AgLab Podcast Episode 5

Nov 23 2021

On this episode of AgLab we dig into more amazing ways companies are using data to change the world of agriculture.

We start off talking about today’s tech in agriculture with a different type of development. Sam Van Aken is an art professor at Syracuse University, but saw the potential for a living art project. After seeing grafted trees he was inspired to create agriculture inspired by art. His project is developing a fruiting tree with 40 different types of stone fruits all grafted to the same root stock. In an inspired display of visual aesthetic and functionality he has begun planting these trees on university land in 16 states across the country so far.

We learn about international agriculture distributor Cargill’s initiative to decrease environmental impact by paying farmers directly for sequestering carbon. Starting with a pilot phase in conjunction with Iowa soybean farmers, they track the carbon and water footprint along with an individual plan brought by the farm and pay them on a tiered approach based on their specific situation. Companies this large beginning to actively incentivise reducing environmental impact could signal a major shift in how farming is approached on a large scale.

We then began to understand how data could be approached in the new generation of agriculture starting with one South Australian farmer named Andrew Sargent. Sargent believes that for the world to really fully adopt the possibilities of new technologies more companies should have open source and accessible data so that everyone can better utilize the tools available.

Next we discover’s plan to change how we view the food production life cycle as a whole. By tracking and partnering with clients all along the food chain, Rise is attempting to give end users and wholesalers alike confidence like never before in the history of their food. Imagine a world where as a consumer we could view every possible step that produce has taken to reach your plate. Would we feel more confident in what we consume?

Awhere is a company that took the model of the Farmer’s Almanac and put a new connected spin on it to revolutionize how weather can be tracked and understood. With a network of almost two million weather stations across the globe, this is no anecdotal dataset. They have 14 years of logged data they are able to access and analyze to provide clients with a wide variety of services. From advanced weather tracking, all the way to providing insight on ideal planting times and even crops, they hope to use an always growing understanding of global climates to help optimize growing.

Finally our ancient innovators this week are slightly different. In the Picardy Region of France, locals took a potentially difficult situation and turned it into innovation that continues to amaze today. The Hortillonages d’Amien translates loosely to floating gardens and is a huge tourist destination today. After the peat was mined from the area in the middle ages, wide canals formed across the region. We know now that peat is an incredible source or organic material that has an incredible effect on growing healthy crops, and they discovered this as well. Instead of letting these small islands of land dotting the canals go to waste, locals began planting gardens that grew a wide assortment of local French produce for decades. When modern commercial agriculture took off, farming with the challenges of the Hortillonages became even less desirable. Despite the change in the use of the land, it still remains. Instead of produce the island gardens now contain beautiful gardens that can be seen by visitors while traveling along the canals by boat.

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