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At the moment there are still slots open in Palo Alto for the upcoming event, register now. So ok now to the good stuff!

I blogged earlier about what to expect and about making a solution.

This year we chose an ambitious and difficult theme, Agriculture. Granted there are many aspects of this topic and we of course have left the floor open for all of you to bring your own ideas on what to build, we certainly don’t want to paint you into a corner so to speak. We want you to have a wide range of aspects to look at here, whether it’s the drought in California or looking at other environmental factors that could and do effect this industry.

For us we want to see how broad, wide and crazy you can all get with data, software and hardware around the theme and what you can come up with!

To get you into the right mindset and to give you some links to get those creative juices flowing I did some searches for data available online around the topic – this is by no means all of the data and you are of course welcome to use any data you have access to (remember the legal side too please).

Just looking at data and reading about things in the news my own thoughts drift to the Amish (I even made “Amish White Bread” last night, that’s what it’s called anyway) and what they are doing around organic farming these days.

Zook: Well, there was a big psychological block that I had to get through. I’d see a couple bugs out there and feel like I immediately had to do something about it. But, I learned that if I sit back, things will often take care of themselves. That first summer for instance, we saw a lot of horn worms. Before that, I would have sprayed them right away, but this time I waited and a bunch of wasps came along and killed them. Once I saw that, I started getting really excited.

I started to think wow how cool would it be if we could track pest infestations, weather patterns and associate that with farming land? What if I took the idea from the Kenyan teenager who found a way to help stop poaching and adapted it to something smaller than “people”?

Or being able to map all the farming in an area to help determine what crops may be the most profitable for a farmer, granted I am not a farmer but I could imagine it would be no good if everyone grew the same things?

Or when you hear what farmers are doing in Louisiana? They are wanting to use drones to check water irrigation!! How many other locations could benefit from similar technologies and use of technologies?

Or maybe something more back to home, like how difficult my own small balcony table top garden is considering my travel schedule or teaching the kids about this stuff?

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5 Comments

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  1. Oliver Jaegle

    Hi Craig,

    thanks for providing that collection and inspiration! I’ll be participating – for the first time – in InnoJam Berlin. And honestly, I have no clue how I’m gonna contribute or how to prepare. Particularly how to get into the right mindset for the topic (apart from all the technological aspects, of course). Your post widened my scope what might be of interest.

    I was initially thinking of the area of viniculture. Wine-making is a huge business as well as challenging with respect to environmental factors. Also, the current generation of winemakers is changing a lot with respect to how to cultivate and improve particularly on quality – not on quantity.

    Yesterday, I was talking to a friend of mine (who is a winemaker in the Mosel-region) about which data is important to him, what it influences and how he currently makes his decisions (e. g. on when to apply which treatment). And I was quite disillusioned. What matters to him – of course – is not only to know what could be better, but he also needs to be able to actually take action. And this is not that easy. E. g. you can start irrigation (which is useful in some areas), but you can’t stop whether from raining if there’s too much water. Also, weather still is the hardest thing to predict and the most influencing factor for agriculture (unless you’re all under glass). E. g. this spring was very dry. He even thought of cutting grapes in order to have the remaining quantity develop well. Just one week later, it started raining a lot and now, as harvest is over, they had a lot of trouble with grapes which were destroyed as they contained too much water. Luckily he did not cut in dry spring.

    When thinking of instructions on how and when to apply which insecticide, he pointed me to a portal which gives advice to farmes and winemakers in the Rhineland-palatinate: at dlr.rlp.de (only in German), you can find lots of statistical data (sadly in already aggregated form) including advice based on this data. E. g. you can find information on when the risk of infection with the most important diseases is high. For him, this portal provides a great service and improved efficiency during the past years.

    For this, shows not only that there are other smart developers already in the field (what a surprise), but additional details of the challenge to find a proper usecase. In order to really unleash the power of individual sensors, the following criteria should be fulfilled:

    • There needs to be a clear dependency of the subject on the data which can be collected. Too many factors to be considered will result in much complex models which limit trust in the action proposed.
    • Proper action needs to be possible. It does not help telling a farmer “soil’s currently too wet” if he can’t change it.
    • The individual situation shall be a differentiating factor. Otherwise, there’s no use in setting up individual sensors, but a generally available data source can be used.
    • In order to unleash the power of real-time analytics, there shall be a need for a short-term-reaction. If we the level of detail of the information is a day, we don’t need to be able to aggregate billions of records sub-second.

    Damn, it’s not that easy. Hope you guys bring good ideas as well 😉

    Cheers,

    Oliver

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    1. Martin Fischer

      Hi,

      unfortunately I’m not going to join InnoJam. But I really like the topic. This might be because of my roots 😉

      I agree with Oliver, weather is to extend unpredictable, especially on long term perspective. Things which seems to be the right action in spring can ruin the whole crop till it’s time for harvest.

      So in my opinion another area of agriculture seems much more relying on data: animal breeding or dairy farming. It’s much easier to measure the composition of ingredients of animal’s food and check if they correlate with the quality of meat or milk. As in up-to-date cowsheds, the computer controls the amount of food and the milking robot analysis the quality of milk there might be the needed sensors already in place.

      I recently listened to a pod cast about animals nutrition: http://omegataupodcast.net/2014/10/156-tierernahrung/

      unfortunately it’s in German, but maybe it inspires you.

      Cheers,
      Martin 

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    2. Craig Cmehil Post author

      Excellent thoughts here! Look forward to having you there and maybe even sharing the idea and being it’s champion to get a team together!!

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