(This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The purpose of this is purely entertainment, but hey, if we can spread ideas or ignite imaginations, how awesome is that?)
Volume 2 Article 10
In the supply chain of our food system, farmers are the ones doing the most value creation. Farming takes great science, cooperative weather, skill, hard work, and 100% commitment.
Farmers have to endure a lot of work to create value in the supply chain. This ends up resulting in other parts of the industry boiling down to a logistics game. Bulk fertilizers, chemicals, and seeds getting to your field, trucking the grains out, rail cars and people making margins on the transport, etc.
It’s also why the farmer generally is the one that gets squeezed for money.
When I was maybe 12 years old, I first learned about creating hydrogen bubbles using electrolysis (and you can too in a much safer way). I had the vision for creating my own cells and then pushing the hydrogen output into a combustible motor, leaning out the fuel, and driving something like 80 miles per gallon.
I didn’t care if my plan was full of flaws, I was going to do it anyway — kinda how I operate today sometimes. In order to create more efficiency, I thought, I’d utilize the 30% solution of hydrogen peroxide mix found on the farm. During this time, it wasn’t uncommon to use a concentrate of hydrogen peroxide in your spray tank to soften the water. This would create a higher efficacy for your chemicals, and was a pretty popular idea at the time.
Anyway, I added this 30% solution to one of my cells — it was a mason jar — turned the system on, and instant results! Tons of hydrogen came spewing out, similar to knocking the cap off of a full propane tank.
I turned off the power supply when I felt it was getting out of control. But it didn’t turn off. The jar was too hot to touch so I ran and got welding gloves, grabbed the jar, and threw it outside. It combusted for twenty more minutes before finally settling down. My dad thought I was going to blow the shop up, and further ending my hydrogen experiments.
Fifteen years later, energy still is an hot topical issue, and logistics still is the name of the game inside the supply chain for food.
Tesla, a leader in autopilot technology for cars, has been teasing a new semi to bring to the market. This would be an electric semi, not the first to be announced, but still exciting.
I love companies that take tough challenges and solve them.
If Tesla wins at electric autonomous trucks, they can end up changing the entire logistics game in addition to slashing serious costs.
Think about it: an automated semi could drive 24 hours a day with no stops for a fraction of the cost. No fuel, no complex transmissions, motors, and the thousands of other wear parts that could go wrong. Large warehouses and storage tanks would no longer be necessary. Also, no drivers needed either. Customers could order fertilizer on their phone and have it in their possession within 24 hours from anywhere in the continental U.S.
Many companies place fulfillment centers by Kansas City, MO. Kansas City to Los Angeles is a 24 hour drive. Kansas City to New York is a little over 18 hours for a drive. One super plant could literally serve the entire continental US. The same concept goes for grain, Why not send 30 autonomous trucks from the Pacific Northwest to your farm? It could get there in 28 hours! By just loading the trucks up with grain while they charge over the next 3 days and bam, just filled that 30,000 bushel contract. Autonomous trucks, like busy bees, could be scouring all over the country gathering grain, fulfilling contracts, 24 hours a day, 365 days a week.
Not possible you say? Electric doesn’t have enough range? Fully autonomous trucks will never happen? Rail will always be cheaper and more effective? Well, possibly you are right. But then again, who thought we would be watching endless cat videos while driving 80 down the turnpike either.