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    5 Reasons Why Wireless Access Is Integral To Agriculture

    I just finished reading a short article in Fast Company that discussed President Obama's push to make Wi-Fi more accessible to rural areas throughout the United States. I applaud this initiative and hope it gets the support it needs on The Hill.

    In today's world of agriculture access is critical. Making the right decision is crucial to continued farm profitability. One sub-par choice like entering a field when it's to wet, planting to early, or applying fertilizer to late/early can heavily impact the bottom line in the downward direction. This is bad for the companies providing custom services to the farmer, bad for the farmer(s) who work tirelessly to supply us with food, feed, fuel, and fiber and can also be bad for the consumers if this leads to further consolidation in the marketplace led by decreased competition. Here are 5 reasons I think Wi-Fi everywhere is good for agriculture.

    1.) Access Information Anywhere - We all know that farmers are traveling more and more to spread the word about the benefits of a healthy agriculture system. And crops are not malleable in their timing. When it is time to plant, it is time to plant. When it it time to do anything related to crop production, it is time and the window of opportunity is small. So having access for the on the go farmer is of utmost importance. Being able to hop on the web with a smart device will allow farmers to obtain the information they need to make the best decision for their farming activities

    2.) Knowledge Sharing - With the rise of social media, more and more farmers are sharing information about their activities. This "real-time" sharing of information is helping other farmers throughout the growing season make better decisions and plan for future activities. For example, if you know a heavy rain is coming because Jim just posted a tweet, sent you a text message, or posted it on the social web, then you can plan accordingly and move your equipment where it needs to be.

    3.) Agvocating - As we all know, the conversation about food has been elevated to a place where everyone is engaged. As such, there is a ton of misinformation out there. Having ubiquitous access to the web will allow farmers and ranchers to share their story not only from the office, but the field as well. Consumers want to know where their food comes from and who produces it. A direct connection to the farmer, even virtually, will enhance the trust between consumer and farmer and help build this much needed bridge

    4.) Small Business Growth - We all know the the lifeblood of economies around the world is the small business. And the days of desktop applications are numbered. There are already a number of companies looking at their web-based strategy as well as a number of start-ups utilizing the web to deliver their service (shameless plug - My start-up is doing this). Increasing access to the web allows more companies to provide the level of service farmers and ranchers need to be successful in todays agricultural system as the market increases with increased access to the internet. The larger the market, the more opportunities available for entrepreneurs to form new companies and create more well paying jobs.

    5.) Data Acquisition - It's all about the data folks. Data is what drives decisions, even the absence of data! At this point it is quite difficult to collect all the data we would like, at the resolution we need, to really make data-driven decisions. If we do collect the data, it is cumbersome and very time consuming, not to mention the possibility of errors. The more and more we increase access to the web to transmit data back to a smartphone where decisions can be made, the more profitable a farming operation can become. As OEM's work toward building sensors and telecommunications companies work toward access everywhere, we can work on how this real-time data can be used. Can anyone say agronomic, soil, and weather models? I sure can.

    As I look toward the future, I see multiple data sets being integrated into a service to enable sound business decisions aided by stellar applications delivered over the mobile web.

    What do you see? What benefits to agriculture do you see with increased access to the mobile web? Let us know in the comments.

    Nate J. Taylor
    (814) 441-1867

    Interested in more of my gibberish? You can follow me on Twitter @natejtaylor

    Photo Credits
    Flickr User Claudian-
    Flickr User james_clear
    Flickr User ShowGood

    Scenery On The Drive Today

    I thought I would share a few of the shots I took along my drive from Sycamore, IL to Rochelle, IL. Have I told you yet how much I love the area I live in? You can just feel and see agriculture everywhere!

    Local Grain Elevator and Storage Facility

    One of my friends fields

    I love Red Barns!

    For more on red barns read my friend Janice's post here

    Hoop Houses used to extend the growing season

    Grain Bins on a local farm

    NIU Huskie Stadium - Last sight before home

    A Rumble With The Wrong Group

    Today was like any other day. Frigid temperatures outside, tons of work to do to get the startup I am involved in up and running, kids basketball and swimming practice, a crazy amount of errands that seem impossible to complete, and an insane amount of data integration from multiple spreadsheets and databases.

    And then there is this.

    By this, I mean a blog post by Nathan Winters (@follownathan). In this post it is stated that The AgChat Foundation is as follows:

     ....Hide behind and exploit the American Farmer at any cost.
     I am all up for a discussion and debate about the US food system; inadequacies included. And there are certainly inadequacies. A food supply chain is complicated enough at the local level and the complexities compound exponentially once we hit the global agri-supply chain. But the notion that the newly formed Agchat Foundation is hiding behind and exploiting the American Farmer should I put this...false seems to be fitting. And naturally the comments section is full of folks that have yet to engage the foundation directly. Or if they have, it is already from a position of  "I know what I know" so all discussions just serve to further their view point. Hey, if all you have is a hammer, everything you see is a nail, no? Sure does make it easy and simple, and not the simple we should strive for on the other side of complexity.
    Complexity is easy to talk about

    Speaking of simplicity and complexity, The Agchat Foundation has reached the simplicity level, thus the angst. It is easy to deal in complexities and very hard to deal in simplicity. The purpose and mission of the foundation is clear - empower farmers to share their story through social media. It doesn't say, implicitly or otherwise that it is for "large" farmers to share their story, organic farmers to share their story, grass-fed ranchers to share their story, or any of the other farming designations. It is simply for ALL farmers and ranchers to share their story. Let's be clear: ALL farmers and ranchers to share their story.

