Precision Agriculture And Food Issues

The political polarization between liberals and conservatives is well known in the U.S. Each side has their ideology which is bolstered by a few facts and lots of opinions and beliefs.

The same is true in agriculture. There is a polarization between conventional and organic farming. Since more than 90% of the seed planted for corn and soybeans in the U.S. is a genetically-modified organism or GMO, the division is now between GMO and organically grown crops. What is fascinating is that the battle line for GMO vs. organic is not at the point of production but further downstream in the food supply chain. In fact, it is at the point of consumers, whose changing lifestyles are making ripples up and down the chain.

The JAMA Network Journals recently reported that more than two-thirds of adult Americans are either overweight or obese. Overweight and obesity are signs of an unhealthy lifestyle due to eating processed foods high in saturated fats and sugar, consuming oversized meals, no exercise, little sleep and emotional stress. As one ages, an unhealthy lifestyle eventually leads to medical problems, such as high blood pressure, sleep apnea, stroke and diabetes.

Like smoking in the past, when the evidence for poor health becomes overwhelming, people begin to change lifestyles. One of the first changes is usually in their eating habits. People — especially the younger generations — are beginning to judge food not only by its nutritional value, but also by whether it is GMO or organic, locally grown, processed, safely handled, environmentally friendly and sustainability produced. As they seek out better food choices, people are also looking for information to make those choices. This active searching by consumers for new information is impacting vendors throughout the food supply chain.

The division in professional and consumer perceptions about food was recently reported in The Wall Street Journal. In its “Squaring Off” article, the Journal invited advocates on both sides of major food issues to state their positions. Issues included labels required for food containing GMO crops, tax on soda, feedlot vs. open range beef and “deserts” of limited food choices. Each advocate provided facts and arguments to convince the reader of their view on a particular issue.

A Continuing Fight

What immediately becomes apparent when reading competing viewpoints is the biased selection of sources and facts to support a position. For example, in the case of GMO labeling of food, the pro-organic advocate highlighted the presence of novel bacterial, viral and/or other DNA in genetically-engineered crops, while the pro-GMO advocate claimed that organic produce is 10 times more likely to be recalled for bacterial contamination than conventional crops. Given the number of sources, facts and arguments that can be brought to support either position, it is not surprising that an accompanying survey to the Journal article found that 47% of people would avoid eating GMO crops. Like politics, each opposing position is supported by about half the people.

The battle to convince the public to take one side or the other on food issues is far from over. What is an undeniable fact is that obesity has become an epidemic in all age groups and is increasingly contributing to health problems in the U.S. It can be argued that each one of us knows at least one family member or friend who is excessively overweight to the point of needing medical help. This awareness — like the link between cigarettes and cancer — will undoubtedly affect our eating habits and food choices.

And when that awareness sinks in, we will seek out facts about food. It is exactly this point that precision agriculture can contribute valuable data to help consumers make informed choices about food. Precision agriculture is uniquely positioned to provide the facts sought by consumers on how their food is grown. Nearly all precision agriculture software tracks production practices, including the time, types and amounts of materials applied to a field. The same software records the choice of hybrid seed and treatments. Some precision agriculture programs offer a “traceability” service that allows vendors in the food supply chain to be aware of the recorded production practices for a harvested crop. Many of these services offer visual evidence as well as textual records of crop health through a growing season. Additionally, recently-developed online calculators allow growers to enter production practices to determine if their farming systems are environmentally friendly and/or sustainable relative to state, regional and national benchmarks.

Precision agriculture software can do more than account for crop production practices. It can provide precise spatial maps of where a seed is planted or a crop protection product is applied in a field. It can employ water balance models to simulate soil moisture conditions in the field to justify irrigation applications. Software in the form of mobile devise applications or apps can assist a grower in the selection of pest controls based on the intensity of a scouted pest, beneficial organisms, maximum residue limits and environmental regulations.

More Development For Precision Ag

Precision agriculture has all the tools for collecting the crop production data sought by consumers. But these data are not fully integrated into the information flow that originates with the field and ends with the consumer. New programs are needed to facilitate this integration so that downstream vendors can interpret precision agriculture data and pass them on in a language and form understood by consumers. Precision agriculture can expand its role, from providing information to growers for their production decisions to providing data to consumers for their food decisions.

