Posts tagged with "agriculture"

UN Climate Report

To Tackle Climate Change We Need to Rethink Our Food System By Kathleen Rogers and Dr. Shenggen Fan

The way we produce, consume and discard food is no longer sustainable. That much is clear from the newly released UN climate change report  which warns that we must rethink how we produce our food and quickly to avoid the most devastating impacts of global food production, including massive deforestation, staggering biodiversity loss and accelerating  climate change. While it’s not often recognized, the food industry is an enormous driver of climate change, and our current global food system is pushing our natural world to the breaking point. At the press conference releasing the Special Report on Climate Change and Land, report co-chair Eduardo Calvo Buendía stated that “the food system as a whole which includes food production and processing, transport, retail consumption, loss and waste is currently responsible for up to a third of our global greenhouse gas emissions.”

In other words, while most of us have been focusing on the energy and transportation sectors in the climate change fight, we cannot ignore the role that our food production has on cutting emissions and curbing climate change. By addressing food waste and emissions from animal agriculture, we can start to tackle this problem. How do we do that?

Livestock production is a leading culprit driving deforestation, degrading our water quality and increasing air pollution. In fact, animal agriculture has such an enormous impact on the environment that if every American reduced their meat consumption by just 10 percent about 6 ounces per week we would save approximately 7.8 trillion gallons of water. That’s more than all the water in Lake Champlain.

We’d also save 49 billion pounds of carbon dioxide every year the equivalent of planting 1 billion carbon-absorbing trees. What’s more, to the injury from unsustainable food production, we add the insult of extraordinary levels of food waste: nearly one third of all food produced globally ends up in our garbage cans and then landfills. We are throwing away $1 trillion worth of food, or about half of Africa’s GDP, every single year. At our current rates, if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest carbon emitter after the U.S. and China. 

To ensure global food security and sustainable food practices in an ever-growing world, we need to reexamine our food systems and take regional resources, such as land and water availability, as well as local economies and culture into account. To start, the United States and other developed countries must encourage food companies to produce more sustainable food, including more plant-based options, and educate consumers and retailers about healthy and sustainable diets. Leaders must create policies that ensure all communities and children have access to affordable fruits and vegetables. And we all can do our part to reduce food waste, whether it’s in our company cafeterias or our own refrigerators.

Technology also plays a part. Developed countries should support and incentivize emerging innovative technologies in plant-based foods, as well as carbon-neutral or low-carbon meat production.

Developing countries, on the other hand, face high levels of undernutrition, as well as limited access to healthy foods. Many nutrient-dense foods (such as fruits, vegetables and quality meats) are highly perishable, often making prices significantly higher than ultra-processed, nutrient-poor and calorie-dense foods. The high cost of nutrient-dense foods creates a significant barrier to healthy diets, as seen in urban Malawi and many other countries.

By promoting enhanced production of healthy and nutritious foods while also improving markets in low-income countries, we can lower prices and increase accessibility of healthy and sustainable diets. Politicians can also tackle systemic inequalities by redirecting agricultural subsidies to promote healthy foods, as well as investing in infrastructure like rural roads, electricity, storage and cooling chain.

Change must happen at every level if we want to build a better food system. International participation and resource-sharing can spread regional solutions across countries. And working for change at the ground level among individuals, communities, local and federal governments and private entities can help fight hunger and food inequality firsthand.

Yes, our food system is broken, but not irrevocably so. The challenges are enormous, but by understanding the problem and potential solutions, we can effect critical changes in the ways we produce, consume and dispose of food.

Relationship Advice from NASA Engineer

Conservatives stay single longer

A new study from NASA engineer Rashied Amini, Ph.D. analyzes factors that contribute to how long people stay single. Some surprising results include conservative political views, higher education and not so surprising factors like income as a deal-breaker. The results of the study were used to create Nanaya’s love prediction algorithm, which is available for free and premium memberships online, and for iOS and Android.“Somehow this is the first time someone’s seriously looked at this question. The answers we found aren’t just about how long people stay single but also why,” said founder and owner of Nanaya,Rashied Amini, Ph.D.,on why he decided to conduct this study and start Nanaya.

