The Precision Farming Revolution


Book by James E. Addicott: “This book examines the precision farming revolution in Somerset, England. It reveals the reasons why local farmers invested in autonomous systems and traces the outcomes of adoption. It describes the local and global drivers of the fourth industrial revolution, from world population growth, climatic and ecological crises, profit driven farming and government agri-tech grants, to the Space Race era. A new cultural method of intelligence, ideas and thinking, new organisational and control powers, was precisely what precision farming offered farmers and off-farm firms, who were able to remotely monitor and control natural environments and aspects of on-farm activities. As a result of local farmers opting into precision farming systems the power dynamics of industrial agriculture were reorganised and this book will offer readers an understanding of how and why….(More)”.

GROW Citizens’ Observatory: Leveraging the power of citizens, open data and technology to generate engagement, and action on soil policy and soil moisture monitoring


Paper by M. Woods et al: “Citizens’ Observatories (COs) seek to extend conventional citizen science activities to scale up the potential of citizen sensing for environmental monitoring and creation of open datasets, knowledge and action around environmental issues, both local and global. The GROW CO has connected the planetary dimension of satellites with the hyperlocal context of farmers and their soil. GROW has faced three main interrelated challenges associated with each of the three core audiences of the observatory, namely citizens, scientists and policy makers: one is sustained citizen engagement, quality assurance of citizen-generated data and the challenge to move from data to action in practice and policy. We discuss how each of these challenges were overcome and gave way to the following related project outputs: 1) Contributing to satellite validation and enhancing the collective intelligence of GEOSS 2) Dynamic maps and visualisations for growers, scientists and policy makers 3) Social-technical innovations data art…(More)”.

The weather data gap: How can mobile technology make smallholder farmers climate resilient?


Rishi Raithatha at GSMA: “In the new GSMA AgriTech report, Mobile Technology for Climate Resilience: The role of mobile operators in bridging the data gap, we explore how mobile network operators (MNOs) can play a bigger role in developing and delivering services to strengthen the climate resilience of smallholder farmers. By harnessing their own assets and data, MNOs can improve a broad suite of weather products that are especially relevant for farming communities. These include a variety of weather forecasts (daily, weekly, sub-seasonal and seasonal) and nowcasts, as real-time monitoring and one- to two-hour predictions are often used for Early Warning Systems (EWS) to prevent weather-related disasters. MNOs can also help strengthen the value proposition of other climate products, such as weather index insurance and decision agriculture.

Why do we need more weather data?

Agriculture is highly dependent on regional climates, especially in developing countries where farming is largely rain-fed. Smallholder farmers, who are responsible for the bulk of agricultural production in developing countries, are particularly vulnerable to changing weather patterns – especially given their reliance on natural resources and exclusion from social protection schemes. However, the use of climate adaptation approaches, such as localised weather forecasts and weather index insurance, can enhance smallholder farmers’ ability to withstand the risks posed by climate change and maintain agricultural productivity.

Ground-level measurements are an essential component of climate resilience products; the creation of weather forecasts and nowcasts starts with the analysis of ground, spatial and aerial observations. This involves the use of algorithms, weather models and current and historical observational weather data. Observational instruments, such as radar, weather stations and satellites, are necessary in measuring ground-level weather. However, National Hydrological and Meteorological Services (NHMSs) in developing countries often lack the capacity to generate accurate ground-level measurements beyond a few areas, resulting in gaps in local weather data.

While satellite offers better quality resolution than before, and is more affordable and available to NHMSs, there is a need to complement this data with ground-level measurements. This is especially true in tropical and sub-tropical regions where most smallholder farmers live, where variable local weather patterns can lead to skewed averages from satellite data….(More).”

Digital Media and Wireless Communication in Developing Nations: Agriculture, Education, and the Economic Sector


Book by Megh R. Goyal and Emmanuel Eilu: “… explores how digital media and wireless communication, especially mobile phones and social media platforms, offer concrete opportunities for developing countries to transform different sectors of their economies. The volume focuses on the agricultural, economic, and education sectors. The chapter authors, mostly from Africa and India, provide a wealth of information on recent innovations, the opportunities they provide, challenges faced, and the direction of future research in digital media and wireless communication to leverage transformation in developing countries….(More)”.

How technology can enable a more sustainable agriculture industry


Matt High at CSO:”…The sector also faces considerable pressure in terms of its transparency, largely driven by shifting consumer preferences for responsibly sourced and environmentally-friendly goods. The UK, for example, has seen shoppers transition away from typical agricultural commodities towards ‘free-from’ or alternative options that combine health, sustainability and quality.

