Prepare for Takeoff of Horticultural Technology [Opinion]

Over these past several years, I have to confess I’ve been a little disappointed with developments in agricultural technology. The iPhone was introduced a decade ago, and there have been several idea balloons launched in the intervening years, all full of wonderful promise. Most popped.

Precision Ag Vision Conference adLike a lot of you, I’d eagerly attend events like the World Ag Expo, looking to find the latest developments in technology. Sure, there have been some great products. But each year, company reps would talk about the promise of breakthroughs. “Call me during the (coming growing) season,” they’d say, offering to give me the names of progressive growers using the new technology so I could talk to them.

Those calls, as you might surmise, we’re never satisfactorily answered. Could be some of the growers just didn’t want to talk, which I can certainly understand. But judging by the fact that these breakthrough products never made it to market, I think most just never made it off the drawing board.

Not any more. We have come upon a new day in the world of agricultural technology. Why has this occurred? I was recently in Silicon Valley, visiting Blue River Technology, where CEO Jorge Heraud, who used to be with Trimble, told me it’s a combination of two key developments.

First, you’ve probably heard of Moore’s Law, that computing power increases at a geometric rate, and we’ve reached the point where engineers can put a tremendous amount of computing power onto a device in the field.

Second, artificial intelligence, also referred to as machine learning, has become a reality. You know what I’m talking about if you read our February cover story on Deep Sky Vineyard. This coming season, the growers are going to let their artificial intelligence platform make all their
day-to-day decisions for irrigation.

In Blue River’s case, they have combined these two developments into a machine pulled by a tractor that can distinguish between weeds and a crop such as lettuce plants, precisely zapping each weed with a potent herbicide.

That same week in the Silicon Valley I attended a forum, THRIVE, highlighting agricultural — with an emphasis on horticultural — technology. There, the CEO of a company called Soft Robotics talked about an exciting development: a robotic hand that can pick fruit. It’s no small feat to duplicate the human hand, said Carl Vause.

He showed video of a robotic dexterous hand gentle enough to pick cherry tomatoes — at lightning speed. Pair that with the fact the cost of robotics is dropping, and the long sought-after robotic harvester really is coming soon.

Other reasons I expect hort tech developments are coming fast and furious? At that same forum, the chiefs of two huge produce operations, Bruce Taylor of Taylor Farms and Kevin Murphy of Driscoll’s Berries, shared several nuggets I tweeted out (@dave_wfg_avg), meaning the wording is mine.

Taylor: “Developing hyperspectral images showing downy mildew 2 days before it’s visible to human eye. Can save whole fields.”

Murphy: “Berries will be grown very differently in 10 years. Light bulb wasn’t invented by incremental improvements to candle.”

Think about that last statement for a minute. HortTech is about to take off, not gradually going faster down the runway, but at warp speed. Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a fantastic voyage.

