Craig M Dick

Agriculture | Marketing | Innovation

Category: Agriculture (page 1 of 4)

Agricultural Uses for Blockchain

Blockchain is out of beta testing and has reached Agriculture.

A recent soybean shipment from the US to China has become “the first full agricultural commodity transaction using a Blockchain platform,” –Business Insider

If you want to stay relevant in the future you need to stay on top of the technologies that will shape it. While still in its early phase, Blockchain is a topic that you should understand some of the basics and how it’s being incorporated into agriculture.

Note: This is a basic overview for those in agriculture, I am not a Blockchain builder or expert.

“Blockchain can do to value transfer what the internet did to information sharing.” – Fobes

Block Chain aims to provide transparency and widescale trust via unalterable record keeping. This will transform supply chains of industries like precious metals to food and agriculture. It has the power to change the way we manage leasing and payment collection,  supply chain management, and quality assurance securing the provenance of goods and commodities.

decentralized network - Blockchain

Example of a decentralized network

The dream for agriculture is that the use of this technology will help commodity producers move up the value chain.

The world is moving from analog to digital and from digital to decentralized.

In the simplest terms Blockchain is a distributed/decentralized ledger that maintains transaction records on many computers simultaneously. Because of this mathematical relationship, the information in a particular block cannot be altered without changing all subsequent blocks in the chain and creating a discrepancy that other record-keepers in the network would immediately notice. In this way, blockchain technology produces a dependable ledger without requiring record-keepers to know or trust one another, which eliminates the dangers that come with data being kept in a central location by a single owner.

Most businesses keep a log of transactions within their business. You buy a product, enter it into your inventory. You sell it, you mark it off. Now imagine that when you buy a product you get a copy of all the transactions that product has ever had going back to the ingredients used to make it. When you sell that product, the ledger follows with the product. This is saved to the cloud on a decentralized computer system. Because everyone has a copy of this ledger, it makes it extremely difficult to forge a product. This process enables clarity across the supply chain and ensures quality standards are met along the way.

Blockchain company Abrosus is working on meeting these supply chain and quality standard needs.

“The state of technology today allows a bold rethinking of how the global food supply chains and markets could operate. A system of interconnected quality assurance sensors can reliably record the entire history of food, from farm to fork. Blockchain can protect the integrity and verifiability of sensor data. And smart contracts can enable automatic governance of food supply chains and manage commercial relationships between actors along those supply chains”. – Abrosus

Thier technology combines Blockchain with hardware devices (sensors and readers, cameras, container locks) to provide a platform to automate the input of data into a system and create a trusted basis of data input to meet the needs of manufacturers, consumers and government regulations.

US agriculture is a global marketplace and much of our product is exported. With our customers stretched all over the world, we need to be aware of the laws of those countries. One example is a law published in 2013 by The European Commission for the Good Distribution Practice of medicinal products for human use (GDP 2013/C 343/01). Chapter nine of this regulation requires proof that shipped medicines have not been exposed to conditions, particularly temperatures, that may compromise their quality. These regulations are now enforceable across Europe. Blockchain logs the data from monitoring systems in the pharmaceutical industry ensuring requirements for frozen vaccine storage are met such as:

  • Temperature [-25°C to -10°C],
  • Humidity [2 to 3%],
  • No direct sunlight or fluorescent light.

This ensures the viability of medicines and reduces the risk of loss of life.

Is this really needed for food? Between 1993 and 2006, the consumption of non-pasteurized cheeses caused 121 outbreaks, leading to 3,000 people falling sick, 140 hospitalizations, and more than 50 deaths. Since these outbreaks, the Swiss Federal Regulation has changed. For food products, Blockchain companies like Ambrosus can go further and define the various levels of quality for a particular product like this illustrative list of requirements for a batch of milk:

  • Temperature [4°C to 7°C]
  • Fat [3.18% to 3.22%
  • Lactose [2% to 4%].

While food safety is of utmost importance, a close second is quality. As consumer demands evolve, the term ‘quality’ has broadened to include ethical and environmental aspects. Consumers today have expanded the term quality of a food product to also include using eco-friendly procedures, good employee working conditions, and the welfare of the animals involved in the manufacturing process.

Blockchain technology gives agriculture the opportunity to provide supply chain efficiency, cost reduction, proof of positive environmental impact, improved customer service, quality assurance and regulatory compliance. These improvements are what our customers are demanding and will help ensure future profitability for farmers.

Additional Information:

 

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Organic Farming is Opportunity

I am not here to debate whether conventional or organic farming better. That is like debating whether a Ford F-150 or a Mercedes E Class is better. What makes one car better than another? Most units sold, price, resell, fuel mileage, reliability, size, safety, its intended use. All of them? None of them? Because it makes you feel good. Or do you decide what is best for you based on a lot of intangibles?