    So, while it is all well and good to rumble with "BigAg", let's be sure you are in the right ring. Maybe the actual issue is with larger corporations holding such power in our democracy? I can understand that. Maybe it is due to lack of competition in the marketplace due to bad policy? That is worth discussing at length in more than just agriculture. There are a myriad of issues to fight for and I applaud people taking a stand for what they believe in. To call on a personal example if I may, I feel strongly that we have an access problem in certain parts of our country, indeed the world. But where I can make a difference is focusing on my community to build that access and create jobs. A robust, thriving local food economy with access to healthy calories is important. I, along with a few other passionate individuals are working to make this happen in my community and others. And it will take everyone. The farmer with 5 acres, the farmer with 5000 acres, local governance, local processing facilities, and retail establishments. At the same time, I know that there are other areas in our country and the world that need food, and I salute and support wholeheartedly the folks that are trying to deliver on this need as well.

    But I digress from the actual point.

    Nathan, if it is a rumble you want, by all means have at it. But your focus on a grassroots foundation that has open arms to every single farmer and rancher is misguided. It is at best cynicism and at worst detrimental to the field of agriculture. In all of your accusations, have you once attempted to attend one of the conferences that were published to everyone? I have, on my own dime, as did all the other attendees. Maybe, before making bold assertions, you should do what you did in order to research your book? Meet the faces of the foundation yourself, engage them, and then take quill to paper.

    Nate J. Taylor

    Photo Courtesy of Flickr user PhOtOnQuAnTiQue

    Being A Vegan? Don't Ask Oprah

    Oh boy, another "vegan" challenge, but this time it wasn't from Peta or HSUS. It was from Oprah. At first, I thought maybe it would be a good discussion talking about the benefits of increasing the amount of fruits and veggies in your diet, but alas it was nothing of the sort. It was, once again a simplistic, emotional, appeal to not eat meat.

    Image from Mas-Luka on Flickr
    First, let me say that everyone I know involved in livestock production take excellent care of their animals and treat them like members of their own family. Folks like Mike Haley, Jeff Fowle, Ray Prock, and Chris Chinn provide the utmost care for their animals. As a matter of fact, I believe I can speak on their behalf that they feel it is a privilege to raise animals to provide the rest of us with food (and other items I will mention later).

    In case you missed it, Oprah challenged her staff and others to go "vegan." Well I am here to tell you that going vegan is much more complex than just not eating meat or food products from animal agriculture. 

    The Benefit(s) of A Snowpocalypse

    We are getting a fair amount of snow here in Northern Illinois, across the Midwest actually, with still more coming down.
    National Weather Service Data
    It is nothing out of the ordinary to get snow in my neck of the woods. My family and I actually love the snow. Snow sledding, skiing, snowball fights, snowmen, snow forts, and just all around excellent family time.

    Time to Play

    There comes a time when you get enough snow to keep you in the house. We reached that time last night and do not expect to get shoveled out until later this afternoon at the earliest.

    Let's Talk About Soil Baby

    Soil is the most important resource we in agriculture have. There are different classifications of soil, but at the end of the day all farmers are concerned with not only maintaining the soil properties, but also improving them over time. Yes indeed, the farmer is the epitome of conservation. After all, their livelihood depends on it!

    Before digging, no pun intended, into one of the processes to effectively manage soil, I want to be sure we are all working from the page that soil does not equal dirt. They are very different. In its simplest form, soil can sustain life whereas dirt cannot.
    Dirt is more mineral based with pebbles and rocks. Soil is mineral, plant, fungi, and animal based; an ecosystem in and of itself. Without soil, there is no agriculture. Period. So next time you look around at all the dirt in plentiful amounts, remember that it is just dirt, a filler if you will. And while dirt may be plentiful, soil certainly is not. It is precious and finite. We all should do what we can to take care of the wonder that is soil.

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    Agriculture passionado! I lead GeoVantage's Sales, Marketing, and Business Development activities. If you haven't explored the benefit of remote sensing for production agriculture, now is the time! Not one to rest, I am also a part of the Memes Associates team where we focus on assisting large companies in the agriculture space to "re-discover their inner entrepreneur" through the introduction of market disrupting technology(s) and services.  

    Have questions about agriculture and technology in agriculture? Ask away! 

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