How IoT is being used for Australian agriculture in 2019

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CSIRO’s Vertebrate Pest Detect-and-Deter (VPDaD) device

The development of IoT for agriculture is still in its early stages, but it looks promising as more farmers are putting these technologies to work.

Australian agriculture has historically been defined by long droughts and irregular rainfall. For farmers, these harsh conditions leave small margins for error, meaning that gruelling work on the paddock does not necessarily translate to healthy stock or strong crop harvests.

One way that farmers have adapted to these conditions is the use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors. But in comparison to other sectors, farmers have been slow to adopt these technologies due to concerns surrounding the cost of implementation and ongoing service—particularly when there is no immediate value received for certain IoT technologies, which can sometimes take several years of accumulating data before it shows its value.

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You call that meat? Not so fast, cattle ranchers say

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Sales of plant-based meat substitutes, like this burger made by Impossible Foods, increased 22 percent to $1.5 billion last year.

SAN FRANCISCO — The cattle ranchers and farm bureaus of America are not going to give up their hold on the word meat without a fight.

In recent weeks, beef and farming industry groups have persuaded legislators in more than a dozen states to introduce laws that would make it illegal to use the word meat to describe burgers and sausages that are created from plant-based ingredients or are grown in labs. Just this week, new meat-labeling bills were introduced in Arizona and Arkansas.

These meat alternatives may look and taste and even bleed like meat, but cattle ranchers want to make sure that the new competition can’t use the meat label.

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IBM researchers predict 5 innovations will change our lives in 5 years

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IBM Research has a long history of inventing the future, so the big tech company’s researchers take their predictions seriously. Today they are revealing their annual “5 in 5” predictions, which detail five innovations that will change our lives in the next five years.

IBM will talk about the predictions at its Think 2019 event in San Francisco on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Pacific time.

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Scientists engineer shortcut for photosynthetic glitch, boost crop growth by 40 percent

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Aerial view of the 2017 field trials where scientists studied how well their plants modified to shortcut photorespiration performed beside unmodified plants in real-world conditions. They found that plants engineered with a synthetic shortcut are about 40 percent more productive. Credit: James Baltz/College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

Plants convert sunlight into energy through photosynthesis; however, most crops on the planet are plagued by a photosynthetic glitch, and to deal with it, evolved an energy-expensive process called photorespiration that drastically suppresses their yield potential. Researchers from the University of Illinois and U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service report in the journal Science that crops engineered with a photorespiratory shortcut are 40 percent more productive in real-world agronomic conditions.

“We could feed up to 200 million additional people with the calories lost to photorespiration in the Midwestern U.S. each year,” said principal investigator Donald Ort, the Robert Emerson Professor of Plant Science and Crop Sciences at Illinois’ Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. “Reclaiming even a portion of these calories across the world would go a long way to meeting the 21st Century’s rapidly expanding food demands—driven by population growth and more affluent high-calorie diets.”

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Some of the biggest livestreamers in China are not teenagers, but farmers

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When most people think about countryside life, they envision plowing fields, feeding farm animals, and other grueling work. But China is seeing a new type of farm work becoming popular: livestreaming.

Yes, farmers livestreaming their work has become a hit in China – so much so that one of the country’s biggest ecommerce platforms has set up a special program to train them. Alibaba has announced that it’s planning a special poverty alleviation program for Taobao sellers in the countryside, including incubating 1,000 farmer livestreamers.

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Chinese PhDs and MBAs give up city life for farming, driven by desire to improve agriculture and livelihoods

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  • Millions of educated Chinese have left cities to become farmers, inspired to change agriculture or disenchanted with the pressures of urban life
  • They practise organic farming and water conservation, hoping to set an example for fellow farmers, and revive traditional technique

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With Personal Food Computers, nerd farmers are finding the best way to grow

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I’m Caleb Harper, principal investigator and director of the Open Agriculture initiative at the MIT Media Lab. Kent Larson courtesy of MIT Media Lab

In his book Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, Barry Estabrook details how grocery store tomatoes are both less nutritious and delicious than those grown decades ago. Industrial farming now grows crops for yield, sacrificing taste and vitamins for an easy-to-harvest, shippable product. It’s why apples at your local supermarket are probably about a year old. Caleb Harper, a principal research scientist at MIT and director of the OpenAg Initiative, wants to use technology to grow food that’s healthier, tastier, and more sustainable.

“Growing for nutrition and growing for flavor, it’s not really something anyone does,” he told Digital Trends at the recent ReThink Food conference in Napa, California.

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Millennials are disrupting Thanksgiving with their tiny turkeys

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Millennials kill again. The latest victim? Big Thanksgiving turkeys.

Tiny turkeys are gaining popularity.

Small birds are having a big moment. Tiny turkeys will increasingly grace Thanksgiving tables next week, thanks to the millennial generation’s ongoing campaign to remake American gastronomy. The holiday depicted by Norman Rockwell-Grandma showing off a cooked bird so plump it weighs down a banquet plate-is still common. But smaller families, growing guilt over wasteful leftovers and a preference for free-range fowl have all played roles in the emergence of petite poultry as a holiday dinner centerpiece.

“People are starting to understand it’s not natural to grow turkeys up to 30 pounds,” said Ariane Daguin, co-founder and owner of D’Artagnan, a wholesale and e-commerce food company in Union, New Jersey. “In general, that means they were penned up with no room to move around, and that’s why they’re fat like that.”

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Next generation of biotech food heading for grocery stores

WASHINGTON (AP) — The next generation of biotech food is headed for the grocery aisles, and first up may be salad dressings or granola bars made with soybean oil genetically tweaked to be good for your heart.

By early next year, the first foods from plants or animals that had their DNA “edited” are expected to begin selling. It’s a different technology than today’s controversial “genetically modified” foods, more like faster breeding that promises to boost nutrition, spur crop growth, and make farm animals hardier and fruits and vegetables last longer.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has declared gene editing one of the breakthroughs needed to improve food production so the world can feed billions more people amid a changing climate. Yet governments are wrestling with how to regulate this powerful new tool. And after years of confusion and rancor, will shoppers accept gene-edited foods or view them as GMOs in disguise?

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How small robots may kill the tractor and make farming efficient

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The Bristol-based Small Robot Company has created a series of agile robots for farming. By being customisable they could help to replace the tractor

Agriculture has a reputation of being stuck in the past. In reality, for farmers, their workplaces are a fertile testbed for innovative technology – they were among the first to embrace commercial drone use, and autonomous vehicles that could work effectively (and safely) in confined areas of farmland. Among the latest developments in agri-tech are small, farming robots that can improve crop yield and reduce farming’s impact on the environment.

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Inside Silicon Valley’s newest, most autonomous farm yet

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Iron Ox’s robots are currently planting, growing, and harvesting lettuce in a California warehouse.

Inside Silicon Valley’s newest, most autonomous farm yet

Inside a former commercial warehouse in San Carlos, California, a robotic arm is carefully transplanting tiny sorrel plants from one large tray to another. In another corner of the room, a larger robot sits ready to carry other trays–filled with romaine lettuce, bok choy, cilantro, and more than two dozen other types of greens–over to the robotic arm. At the moment, there are no people in the room: This is the headquarters of Iron Ox, which bills itself as the world’s first fully autonomous farm.

“We designed the entire process, from the beginning, around robotics,” says Iron Ox co-founder and CEO Brandon Alexander, who previously worked at X, Alphabet’s so-called moonshot factory, and the robotics lab Willow Garage. “It required us pretty much going back to the drawing board to see what we could do if robots were in the loop.”

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