Pure Ingenuity

One of my favorite words in the world is ingenuity. It’s my go to definition for people in agriculture who not only solve their problems but do so with a curiousity and a flair that most people do not have.This attitude could be compared to that of an architect or an inventor who takes functionality, visual impact, sustainability and usuability, merging them all into one.

Using future technologies or even creating unique methods and techniques is now a common trend. Not only do the ingenious people of agriculture create or produce great products for consumption but their work also inspires others of all ages to create  as well. We all need some inspiration sometimes, you just have to know where to look.

Furniture Farming

This BBC Report introduces us to Gavin Munroe, “the man who grows fields full of tables and chairs”. Taking his experiences as a child of having to straighten his spine and the odd growth of a bonsai tree, along with his exceptionally high level of patience (granted his designs take six years to grow), Gavin transformed this combination of factors into something that is creative, fufilling and profitable.

Funiture farming

Phot Credit: Creator’s project of Vice News

Instead of growing trees to the best production size, choping them down, cutting them into smaller pieces and then putting it back together, Gavin grows the trees directly into the shape that is needed: It’s wood making redefined.

Underwater Gardening

Nemo’s Garden is an ongoing project of the group, Ocean Reef, who have for quite sometime been growing crops underwater! They have developed an underwater greenhouse which have grown crops such as basil, lettuce, strawberries and beans. President of Ocean Reef, Sergio Gamberini recognized that the ocean provides the perfect environment for plants to grow as they need constant temperature, water, light, protection from parasites, pests and changing weather patterns.

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Prelude: Producers on the ‘Innocentive’

Prelude - Producers on the Innocentive

InnoCentive is a Massachusetts-based open innovation company that accepts by commission research and development problems in a broad range of domains such as engineering, computer science, math, chemistry, life sciences, physical sciences and business and frames them as “challenge problems” for anyone to solve. It gives cash awards for the best solutions to solvers who meet the challenge criteria. – Wikipedia 2014

Through the provision of their service the business helps clients to engage a world of creative and diverse on-demand talent to rapidly generate novel ideas and solve important problems. Rather than crowd-source funding for a particular project, the company outsources progressive minds with problem solving capabilities in order to meet the complex challenges of other clients.

Simply ingenious.

However tech4agri is yet to reach this stage of innovation. At this point our interest lies in the term “Innocentive” – an amalgamation of the words innovation and incentive.

This post is a prelude to a four part series on food producers from Trinidad and Tobago who are going the extra mile in their business or agri sector. These producers clearly understand that technology use leads to progress.

Although they may face challenges such as high investment or set up costs, maintenance issues and unpredictable markets these producers forge ahead and delve into the technologies that take their business to the next level of success.

Their incentive is not only to make an income and a livelihood but to see forward development of the local food sector.

The aim of this series is to dispel the notion that local or rather Caribbean agriculture is ‘backward.’ It is common place for the public to shun the sector due to negative perceptions such as extreme physical labor and an overall difficult lifestyle.

There is some truth to this as the Caribbean is a developing region with numerous small holder farmers facing problems that are far too numerous, systemic and tiresome to tell.

However without these small scale producers, food, our basic necessity would be difficult to come by. Hence the food producers featured in this series prove that progress and development of the sector can and is occurring.

They serve as a clear example of the prowess of technological application to the sector.

Over the next few weeks follow the series. Share, comment and tweet (@wiscobasco) examples of technological application in agriculture of any kind. Your opinions and comments are welcomed!

Visit tech4agri on facebook to view the prelude album: Producers on the ‘Innocentive’ Those images highlight aspects of the tech4agri blog such as agriyouth and agribusiness as well as some ‘honorable mentions’ of thoughtful stakeholders in the field who are applying technology were they can.

Welcome back!

The new year is well on its way. With it comes new technology and innovation geared towards the many problems producers and other stakeholders face in agricultural production. Some of them are meant to improve entire industries while others simply seek to improve the lives of consumers. Each technology or method currently under research and development is astounding in its own right and will pave the way for the progress of the overall agricultural sector. Let’s take a look at some new innovations for 2014:

Biochar from Biomass:

By now  many of us have heard of bio energy which is renewable energy made available from materials derived from biological sources. According to the website Wikipedia.com, “biomass is any organic material which has stored sunlight in the form of chemical energy. As a fuel it may include wood, wood waste, straw, manure, sugarcane, and many other byproducts from a variety of agricultural processes”

The Cool Planet  organization has created a patented two-part mechanical and chemical process  which converts biomass into both carbon negative drop-in gasoline and biochar. This clean renewable fuel can be distributed and used in today’s vehicles with no change to existing infrastructure. The biochar, when placed in the ground as a soil enhancer, removes CO2 from the atmosphere while improving the soil for agricultural use.