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

Fruits Stories
Farm Management
July 25, 2017
Grants Allocated to Tackle Changing Climate in Fruit, Vegetable Production
Projects designed to develop new approaches to mitigate effects of changing growing environment. Read More
Farm Management
July 24, 2017
American Farm Bureau Weighs in for Grower in Clean Water Act Suit
John Duarte, the owner of Duarte Nursery, one of the largest grapevine and nut tree suppliers on the West Coast, recently gained Read More
Disease Control
July 24, 2017
Researchers Find Detection Method for Crown Gall Disease
Oregon State University researchers developed molecular tools to work with commercially available kits that allow the user to quickly and effectively test plants for the disease, using a dipstick that reveals the presence of the pathogen within minutes. Read More
Citrus
July 23, 2017
USDA Invests $7.6 Million toward Beneficial Insect Research
Projects to promote beneficial organisms as part of a pest control strategy. Read More
Citrus
July 22, 2017
Representative from Washington Proposes Amendment to H-2A Program
Move broadens use of H-2A to all of agriculture to include those with multiple crops and harvests. Read More
Hurricane Matthew satellite image as it brushed past Florida
Citrus
July 20, 2017
Atlantic Hurricane Forecast Taken Up a Notch
Current conditions in the tropics warrant marked revision in potential storm season scenarios. Read More
Sunset on Florida potato field day
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Researchers On a Mission to Find More Places for Growing Produce
Federal grant to aid exploration of food security solutions for the future. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Farm Labor Stories Making the News This Week
The agricultural labor shortage is strong enough that the consumer press is beginning to report on it regularly. Here are the stories making headlines this month. Read More
farm hacks collage
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Florida Grower Magazine is Seeking Your Farm Hacks
Life hacks are common in social media threads these days. They are those clever ideas or tricks aimed at making Read More
Fruits
July 14, 2017
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Predator Egg Mass Found
Samuri wasp parasitized egg mass found in Southern New Jersey peach orchard. Read More
Rain drops on leaf
Citrus
July 14, 2017
Everglades Agricultural Area Farmers Winning at Water Quality
Annual report shows use of best management practices results in another massive reduction in phosphorus flow. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
The Road is Long to Farm Bill 2018 [Opinion]
Participation in this process will be crucial to ensure your needs are understood and addressed. Read More
2015 FFVA Annual Convention crowd
Citrus
July 13, 2017
Trade Talk to Top Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association Convention Agenda
Trade issues are top of mind these days for specialty crop producers. Efforts have been underway since early this year Read More
Beet-armyworms-on-a-tomato-plant
Citrus
July 12, 2017
Tomato Pests Can Be Induced to Cannibalism, New Study Shows
The University of Wisconsin's John Orrock says when beet armyworms are exposed to concentrations of methyl jasmonate, they will abandon eating tomatoes — and start eating one another. Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
USDA Pulls 8 Products from Approved Organic Production List
After a few months of speculation, the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has published its Sunset 2017 final rule on approved products for organic production and handling. Read More
The Latest
Fruits
July 25, 2017
Michigan’s a Hit with Tree Fruit Growers
International Fruit Tree Association’s annual summer tour draws nearly 250 attendees. Read More
Farm Management
July 25, 2017
Grants Allocated to Tackle Changing Clim…
Projects designed to develop new approaches to mitigate effects of changing growing environment. Read More
Farm Management
July 24, 2017
American Farm Bureau Weighs in for Growe…
John Duarte, the owner of Duarte Nursery, one of the largest grapevine and nut tree suppliers on the West Coast, recently gained Read More
Disease Control
July 24, 2017
Researchers Find Detection Method for Cr…
Oregon State University researchers developed molecular tools to work with commercially available kits that allow the user to quickly and effectively test plants for the disease, using a dipstick that reveals the presence of the pathogen within minutes. Read More
Citrus
July 23, 2017
USDA Invests $7.6 Million toward Benefic…
Projects to promote beneficial organisms as part of a pest control strategy. Read More
Citrus
July 22, 2017
Representative from Washington Proposes …
Move broadens use of H-2A to all of agriculture to include those with multiple crops and harvests. Read More
Citrus
July 20, 2017
Atlantic Hurricane Forecast Taken Up a N…
Current conditions in the tropics warrant marked revision in potential storm season scenarios. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Researchers On a Mission to Find More Pl…
Federal grant to aid exploration of food security solutions for the future. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Farm Labor Stories Making the News This …
The agricultural labor shortage is strong enough that the consumer press is beginning to report on it regularly. Here are the stories making headlines this month. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Florida Grower Magazine is Seeking Your …
Life hacks are common in social media threads these days. They are those clever ideas or tricks aimed at making Read More
Fruits
July 14, 2017
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Predator Egg …
Samuri wasp parasitized egg mass found in Southern New Jersey peach orchard. Read More
Citrus
July 14, 2017
Everglades Agricultural Area Farmers Win…
Annual report shows use of best management practices results in another massive reduction in phosphorus flow. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
The Road is Long to Farm Bill 2018 [Opin…
Participation in this process will be crucial to ensure your needs are understood and addressed. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
Trade Talk to Top Florida Fruit & Ve…
Trade issues are top of mind these days for specialty crop producers. Efforts have been underway since early this year Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
Tomato Pests Can Be Induced to Cannibali…
The University of Wisconsin's John Orrock says when beet armyworms are exposed to concentrations of methyl jasmonate, they will abandon eating tomatoes — and start eating one another. Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
USDA Pulls 8 Products from Approved Orga…
After a few months of speculation, the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has published its Sunset 2017 final rule on approved products for organic production and handling. Read More
Fruits
July 12, 2017
How to Deal with Annoying Fungus Gnats o…
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this insect pest. Read More
Business Planning
July 11, 2017
Young Florida Farmers Ready to Take the …
As growers age, the next generation is stepping up and stepping into leadership roles on the farm. Read More