GreenTech: Smart Farming

We recently brought you the story of an innovative farmer who helped bring us all massive amounts of data on scalable agrivoltaics… and it’s a great start to the conversation around farming and green technology. But that’s exactly what it is, a start. When it comes to making our farming practices sustainable moving forward, and earning a profit while doing it, a few solar panels are just the beginning.

The conversation must also address the need for us to migrate entire systems to sustainable practices… like figuring out how to make crops more resilient, make more efficient use of water systems, and just in general lay out our larger strategy around water and farming. Let’s be real, droughts are only on the rise. This gives us an opportunity to rethink, retool, and capitalize on the inevitable.

The Long Game

The name of the game here isn’t just investing in our today, it’s seeing what changes will take place, whether we like it or not, and figuring out how to play the long game. Essentially, we need to plot a path through these changes which profit us, rather than railing against them and missing what might be right in front of our faces. If we can hold the vision, we could end up on the lucrative end of things.

And here, we think, the problem might be. There are plenty of great projects in this space that are not seeing the light they need to thrive, despite the fact that they have real potential to solve problems that aren’t going away. Case and point: in rural Kenya and India, where electric rickshaws and scooters are now an option, the funding is coming in small spats. There are diamonds in the rough to be discovered, all over the world.

What we are seeing happen is a preference for regenerative farming practices on the increase. Plenty of people in America feel pushed into these practices, so some of this may be because people aren’t thriving with current practices, then must seek out sustainable ones. Because… finally, they are becoming more cost effective and realistically viable than traditional practices. And that… is the vision we want to hold when thinking about this space.

Basically, because of factors like high input costs from things like fertilizer, farmers must look at more sustainable practices, such as cover crops (crops not meant to be harvested) and no-till systems (a practice which reduces water runoff). Some farmers feel they can’t survive if they don’t make these changes… and what we think is, it may be that we’re at a point where sustainable practices are not a cultural issue, rather they are an issue of survival.

Business Rises To The Occasion

There are firms working on adopting these practices, taking the lead, and profiting from their adventurous spirits. One such company is Truterra, a Land O’Lakes sustainability business which recently won a bid from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) funding of Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities. The initial pool of funding is money allocated toward Truterra and 69 other recipients… their task: reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance carbon sequestration.

With the upwards of $2.8 billion (and more in the pipeline), Truterra and partners are set to reduce GHG emissions over the next five years to equal removing 1.5 million cars off the streets in a year. The plan is to tackle problems by creating a “self-sustaining ecosystem” that would connect farmers already practicing sustainable farming with companies looking for exactly those products. We have the will, we need the network, they have the solution.

This type of innovating helps, because it’s less about jumping on a bandwagon to be the first to market with a  great new “green” product, and it’s more about connecting an already-existing system of already-devoted sustainable farmers with companies in need of suppliers. The people are starting to really care about climate change, because it’s hitting them at home. Farms are as close to home as it gets. Come back next week, we’ll have more from the world of green technology.