It means that farmers worldwide must work harder and smarter in embedding corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices into their operations. Davis, who through Anthesis delivers financially driven sustainability strategies, strongly believes that sustainability is no longer a choice. “The agricultural sector is intrinsic to a wide range of global systems, societies and economies,” he says, adding that those organisations that do not embed sustainability best practice into their supply chains will face “increasing risk of price volatility, security of supply, commodity shortages, fraud and uncertainty.” To counter this, he urges businesses to develop CSR founded on a core set of principles that enable sustainable practices to be successfully adopted at a pace and scale that mitigates those risks discussed.

Data is proving a particularly useful tool in this regard. Take the Cool Farm Tool, for example, which is a global, free-to-access online greenhouse gas (GHG), water and biodiversity footprint calculator used by farmers in more than 115 countries worldwide to enable effective management of critical on-farm sustainability challenges. Member organisations such as Pepsi, Tesco and Danone aggregate their supply chain data to report total agricultural footprint against key sustainability metrics – outputs from which are used to share knowledge and best practice on carbon and water reductions strategies….(More)”.

Study finds that a GPS outage would cost $1 billion per day


Eric Berger at Ars Technica: “….one of the most comprehensive studies on the subject has assessed the value of this GPS technology to the US economy and examined what effect a 30-day outage would have—whether it’s due to a severe space weather event or “nefarious activity by a bad actor.” The study was sponsored by the US government’s National Institutes of Standards and Technology and performed by a North Carolina-based research organization named RTI International.

Economic effect

As part of the analysis, researchers spoke to more than 200 experts in the use of GPS technology for various services, from agriculture to the positioning of offshore drilling rigs to location services for delivery drivers. (If they’d spoken to me, I’d have said the value of using GPS to navigate Los Angeles freeways and side streets was incalculable). The study covered a period from 1984, when the nascent GPS network was first opened to commercial use, through 2017. It found that GPS has generated an estimated $1.4 trillion in economic benefits during that time period.

The researchers found that the largest benefit, valued at $685.9 billion, came in the “telecommunications” category,  including improved reliability and bandwidth utilization for wireless networks. Telematics (efficiency gains, cost reductions, and environmental benefits through improved vehicle dispatch and navigation) ranked as the second most valuable category at $325 billion. Location-based services on smartphones was third, valued at $215 billion.

Notably, the value of GPS technology to the US economy is growing. According to the study, 90 percent of the technology’s financial impact has come since just 2010, or just 20 percent of the study period. Some sectors of the economy are only beginning to realize the value of GPS technology, or are identifying new uses for it, the report says, indicating that its value as a platform for innovation will continue to grow.

Outage impact

In the case of some adverse event leading to a widespread outage, the study estimates that the loss of GPS service would have a $1 billion per-day impact, although the authors acknowledge this is at best a rough estimate. It would likely be higher during the planting season of April and May, when farmers are highly reliant on GPS technology for information about their fields.

To assess the effect of an outage, the study looked at several different variables. Among them was “precision timing” that enables a number of wireless services, including the synchronization of traffic between carrier networks, wireless handoff between base stations, and billing management. Moreover, higher levels of precision timing enable higher bandwidth and provide access to more devices. (For example, the implementation of 4G LTE technology would have been impossible without GPS technology)….(More)”

Can we nudge farmers into saving water? Evidence from a randomised experiment


Paper by Sylvain Chabé-Ferret, Philippe Le Coent, Arnaud Reynaud, Julie Subervie and Daniel Lepercq: “We test whether social comparison nudges can promote water-saving behaviour among farmers as a complement to traditional CAP measures. We conducted a randomised controlled trial among 200 farmers equipped with irrigation smart meters in South-West France. Treated farmers received weekly information on individual and group water consumption over four months. Our results rule out medium to large effect-sizes of the nudge. Moreover, they suggest that the nudge was effective at reducing the consumption of those who irrigate the most, although it appears to have reduced the proportion of those who do not consume water at all….(More)”.

IBM aims to use crowdsourced sensor data to improve local weather forecasting globally


Larry Dignan at ZDN: “IBM is hoping that mobile barometric sensors from individuals opting in, supercomputing ,and the Internet of Things can make weather forecasting more local globally.

Big Blue, which owns The Weather Company, will outline the IBM Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF). GRAF incorporates IoT data in its weather models via crowdsourcing.

While hyper local weather forecasts are available in the US, Japan, and some parts of Western Europe, many regions in the world lack an accurate picture of weather.