Levelof education and rebound time have an almost perfectly correlated relationship. With someone staying single 0.8 months longer for each additional year of secondary & post-secondary education obtained. In addition, people who work in Academia & Higher Education have longer rebound times compared to other industries, with those working in agriculture having the shortest rebound time.

People who take public transit frequently will on average find relationships four months faster than people who never or rarely take public transit.

The size of your company could impact your love life. The study showed that people in workplaces of ~30-70 people have the best odds of entering a relationship sooner compared to smaller companies or large corporations.

Those with unempathetic political views tend to spend significantly longer looking for a relationship. Some of the opinions that have the most impact include being against marriage equality and universal healthcare, supporting increased border security, and being opposed to expanding welfare.

Feminists have an easier time finding relationships by approximately 1-2 months. This includes men who support feminism.

Compared to straight men and women, gay and bisexual people find relationships faster. Gay men spend the least amount of time single, followed by bisexual men and women.

Since non-Americans find love approximately 8 months sooner than Americans, traveling internationally can increase your chances of making a lasting connection.

Level of education and rebound time have an almost perfectly correlated relationship. With someone staying single 0.8 months longer for each additional year of secondary & post-secondary education obtained. In addition, people who work in Academia & Higher Education have a longer rebound time compared to other industries, with those working in Agriculture having the shortest rebound time.

According to Nanaya’s data, psychology and belief systems have a stronger correlation to time spent single. When it comes to children, those who want children spend the shortest time single, followed by those who don’t know if they want children. Single parents or those who don’t want children spend the longest time single.

About Nanaya

Nanaya has built one of the largest databases of romantic outcomes to ever exist. Unlike dating sites, Nanaya has data on how people actual live their lives and have romances in the real world – not just in the “Tinderverse.” Nanaya also has plenty of data on people in relationships. Unlike Facebook, Nanaya has data on personal values, experiences, and accurate personality data. What all this means is that Nanaya research is going to be a lot more complete and accurate than what anyone else can hope to do. Over the course of their research, they’ve identified personality traits that have significant impact on romantic outcomes. As a result, they’ve developed the brand new Nanaya Romantic Personality Quiz. In about 30 questions, Nanaya can describe romantic personality and outcomes better than anything that exists, whether it’s Myers Briggs or any other personality test.

For a free personalized test, go to https://nanaya.co/.

New Robotics

New Robotics: Shifting Business Models

IDTechEx Research analyzes the changing trends in the robotics industry in their report New Robotics and Drones 2018-2038: Technologies, Forecasts, Players, as new and emerging firms challenge the norm.

Machine makers in many established markets sell their machines directly or through dealer networks. At times, they create additional revenue streams by offering technical after-sales support. They often hope that the installed base of their machines together with limited incompatibility with competitors’ products provides some lock-in mechanism. They also seek to build-in some technology obsolescence into their product cycles. Some also provide finance, directly or jointly with a finance entity, to help potential customers overcome the barrier of the upfront cost.

Many traditional robot suppliers fit the description above. Integrators often install a robotic or automated solution and provide after-sale technical support. They make it difficult to integrate competitors’ robots with their solutions and offer regular hardware and software updates.

New and emerging robotic firms, however, do not easily fit this bill. They are, in fact, challenging the established norms. This is sometimes through will and sometimes through necessity. The trend towards alternative models is evident across all sectors that new robotics seeks to impact. This includes retail, agriculture, logistics, delivery, security, cleaning, transport, and so on.

In the next few paragraphs, we outline some trends and drives in each sector. To get the complete picture please see the IDTechEx Research New Robotics and Drones 2018-2038: Technologies, Forecasts, Players. This report is unique in its depth and breadth. It covers both existing as well as emerging applications. Indeed, it provides 21-year forecasts in value and unit numbers for 46 categories, painting a comprehensive and quantitative picture of this major transformation.

Agriculture

Autonomous robots can provide automated precision weeding. Robotic intelligent implementation can provide precision spraying or weeding, too. The upfront machine or fleet costs are often high today. The technology risk for end users is also high. Users are often afraid that expert operators and repair persons will be needed. They worry that the technology is not tried and tested, especially in an agricultural environment. They fear that the technology is likely to rapidly evolve, exposing them to serious obsolescence risks. Crucially, they require seasonal services and are accustomed to paying wages and not making significant capital investments into machines with low utilization rates.