In fact, that is how most consumer decisions are made, People decide they like something then rationalize it. And a lot of people have decided they like organic food, with sales increasing 200% since 2003. Gallup reports that in 2014, 45% of Americans actively tried to include organic foods in their diets.

Organic is just another sector of the food market, a profitable growing sector. There are premium markets in every sector, be it cars or clothes, why not food? The people have decided they want organic food and they are willing to pay a premium for it. So why would you not want to take advantage of that?

You can find organic foods in every major U.S. retail chain, including Walmart and Costco, who eclipsed Whole Foods in the sale of organic foods last year. The world’s largest consumer packaged food companies, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Danone, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi are all players in the organic market with billions spent on acquiring organic brands.

There is a problem though

Organic food sales grew over 200% since 2003, yet the amount of land used for organic production has only grown by about 0.10% since 2008. Domestic suppliers of organic crops cannot meet current demands.

Imports of organic food sources have grown at over 35% per year since 2012, to almost $2 billion. Imports of organic soybeans have grown at an average rate of 29.1% per year while imports of feed corn have grown 63.6% per year. This is a crazy amount considering that the U.S in the largest producer of these two grains.

The primary driver for this demand has been double-digit growth in organic poultry production as well as a need for other organic livestock feed. With companies such as Perdue Farms, Tyson Foods and Pilgrim’s Pride committed to meeting consumer demand. They have a big need for organic soybeans and corn for feed and this market is expected to grow sharply.

This problem means opportunity for agriculture

Organic food sales make up almost 5% of food sales, yet acres certified for organics is the less than 1%.

These organic acres account for only 0.75% of total acres while organic farm sales were 2% of total farm sales. Mercedes Benz has about 2% market share of cars in the US.  I doubt anyone would say that Mercedes Benz is not a real car company or just expensive cars for millennials.

It’s never been a better time than now to get into organic farming or the business of supporting organic farmers. There are tons of great management products for organic crop production out there. Many manufacturers of organic products have years of documented product performance. This makes growing organic less risky than just a few years ago.

If an ag retailer is looking for opportunity in the next 10 years, supporting the organic farmers would be a great place to start. When done right organic crops can meet or exceed conventional yields. With those yields, organic farming can be very profitable and the numbers show it’s a growing sector of agriculture. Conventional crop receipts dropped in 2015 by 11% while organic receipts grew 13%.

With no end in sight to this down Ag Economy, you have two choices. Continue to fight for scraps with the rest of the sharks or evolve your thinking and adopt a Blue Ocean Strategy. Organic farming is here to stay and a segment ripe for big growth.

Sources:

  • https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2017/januaryfebruary/growing-organic-demand-provides-high-value-opportunities-for-many-types-of-producers
  • https://www.ota.com/resources/market-analysis
  • http://www.oilseedandgrain.com/single-post/2017/06/13/Organic-Production-Shortfall-in-US-Encourages-Imports-Creates-Risk
  • https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2017/januaryfebruary/growing-organic-demand-provides-high-value-opportunities-for-many-types-of-producers/
  • http://www.wsj.com/mdc/public/page/2_3022-autosales.html

 

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The 10 Best Crop Inputs for High-Yielding Organic Corn

 

wondering what organic inputs to use for high-yeilding corn?

Organic acres grew 23% in 2016 and I am seeing more row crop farmers transition to organic in 2018 as ameasure to stay profitable. Many of these “conventional” farmers and their consultants are struggling to figure out what products they should use to help maintain a high yielding organic corn crop.

Well wonder no more, here are my top ten products to incorporate into your 2018 production plan for high yielding organic corn and soybeans. These recommendations are based on my 10 years or working with organic growers and consultants.

SuperCal SO4 by Calcium Products
Why I like it – SuperCal SO4 is the most effective pelletized gypsum on the market. It works to balance soluble salts. This may help reduce some weeds and crusting. It provides needed calcium and sulfur.
Why you should use it – The first step in organic production is balancing soils and SuperCal SO4 should be the first step in most soils.

MicroHume by Midwestern BioAg
Why I like it – This product from Midwestern BioAg provide Calcium, Sulfur, Boron, Copper, Manganese, Zinc and humates in a single granule. It is low pH improving micronutrient uptake.
Why you should use it – A cost-effective way to provide micronutrients to your crop. Micronutrients are the main component of the plant’s immune system. Midwestern BioAg has a 30+ year history of success in organic production.

Protassium+ by Compass Minerals
Why I like it – This is sulfate of potash from Compass Minerals. It has a high potassium level, doesn’t contain chloride or magnesium. Also has sulfur.
Why you should use it – Plants need Potassium for plant immunity, flowering and fruiting, and stomata regulation. In most soils, excess magnesium and chlorides can cause soil tightening issues. Protassium + has decades of proven performance.