Mary Glackin, senior vice president of The Weather Company, said the company is “trying to fill in the blanks.” She added, “In a place like India, weather stations are kilometers away. We think this can be as significant as bringing satellite data into models.”

For instance, the developing world gets forecasts based on global data that are updated every 6 hours and resolutions at 10km to 15km. By using GRAF, IBM said it can offer forecasts for the day ahead that are updated hourly on average and have a 3km resolution….(More)”.

Seven design principles for using blockchain for social impact


Stefaan Verhulst at Apolitical: “2018 will probably be remembered as the bust of the blockchain hype. Yet even as crypto currencies continue to sink in value and popular interest, the potential of using blockchain technologies to achieve social ends remains important to consider but poorly understood.

In 2019, business will continue to explore blockchain for sectors as disparate as finance, agriculture, logistics and healthcare. Policymakers and social innovators should also leverage 2019 to become more sophisticated about blockchain’s real promise, limitations  and current practice.

In a recent report I prepared with Andrew Young, with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, we looked at the potential risks and challenges of using blockchain for social change — or “Blockchan.ge.” A number of implementations and platforms are already demonstrating potential social impact.

The technology is now being used to address issues as varied as homelessness in New York City, the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and government corruption around the world.

In an illustration of the breadth of current experimentation, Stanford’s Center for Social Innovation recently analysed and mapped nearly 200 organisations and projects trying to create positive social change using blockchain. Likewise, the GovLab is developing a mapping of blockchange implementations across regions and topic areas; it currently contains 60 entries.

All these examples provide impressive — and hopeful — proof of concept. Yet despite the very clear potential of blockchain, there has been little systematic analysis. For what types of social impact is it best suited? Under what conditions is it most likely to lead to real social change? What challenges does blockchain face, what risks does it pose and how should these be confronted and mitigated?

These are just some of the questions our report, which builds its analysis on 10 case studies assembled through original research, seeks to address.

While the report is focused on identity management, it contains a number of lessons and insights that are applicable more generally to the subject of blockchange.

In particular, it contains seven design principles that can guide individuals or organisations considering the use of blockchain for social impact. We call these the Genesis principles, and they are outlined at the end of this article…(More)”.

Blockchain systems are tracking food safety and origins


Nir Kshetri at The Conversation: “When a Chinese consumer buys a package labeled “Australian beef,” there’s only a 50-50 chance the meat inside is, in fact, Australian beef. It could just as easily contain rat, dog, horse or camel meat – or a mixture of them all. It’s gross and dangerous, but also costly.

Fraud in the global food industry is a multi-billion-dollar problem that has lingered for years, duping consumers and even making them ill. Food manufacturers around the world are concerned – as many as 39 percent of them are worried that their products could be easily counterfeited, and 40 percent say food fraud is hard to detect.

In researching blockchain for more than three years, I have become convinced that this technology’s potential to prevent fraud and strengthen security could fight agricultural fraud and improve food safety. Many companies agree, and are already running various tests, including tracking wine from grape to bottle and even following individual coffee beans through international trade.

Tracing food items

An early trial of a blockchain system to track food from farm to consumer was in 2016, when Walmart collected information about pork being raised in China, where consumers are rightly skeptical about sellers’ claims of what their food is and where it’s from. Employees at a pork farm scanned images of farm inspection reports and livestock health certificates, storing them in a secure online database where the records could not be deleted or modified – only added to.

As the animals moved from farm to slaughter to processing, packaging and then to stores, the drivers of the freight trucks played a key role. At each step, they would collect documents detailing the shipment, storage temperature and other inspections and safety reports, and official stamps as authorities reviewed them – just as they did normally. In Walmart’s test, however, the drivers would photograph those documents and upload them to the blockchain-based database. The company controlled the computers running the database, but government agencies’ systems could also be involved, to further ensure data integrity.

As the pork was packaged for sale, a sticker was put on each container, displaying a smartphone-readable code that would link to that meat’s record on the blockchain. Consumers could scan the code right in the store and assure themselves that they were buying exactly what they thought they were. More recent advances in the technology of the stickers themselves have made them more secure and counterfeitresistant.

Walmart did similar tests on mangoes imported to the U.S. from Latin America. The company found that it took only 2.2 seconds for consumers to find out an individual fruit’s weight, variety, growing location, time it was harvested, date it passed through U.S. customs, when and where it was sliced, which cold-storage facility the sliced mango was held in and for how long it waited before being delivered to a store….(More)”.