To address these challenges, many companies are positioning as a RaaS- robotic as a service. They essentially become weeding service providers. They operate or monitor their own machines. They charge the customer per acre, a metric with which they are likely familiar. They absorb the technology risk. Crucially, they give their robots extensive field practice and will have the chance to gather data and feedback. This is important because the design of these products and services is still in a state of flux with many further iterations anticipated.

This positioning changes the nature of their business. Companies will require additional working capital and staff to absorb the service costs and to offer a sufficiently scaled service network. They cannot simply build to order to balance their cash flows. This is where partnerships will become important. This is also where early capital investments in case of start-ups become a necessity, as most will operate heavily in the red in the early years of their operations.

With time and technology maturity the model may revert back to a traditional arrangement, or will it? This is an ongoing debate because traditional heavy agricultural machine makers will also need to adapt their models. This is inevitable because as vehicles become more autonomous, in navigation and task, the machine becomes the services, blurring the boundary between equipment sales and service provision.  The whole value chains will need to adjust and even the dealers will need to find their sweet spots evolving their technical support into full-blown remote robot operations. To learn more please read New Robotics and Drones 2018-2038: Technologies, Forecasts, Players.

Last mile delivery

Many small robots are appearing worldwide to solve the productivity problem present at the last stage of the delivery process: the last mile. These small slow robots autonomously deliver small payloads to their final destinations. At the level of individual machines, there are highly unproductive. However, at the level of a large fleet, without a driver overhead per unit, they can become productive and commercially viable.

Here two business models have emerged. Some follow the traditional model of trying to sell their robots. Others are positioning as delivery firms staffed mainly by autonomous robots. This latter model is adopted for many good reasons. It is envisioned that the hardware will in the future become modular, standardized, and highly commoditized.  Essentially the same fate as consumer drones awaits the hardware platform. Competing in such a business would not be easy for start-ups, especially those based in California and similar start-up hubs.

Crucially, the robot companies require practice data. This is because they will need to improve their delivery and navigation algorithms so that one day they can operate large fleets in complex environments with high-speed units. The data loop would be cut if they just sold a machine and walked out. The data acquisition is a fundamental part of product improvement without which the company would likely stall. It will also open up the door to offering high value-added analytics services.

The technology is still immature. As such, it will require close monitoring and likely regular manual interventions to fix issues. As such, most players will, as a minimum, be forced to add a strong 24/7 service element to their business.

To learn more, please see the IDTechEx Research report Mobile Robots and Drones in Material Handling and Logistics 2018-2038. This report is focused on all aspects of mobile robotics in material handling and logistics. In particular, we consider the following: automated guided vehicles and carts (AGVs and AGCs); autonomous mobile vehicles and carts/units; mobile picking robots; last mile delivery ground robots (droids) and drones; and autonomous trucks and light delivery vans (level 4 and level 5 automation).

Logistics

Robotic firms are emerging to enable autonomous robotic picking. These robots combine autonomous mobility with autonomous picking skills. Here, too, companies are frequently positioning themselves as a service provider, charging a monthly subscription fee or a $ per pick rate.

In this case, too, robotic companies require the data. Their picking algorithms are based on deep learning and as such without training data their product roadmap will likely stall. This would be very dangerous to their business prospects because today’s generation of products only manages to slowly pick regularly-shaped known objects in simple environments. The future, however, is fast picking of novel randomly-shaped items in complex environments. To traverse this competency gap, data will be indispensable. The users too will require ongoing support. They too will prefer not to absorb the technology risk, especially since the technology – both hardware and software – are rapidly evolving. As such, a service model can prove win-win.

To learn more please visit www.IDTechEx.com/mobile.

Security

Autonomous mobile robots are developed to perform various security-related tasks. These robots are being designed for indoor, outdoor and even rugged terrain operation. They are essentially sensors-on-a-wheel. Some versions can have more than 50-onboard sensors, generating nearly 100 terabytes of data per year per machine. These robots can be deployed wherever some type of security and monitoring is required.