Leave a Reply

Specialty Crops Stories
AsiaCloud-based Irrigation Could Double India’s Crop Yield and Halve Water Use
February 12, 2018
A cloud-based, micro-irrigation system tested on a farm in India has cut water use by up to 80%  and doubled Read More
Specialty CropsAnnual Ranking of Agricultural Technology Companies Released
January 30, 2018
On Monday, SVG Partners announced its THRIVE Top 50, an annual ranking of 50 leading agricultural technology companies exemplifying the Read More
DronesDrone Analyst: The War is Not Over
January 29, 2018
Via I’ve been researching and writing about agriculture drone solutions since early 2012, writes SkyLogic Research CEO & Founder Read More
DronesVenture Capital News: PrecisionHawk Secures $75 Million Funding Round
January 24, 2018
According to a recent press release, PrecisionHawk, Inc. announced it has raised a $75 million round of funding from a Read More
Trending Articles
AsiaCloud-based Irrigation Could Double India’s Crop Yield and Halve Water Use
February 12, 2018
A cloud-based, micro-irrigation system tested on a farm in India has cut water use by up to 80%  and doubled Read More
Tools & Smart EquipmentAutonomous Tractors Could Work in Wetter Conditions than Traditional Tractors
February 8, 2018
March 20th is the first day of spring, making spring much closer than even I expected. On the farm I Read More
AmericasPrecision Farming Companies to Watch in 2018 (OPINION)
January 17, 2018
My friends, as many of you told me repeatedly throughout the last 12 months, 2017 was an interesting year in Read More
Data ManagementPrecision Ag Hardware and Software: A Little Off-Season Maintenance Goes A Long Way
January 11, 2018
All service technicians have heard this line. Most often when spring makes its anticipated return to our lives. It is Read More
Service ProvidersAnez Consulting: Focus On Fertility
January 9, 2018
Central Minnesota features variability aplenty when it comes to soil characteristics and topography, from flat, black expanses rich in organic Read More
Americas5 Best Ag Tech Shows in Brazil
January 8, 2018
Brazil continues to demonstrate its potential in agriculture. Several international companies are investing in our country because we have a Read More
Latest News
Industry NewsUnderstory Patents Solid State Weather Sensor
February 16, 2018
Understory today announced that it received a patent for its mechanical strain-based weather sensor, a key component in its weather Read More
Retailer Grower
Business ManagementAgriculture and Technology: Industry Progress Lies in C…
February 16, 2018
Water is essential for agriculture. While this may seem obvious, nowhere is it more apparent than the Sonoran Desert of Read More
Industry NewsAgtegra Cooperative Pledges $500,000 to SDSU Precision …
February 15, 2018
Agtegra Cooperative, Aberdeen, SD, today in Pierre announced a $500,000 donation to South Dakota State University for the Precision Agriculture Read More
Ag Retailer and Grower WinField United
Business ManagementThe Importance of Teamwork for Successful Precision Ag …
February 15, 2018
Interdependency is defined as the quality or condition of being mutually reliant on each other. I’m not a huge sports Read More
Data ManagementAgriculture Impacts Weather: The Case for Connected Eco…
February 15, 2018
It’s fascinating to see how modern technology has helped us increase our agricultural productivity in areas not otherwise suited for Read More
Adapt-N VRT
Decision Support SoftwareDTN Partners with Adapt-N to Provide Weather and Nitrog…
February 14, 2018
DTN has announced a partnership today at the National Farm Machinery Show with Agronomic Technology Corp (ATC), a Yara International Read More
Corn close up
Imagery/SensingSyngenta Acquires Satellite Imagery Provider FarmShots
February 14, 2018
Syngenta has acquired FarmShots, Inc., a North Carolina-based innovator of high-resolution satellite imagery that detects plant health by analyzing absorbed Read More
Tools & Smart EquipmentMachine Learning: The Secret Sauce of Precision Agricul…
February 13, 2018
With the development of agricultural technologies, crop and plant diseases have been advancing as well, causing degradation of both quality Read More
Farmers Edge Truck
Africa/Middle EastFarmers Edge Aligns with PartnerRE to Streamline Crop I…
February 13, 2018
Today Winnipeg-based FMIS giant Farmers Edge announced a partnership around crop insurance with Zurich-based PartnerRE. Although a bit short on Read More
Robotics Specialty Crops
AmericasHortau, Agrian Announce Strategic Partnership
February 12, 2018
Hortau today announced a strategic partnership with Agrian Inc. to deliver an expansive precision irrigation service for commercial agriculture. “With Read More
AsiaCloud-based Irrigation Could Double India’s Crop Yield …
February 12, 2018
A cloud-based, micro-irrigation system tested on a farm in India has cut water use by up to 80%  and doubled Read More
Forbes Mixing Bowl NYC
EventsInnovative Forum Geared to Let Food, Farming, and Tech …
February 9, 2018
Industry innovators in agriculture, food, and information technology are set to mix it up again at this year’s Forbes Mixing Read More
Tools & Smart EquipmentAutonomous Tractors Could Work in Wetter Conditions tha…
February 8, 2018
March 20th is the first day of spring, making spring much closer than even I expected. On the farm I Read More
corn weather
Industry NewsSciFi in Ag: Stanford Cooling Project Could Drive Energ…
February 7, 2018
(Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Industry NewsAgGateway Debuts ADAPT ISO Plugin Version 2.0
February 6, 2018
AgGateway’s ADAPT Framework, which is designed to make it easy for various hardware and software systems that growers use in Read More
Systems ManagementThere’s No Easy Button For Value in Variable-Rate Nutri…
February 6, 2018
Roger Dumond has weathered the ups and downs of precision agriculture programs as much as anybody who’s been riding that Read More
Business ManagementFeel Something is Missing in Precision Agriculture? Ans…
February 5, 2018
I’ve seen a lot of ideas and met a lot of people in the agtech world. There have been great Read More
HomeSST Software to be Acquired by Proagrica
February 5, 2018
UPDATED 2.5.18, 2:10 PM Proagrica has signed an agreement to acquire 100% of SST Software, including Raven’s ownership stake. Based Read More