Rock Phosphate by FERTOZ
Why I like it – This is the highest P rock phosphate I have found and has low heavy metals
Why you should use it – Phosphorus can be one of the most limiting factors inorganic production and FERTOZ is approved for use in California and Washington, unlike some other sources.

SaberEX by Advanced Biological Marketing
Why I like it – ABM has long history of high performance root inoculants. SabrEX is very cost effective with a great return on investment.
Why you should use it – Inoculates the plant with Trichoderma, a beneficial fungus improving nitrogen uptake.

Granulated Manure by Sustaine
Why I like it – 8-2-4 from Sustaine is the highest nitrogen granulated manure I have found. It is a natural slow release nitrogen fertilizer provides 6 – 12 weeks of nitrogen.
Why you should use it – It’ manufactured in the US and is pathogen and weed free, and has no blood or bone products.

TerraFed by QLF
Why I like it -TerraFed from QLF is a Sugar Cane Molasses containing 34% sugar and natural Nitrogen and Potassium. The sugars stimulates loads of beneficial biological activity.
Why you should use it – This is a great liquid organic starter fertilizer and can be foliar applied later in the season to give your plants extra energy during flowering and fruiting.

CX-1 by Purple Cow
Why I like it – CX-1 is a potent biological inoculant containing hundreds of strains of beneficial biology.
Why you should use it – CX-1 should be added to your TerraFed starter (the food source) to improve germination and nutrient uptake.

14-0-0 by Growers Secret
Why I like it – This dry water-soluble powdered nitrogen is derived from soy protein hydrolysate and provides 13.78% Water Soluble Nitrogen mainly as amino acids. When foliar applied delivers necessary available nitrogen.
Why you should use it – A highly effective form of available nitrogen to foliar apply right before flowering.

Regalia RX by Maronne Bio Innovations
Why I like it – Regalia is a bio-fungicide that stimulates the plant’s immune system to fight disease. Also, it has a 0-day pre-harvest interval.
Why you should use it – Inhibits fungal and bacterial diseases and has been proven effective on lots of acres.

Runner ups

Lisiveg by Italpollina
Why I like it – A plant-based (non-soy) vegetal protein used widely in Europe
Why you should use it – Studies have shown this product to improve leaf nitrogen concentrations and promotes a hormone-like activity to improve crop performance
Why it is a runner-up – Lisiveg has limited US data and I have not personally used it. Italpollina has built significant investments in the US. This is a product you should try.

Boron10 by Ulexandes-USA
Why I like it – A very pure calcium borate that won’t hurt plant germination.
Why you should use it – If you need a big boron application, this is the product. I have seen it used in-furrow on millions of acres in Canada with great results.
Why it is a runner-up – It is a single product granule, my preference for micros is a broad spectrum product like MicroHume.

Copper and Zinc by Old Bridge Chemicals
Why I like it – Old Bridge is the only US source of Copper and Zinc fertilizers.
Why you should use it – Old Bridge makes human consumption grade products so you know its clean.
Why it is a runner-up – It is a single product granule, my preference for micros is a broad spectrum product like MicroHume.

Did I forget a favorite product you have used? Let me know!

 

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Why Farmers Should Play More

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice and I am not a doctor. If you think you may be suffering from anxiety, depression or other mental health issue, please seek professional help. This article is for informational purposes only.

The opposite of play isn’t work, it’s depression.

Or another way to look at it is, excessive workloads could be a major cause of anxiety and depression in the farming community. As a marketer I want to understand my customer. How they think, what motivates them and why they make the decision they do.

One thing that has always puzzled me is when people ask for help, then they struggle to make a decision. Is it fear of the unknown or something else? While listening to the James Altucher Show episode 234, it hit me when Charlie said “The opposite of play isn’t work, its depression” I immediately thought of the farmers I know that have struggled with real depression, those with severe anxiety and many I have encountered that struggle to make decisions. Is there a link?

Farmers work more than any group I have ever known. My experience growing up on the farm is there is more work to do than one person could do in a lifetime.  Farming isn’t just a job. It’s a person’s complete life. Its 24/7. You live at the office, at the factory. Its always there. And there is always more to do. This can lead to bouts of anxiety.

The workload, the financial pressures, poor weather, sick livestock, and poor harvest can compound, leading to real depression. Farming has not been this difficult since the 1980’s, clear thinking, sound judgement and calculated risks could be the difference of making a profit or a loss.

Studies show that depression erodes confidence, hope and clear thinking of persons dealing with depression.  That reduces motivation and the capacity to work effectively, and drags people down. Depressed persons tend to be negative, unable to move ahead with tasks, withdrawn and sometimes unpredictably volatile.

