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How technology continues to revolutionize the way we grow food

How technology continues to revolutionize the way we grow food

Adam Greenberg of iUNU discusses how technology has evolved over the decades, with the constant factor of consumer demand leading the way.

By Andrew Joseph, Farms.com, Image by Sarah Clarry from Pixabay

You may not know iUNU, but you’re going to wish you knew iUNU.

Founded in 2013 with its headquarters in Seattle and an additional office in San Francisco, iUNU Inc.—pronounced “you knew”—but you already knew that—is an industrial computer vision company that helps connect plants, facilities, and people through its proprietary AI (artificial intelligence) interface, LUNA.

Needless to say, iUNU knows technology. It’s why, when Adam Greenberg presented at the recent 2021 Farms.com-sponsored virtual Precision Agriculture Conference & Ag Technology Showcase held November 16-18, it was worth listening to him discuss just what is driving the demand for new technology and how it has revolutionized the way we produce.

It was kind of a chest-thumping moment for those who share his passion for technology in the agricultural sector.

Have you ever wondered why you farm the way you farm? Greenberg knows and shared his knowledge by looking at the historical ways farming has changed… and it’s due to, on the macro level, consumer demand.

Greenberg noted that ag production was, in its early days in North America, more decentralized, with over 30 percent of the population involved in agriculture, with the consumer’s goal being to merely maintain calorie sufficiency.

But, when mankind began to utilize transportation to first grow its population base ever westward, in order to send ag products farther, preservatives came onto the scene. This allowed consumers to have calories they craved in abundance.

This scenario continued through WWI, as preservatives helped reduce prices and costs to produce, but also began to erode the labour force to less than one percent the population. Still, this allowed the ag community to become more centralized, as larger and larger farms became the norm over the years.

It remained that way until about 40 years ago, when it all began to trend back towards decentralization, achieving it in 2019. Nowadays, we have distributed production, central ownership and we, as consumers, have become more health conscious wanting fewer processed foods and fresher produce. This allowed the small farm to come back into focus, helping consumers buy local.

Nowadays we have improved freshness, quality and taste? Taste? Sure! For all you omnivores who first tasted veggie burgers et al 20+ years ago and hated it, have a taste of a plant-based burger and see if you still detest the “fake meat” flavour. It’s at the very least comparable.

Greenberg also detailed how we now have a disintermediate supply chain of farmers better able to supply directly to the consumer.

It’s the same with communication—an important aspect of how farming technology has grown and will continue to grow.

Until the 1970s, telephones were still the “it” thing until the Internet took off in the early 1990s. Farms and farmers began to see technologies that utilized the Internet as more and more ag manufacturers began to provide new types of automation to help farmers grow crops better.

Labour is now also a factor in the drive towards AgTech.

Not just discussing labour costs as an issue, Greenberg noted that labour and the types of labour required have become key.

Nowadays, fewer people in the US and Canada want to perform the back-breaking ag labour, he noted. As such, we have looked at brining in seasonal workers from across international borders. But even they want more money.   

Now with rising labour costs, modern farms are applying technologies that require fewer hands in the field, as technology costs have dropped dramatically. Forty years ago, a VCR might have cost $400. Ten years later it was under $50. Then it was onto bigger and better things… like CDs to watch a movie. It, too could have cost upwards of $1000 when the technology was new… and now, you can’t give one away.

And cell phones? Large enough to block out your companion sitting across from you at a coffee shop. Now, each phone possesses more computing power than what we had to send people to the moon and back. And we just use it to constantly see if anyone has left us a message – and wonder why they haven’t when everyone is apparently at everyone else’s beck and call. It’s like we want to be distracted.

As the years have passed, the computing power has increased, and the costs have dropped like a rock.

This is where we find ourselves with precision ag technology.

Watch the presentation in its entirety by Adam Greenberg of iUNU below:




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