat.

Biotech is the avenue for pull type traits to become a reality in wheat. I take issue with Mr. Klassen’s comments in the Reuters piece as he explains that producers have made production adjustments on their farm production practices and conventional breeding has proven to provide some of the same benefits to farmers as biotech wheat would. How does this apply to things like fusarium prevention, improved food taste, nitrogen use efficiency and drought tolerance?

In reaction to the wheat boards usual joust that we have no way of segregating the conventional varieties and biotech varieties, I say that maybe we should start building a grain handling system that promotes new markets and identity preserved variety systems instead of forcing farmers to produce a homogeneous product against lower cost rivals in South America. Somehow in Canada farmers produce non-GM and GM canola and accomplish segregation. Why could this not work in wheat as well? Please remember that trait development is no longer just about production traits but pull type traits that will directly benefit consumers, which in my opinion will lead to the global acceptance of GMO’s.

As stated in the Canadian Press Release—The application of biotechnology in wheat research could lead to the development of several traits to improve wheat yields and wheat quality.  Traits to improve yields could include those that deal with environmental factors (e.g. drought, cold tolerance), combat weed or insect infestations (e.g. midge, sawfly), improve disease resistance (e.g. fusarium, rust) or improve the wheat plant’s utilization of nutrients.   Traits to improve the quality attributes of wheat could include those that are designed to accommodate consumers with food allergies, reduce obesity, or improve the nutritional profile of wheat-based foods.

If anything, it is at least time that we reinvigorate the discussion around biotech wheat and not fall into the same roadblocks and instead begin working towards solutions for those roadblocks.  Lets talk to our overseas buyers and discuss the benefits biotech wheat could provide.  For example, ask 10 bakers if they would like a grain that would extend the life of a loaf of bread by 2 days.  What would the net impact be on a hog farm that could buy fusarium free wheat to feed to their hogs.  Or maybe ask a pasta maker, would he like a durum that would produce ultra low cadmium levels or improve the production process by a significant amount.  

One thing proven this past week is that this nonsense that farmers do not accept GM crops but instead they are pushed on them by large multi nationals is ridiculous based on the resounding collective voice heard throughout the world by wheat growers in forming this biotech wheat coalition.

Lets Talk Agriculture on #agchat Every Tuesday

April 9, 2009

Michele Payn Knoper has started a Twitter chat (tweetchat) for people in agriculture. The chat will take place every Tuesday 8-10PM Eastern and it will allow people in the industry to chat about issues and ideas in real time on Twitter. Have I mentioned to everyone that I love twitter. This is a great way for people in the industry to use interfaces like twitter to network and make new connections in the same industry. This is something that twitter does very well which facebook does not really provide.

Make sure you get a twitter account which is free and then go to the tweetchat url link above. Type in #agchat in the topic and presto you are involved. Be sure to tag each tweet with #agchat so that it shows up properly within the chat page. On another note, for all of you regular twitter users remember to tag all your agricultural based tweets with #farm.

Check out the Facebook Page for #agchat

Check out what Chuck Zimmerman of AgWired said about #agchat

Check out the Shaun Haney twitter profile

Check out’s twitter profile

Is Your GPS System Ready for Spring

April 2, 2009

Every year we get ready for seeding and spraying which means we make sure the oil is changed in the equipment, the seed is cleaned and treated and the crop plan is finalized. But the one thing that most growers forget to do until they make the first pass with the sprayer is to check to see if there are any updates for their GPS system.

Why is this important, well there are updates that come through no different than your computer at home. These updates are designed to help fix problems or make the system run more efficiently which in a short spring we want everything to go as smooth as possible. As most growers tell me, the phone calls from employee’s used to be the radio isn’t working or the seat won’t move up or down. But know as soon as they lose GPS signal there is a 5 alarm fire going off and we need to fix this now. One operator actually told me that he just stopped seeding because he lost signal. I asked him why and he told me that he didn’t want to have to correct his curvy lines in the field so he waited five minutes and went back at it. Now with all of this being said it just takes a quick call to your GPS provider to see if there are any updates. Most spring start up problems with our GPS systems are caused by missing new software updates and the system can’t read the new data it is receiving. So lets make our lives a little bit easier and straighter and make that call.