Farming is also a socially isolated career with small, close knit communities of neighbors, co-workers, and families. Imagine a farmer that was going to a shrink, what would his neighbors say, his family, or worse, his land lord. On top of that, famers are typically raised to be tough, self-reliant and not complain about problems. How would it look to seek help?

Unfortunately it’s this lack of support that causes those that suffer to close down even more.   When you feel you can’t talk about or show depression, its just a step deeper into the darkness. So most farmers ignore the symptoms. If asked if everything is ok, he might say, I am just tired, of self-medicate with alcohol or other substances.

This downward spiral, the self-medication coupled with a feeling of having nowhere to turn for help leads to the idea of suicide as the only way out.

Studies have shown that compared with non-farmers, farmers have a higher prevalence of depression, particularly the male farmers, who also had higher anxiety levels. This is related to longer work hours, lower income, higher psychological job demands and less decision latitude compared with non-farmers. In the U.S. the rate of farmer suicides is just under two times that of the general population.

Could less work and more play be the answer?

Growing up on the farm I was taught to do your chores first, then play. Luckily even though we worked hard, there was always time for friends and sports. Now that I am older I find there is always more to accomplish. I find personally less time for play.

What if the secret to getting more done, being more successful was strategic play

From James Altucher:

Charlie was overworked. He was working 22 hours a day to keep up with his boss.

Feeling burnt out, he took a week off to recover. That week turned into a year.

He sought medical help. He refused the drugs they prescribed. He tried deep breathing exercises, therapy, journaling, all different supplements, exercise, psychedelic drugs, volunteering, prayer. He even took a course on “How to Overcome Anxiety.”

But none of it stuck… “Every day he felt like he was going to die.”

Then he read , “The opposite of play isn’t work, it’s depression.”

“The research is pretty clear,” Charlie said. “They have done experiments. They’ve deprive animals of play—they give them love, nurturing, food, shelter, all the things they need to survive— but they deprive them of play, the animal inevitably grows up to be socially and emotionally crippled.”

Charlie calls it “chronic-play deprivation.” And I think many people suffer from that.

Sound like any fathers, uncles, or brothers who farm that you know?

Charlie said he was approaching life “so seriously and joylessly. And very much in terms of what’s the output, what’s the income, what’s the money pay-off.”

There never was a pay-off.

James asked, “How did you learn to play again?”

Charlie said playing every day IMMEDIATELY had an effect. “Not just on how I felt but in how people responded to me.”

Check out the James Altucher Podcast to hear the full story.

If you have any friends or family you think may be dealing with anxiety or depression, please encourage them to seek medical help.

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/terezia-farkas/why-farmer-suicide-rates-_1_b_5610279.html http://www.farmandranchguide.com/entertainment/country_living/farm_and_ranch_life/understanding-managing-depression-critical-for-farmers/article_916c7af4-9684-11e4-af93-33ef37fbca72.html http://www.farmerhealth.org.au/page/depression/depression-the-facts http://www.heysigmund.com/anxiety-interferes-decision-making-stop-intruding/ https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201603/how-does-anxiety-short-circuit-the-decision-making-process https://neuroscience.stanford.edu/news/opposite-play-not-work-%E2%80%94-it-depression

 

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Plants Have Feelings Too!

Is eating plants less cruel than eating meat? I am not so sure.

plants have feelings too!

Via https://www.reddit.com/user/Randyotter

After all science shows us that the simple act of mowing your lawn, a past-time many Americans take pride in, is downright barbaric dismemberment. That lovely fresh cut grass smell is your lawn, aromatically shrieking to its brethren that it’s being attacked and needs first aid.

You are causing plants serious anguish and they are changing their behavior because of it.

Yes plant behavior is now a thing

Plants can make decisions based on the perceived level of risk

They communicate with each other in 5 ways:

Plants call for help, they eavesdrop, they defend their territory, they recognize siblings, and can communicate with mammals.

Plants care for offspring

Orchids are downright liars

Since plants have the ability to suffer, they feel pain, pleasure, fear, frustration, and motherly love. Whenever we consider doing something that would interfere with their needs, we are morally obligated to take them into account.

Let’s face it, eating fruits and vegetables supports cruelty to plants. Those idyllic verdant fields are really concentration camps crammed with flora that will never know what it’s like to care for its offspring. Eating vegetarian supports the killing of billions and billions of plants each year.

Ok, yes I am kidding, I don’t care what you eat (provided you are properly and humanly caring for your food source, animal and now vegetable). This was really just an exercise on taking a unique perspective on a topic to allow a shift in mindset.

Is your current product, idea or message not taking root with your customer? Perhaps looking at your problem from a different mindset can provide the innovative answer you need for growth.

 

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