Later this month we’ll learn more of biochar from a young Belgian agri-entrepeneur who utilizes biochar in her business endeavors.

A diagram depicting how Film Farming works Source: Agricel.com

A diagram depicting how Film Farming works
Source: Agricel.com

Film Farming: Here in the Caribbean many of us are aware of plastic mulch used to suppress weeds, conserve water and sometimes to reduce disease. There is no better case of science providing an improvement that Film Farming.  According to its creators Agricel this is “a technology in which plants are cultivated on a hydromembrane composed of water-soluble polymer and hydrogel. This hydromembrane absorbs water and nutrients from the culture medium, and does not release any to the plant side.  Accordingly, the plant develops a lot of fine and dense roots closely attached to the hydromembrane surface to absorb water and nutrients.”

This technology saves 90% of water consumption, Uses 80% less fertilizer, protects crops from diseases via pathogens as bacteria and viruses cannot penetrate the membrane material, its low cost and it allows the plant to produce many nutrients. An interesting technology it is.

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The Thought for Food Summit – Truly Motivating!

TFFChallengeWow! This is all I had to say about the Thought for Food Global Summit! Truly a different experience. Each aspect of the competition leading up to the Summit, held, 20- 22 September in Berlin, was geared towards young people. 97% of the attendees were all under 35 years. Emphasis was placed on idea sharing, thinking outside of the box, starting a movement, networking  and much more all geared the need towards uprooting the status quo (#uprootthestatusquo) as it relates to hunger, obesity, global food systems and food security. Attendees were able to meet with and learn immensely from experts and real world practitioners in agriculture, innovation, entrepreneurship, venture capital, public policy, and food science of the future.

(Click the picture link to the left for the #TFFChallenge Overview)

“Thought For Food inspires new ideas and bold approaches to tackle the world’s food issues. This is a wake up call. The world’s food system needs changing, and business as usual won’t cut it. We need new thinking, inspired solutions and urgent action to make a difference. That’s why we have created Thought for Food.”

In just two days, myself and other team members have learned so much. Our minds have literally been opened in terms of thinking not only about food issues but our personal approach to the situation. Not to mention the sheer number of  dedicated, young people, entrepreneurs, researchers and travelers from all around the world looking to make a difference in one way or other.

Photos by Tobias Jaeger - Thought for Food Challenge Organizing Team and Luke Smith of Lukesmithtv

Photos by Tobias Jaeger – Thought for Food Challenge Organizing Team and Luke Smith of Lukesmithtv

An example of an agricultural landscape/enviroment Source: www.iucn.org

An example of an agricultural landscape/environment
Source: http://www.iucn.org

Examining the topic of the week a little differently, let’s take a brief look at various land management techniques; your feedback is needed. What type of land management practices occur in your country or in your region of the world? Is it simple and decentralized or complex and heavily regulated?

How do other factors such as climate change, biodiversity conservation and the sustainable maintenance of natural resources affect agricultural practices in your local sector?

A recent project held on Union Island of the Caribbean region, by several partners including the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) focused on Participatory 3D mapping (P3DM).

” This is a community-based mapping method which integrates local spatial knowledge with data on elevation of the land and depth of the sea to produce stand-alone, scaled and geo-referenced relief models.”

It is a 3D map made by using simple materials to create a model of the island’s resources. Understanding the environment of the island and the factors which affect it assists in creating and executing action plans to maintain its existing resources.

On this tiny island which is a part of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines, climate change has been affecting the coastal resources of the island which severly affect the fishing communities of area. Agriculture has become undesirable as an income generating sector while tourism, a big earner for many, has its own issues in terms of unequal income distribution, poor development and limited contribution to the economy due to seasonality.

Regardless through the participatory approach stakeholders including the islanders themselves have changed their land and natural resource management strategy in order to benefit all. This video highlights the programme and provides feedback from the participants. – Beneath the Surface: Mapping Union Island

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Discover Rural Renewable Energy!

NaRural energy

NaRural Energy, online community based in Spain, with members from all over the world. Join the community find the most suitable rural renewable energy for your agri enterprise

Some time ago, via twitterI met Albert Campi creator of the blog Renewable Energy for Farmers based in Spain, Barcelona. His work on sustainable energies in agriculture and food processing seem boundless. Via the continued improvement and updates of the blog, Albert has started NaRural Energy an online website and community that links farmers and professional energy engineers.

Would solar panes work best with your poultry enterprise or would a bio-gas system be most suitable to a livestock farm? This week tech4agri takes a brief look at NaRural energy. Visit their website to have the answer to these and many other related questions. Click the picture link above for  the video interview!

Also don’t forget to join technology4agri on facebook