Here, too, firms are not always adopting an outright equipment sales model. It is common to seek a subscription model for giving customers access to the machine, the interface, the data plan, the 24/7 support, etc. Here, too, such arrangements can be win-win. The suppliers will retain that crucial data loop in their business models, enabling them to improve their products, for example, by offering specialized algorithms able to detect, recognize, and analyze specific situations, e.g., from car number plate recognition to detection of dangerous gas leakages in an industrial site. Customers, too, will take this arrangement because it is closer to an end solution and makes it easier for them to test the technology and the new ways of working that it might enable.

To learn more please see New Robotics and Drones 2018-2038: Technologies, Forecasts, Players. This report provides detailed technology analysis, assessing the trends in performance and price of key enabling hardware and software technologies whilst considering likely technology development roadmaps. We will also profile the key companies and innovative entities working on new robotics and drones.

Retail

Autonomous robots are also finding their way into retail stores, seeking to automate tedious tasks. In particular, they are being offered essentially as automated data acquisition tools, capturing data about items on the shelves with higher speed and accuracy than humans.

Here firms are positioning as full solution providers. This has many advantages. This future-proofs their business against hardware commoditization. They can accumulate hard-to-obtain and hard-to-copy knowhow and data which can then underpin their value-added data analytics services. Their customers too will be interested in a final solution and not another alien technology looking for a problem to solve. At the end of the day, they are interested only in an impact on the bottom line, be it higher stock availability, better stock positioning on shelves, or leaner inventories. As such, data-centric service-orientated models can be win-win propositions.

This shift towards non-traditional business models permeates every sector. It is happening even with cars where the rise of mobility is fueling serious debates about the future of mobility and the role of autonomous taxi fleets and shared facilities. In general, even if the business models are not radically redrawn, the profit pool within the value chain will be re-balanced. This will change the winners and losers and will demand that all participants begin looking ahead and planning now.

To learn more, please visit www.IDTechEx.com/robotics or contact research@IDTechEx.com.

IDTechEx guides your strategic business decisions through its Research, Consultancy and Events services, helping you profit from emerging technologies. Find out more at www.IDTechEx.com.

America’s First Food Spy × David Fairchild

In the January/February issue of Smithsonian magazine, Daniel Stone, a writer for National Geographic and author of the new book The Food Explorer, sits down with Smithsonian to tell the forgotten story of the man who gave us kale, America’s first adventurer-botanist and “food spy”, David Fairchild, who traveled the world over a century ago in search of exotic crops.

Here are some highlights:

So who was David Fairchild?

“David Fairchild was an adventurer-botanist, which is a title that has rarely existed in history. He was a man who grew up in Kansas, at a time when the United States was very blank. It was in need of a lot of growth. Economic growth, military growth and culinary growth. And he detected an appetite for all of those types of change, which led him to conduct world-wide adventures at a time when not that many people traveled. He went to places that not that many people went, in search of foods and crops that would enrich farmers and very much delight American eaters.”

What did Fairchild do as a “food spy”?

“His role, sanctioned by the president and the secretary of agriculture, was to find exotic crops and bring them back. Sometimes it was diplomatic. And sometimes he would steal things. He went to Bavaria to acquire better hops. German growers had the world’s best hops and didn’t want anyone to get them, so they hired young men to guard the fields at night. Fairchild befriended these growers. It was covert work, and he didn’t outright steal the hops, but he did eventually acquire them and brought them back to the U.S. That really helped balloon America’s hops-growing industry.”

What effect did his missions have?

If Fairchild hadn’t traveled to expand the American diet, our supermarkets would look a lot different. You certainly wouldn’t have kale, which he picked up in Austria-Hungary, to the extent that you do today. Or food like quinoa from Peru, which was introduced back then, but took off a century later. Anyone who’s eaten an avocado from Central America or citrus from Asia can trace those foods back to his efforts. Those fruits hadn’t permeated American agriculture until Fairchild and the USDA created a system to distribute seeds, cuttings and growing tips. Fairchild went to great lengths, at times risking his life, to find truly novel crops, like dates from Iraq and Egyptian cotton.”

What was Fairchild’s favorite food discovery?

“The mangosteen (unrelated to the mango). He thought that Americans would love it and tried repeatedly to introduce it, but it only grows in tropical climates, and doesn’t grow much fruit, so it never really caught on.”

Read the entire story here.

Story/Photo Credits: Smithsonian