How new tech can help feed the world and grow the economy

quarta-feira, maio 29, 2019

How new tech can help feed the world and grow the economy  

Most people believe that tariffs and subsidies are anathema in the world of global commerce. I don’t think either will be critical to the agricultural community 10 years from now. The push for farm subsidies is already moving in the direction of innovation in agriculture as opposed to overwhelmingly toward production.

Two factors are driving this: cost and food security.

Among the many changes that millennials are driving is the push toward locally owned, locally sourced and sustainable food. Mini-greenhouses and small farms are popping up in the most unlikely places, such as a former parking lot across the river from New York City.

Countries are driving the change as well. Russia is tired of depending on its allies, as well as the United States, every time the Russian wheat harvest falls short. Canada is subsidizing innovation and technology that will allow farmers to grow more and to grow more for local consumption.

The reality is, countries are rethinking the concept. So how do you increase production to the point where you no longer have to rely on everyone else to feed your populace?

Next time you eat a tomato, there’s a good chance that it came from a greenhouse. Take a trip to Williamsburg, Va., and you’ll see that about 400 years ago the colonies were doing pretty much the same thing — they had small greenhouses going almost year-round. True, they couldn’t have blueberries in January imported from Chile, but they were able to extend the growing season because they could start planting sooner.

The impact on our agricultural policy will be enormous.

The U.S. is already growing more food locally, as well as more organic produce, and U.S. farmers are growing more with sustainability in mind. With the ability to move away from export crops, farm subsidies will slowly change toward enhancing local food production. And with enhanced technology and artificial intelligence, growers can instantly improve results.

Farmers can see which plants aren’t growing as quickly with new technologies, for instance, and because they can adjust immediately, they don’t have to miss the window for outdoor planting. Or, when there’s an E. coli scare, growers can trace the problem down to a single section of a greenhouse instead of having to destroy an entire field of romaine lettuce.

On a larger scale, how the United States adjusts its agricultural policies will impact the federal budget; in the absence of “food extortion,” we’ll move toward treating food as an export commodity similar to technology, entertainment and manufactured goods. And, as exports begin to taper off, many members of Congress and the Senate are going to look at subsidy funding to address the priorities of their constituents. Overall, these changes have the potential to free up a significant portion of discretionary funding to address issues that are important to millennials: student loan debt, health care, and shared community.

Our company is partnering with the nonprofit American Innovation and Opportunity Fund on projects that will teach high school kids practical uses of technology. We’re going to teach them how to use AI to grow more vegetables and flowers in greenhouses and as a result, they’ll be able to develop the skills and the desire to move beyond entry-level jobs as coders. Congress should move now to recognize this trend and begin to subsidize and support grants to grow food that is sustainable, eco-friendly and can be grown in urban, suburban as well as rural areas.

Page: The Hill

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