Duxton’s Agri Bits and Pieces – Vol. 324
Posted on: March 3rd, 2017




This week’s quote comes from Felicity Hennessy, general manager of innovation at Ruralco, highlighting the agricultural industry’s push to recruit a new tech-savvy generation of graduates.

“For the first time in many years, we’re finding it easier to attract graduates because agriculture, particularly technology in agriculture, is back on the radar.”


Recent raids by US immigration authorities targeting undocumented immigrants are creating a wave of distress through America’s agricultural sector, an industry that’s heavily dependent on foreign workers.

Hundreds of arrests have been made in at least six states over the past week. That’s left undocumented workers afraid to travel and farmers pondering whether they can risk hiring them, according to organisations representing both groups.

Farms in the western US have already dealt with a dwindling supply, partly because of tightened border security for years, said Pete Aielo, general manager at California-based Uesugi Farms. He worries that things will get worse this year and his company may not be able to find enough contractors.

More than half of US farm workers are undocumented, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. President Donald Trump’s threats against immigrants could add up to higher grocery bills as growers and companies wrestle with labour shortages, according to studies from the bureau and the US Department of Agriculture.

Trump’s actions have the potential to strip farms and meat-processing plants of labour, and the threat comes at a time when there are already signs of a strained work force. The immigration crackdown may also mean rising grocery costs. An approach of only enforcement and not reform could increase food prices by as much as 6 per cent as fruit, vegetable and livestock production wanes. It could also create further hardship for growers and livestock operators after years of rout in the agriculture markets sparked the worst slump for US farm income since the 1970s.


The world’s first clear, energy harvesting glass has been developed at Edith Cowan University’s Electron Science Research Institute in Perth, Australia.

The glass is embedded with nanoparticles that work to draw out 90% of the ultraviolet and infrared rays from the sun, and transfer those rays to solar cells embedded on the edge of the glass panels.

The rays are converted into energy, while allowing 70% of visible light to pass through, whilst producing 35 watts of energy per square metre.

The energy harvested is used to power the structure, for example providing lighting, heating, cooling or irrigation, potentially providing huge cost savings to greenhouse growers.

Institute director Kamal Alameh posits that “In a closed environment you don’t need a lot of water, so you don’t need a lot of energy to filter the water if you have underground water…We hope to end up with a self-sustainable greenhouse that doesn’t need the power from the grid, and then it can be producing its own energy to produce the maximum or a good crop yield”. This self-sustained greenhouse will enable cultivation in areas which are currently too hot or dry to produce crops.

“If you have underground water that’s all we need to basically produce a crop,” he said.

The technology has been developed in collaboration with ClearVue technologies.Company chairman Victor Rosenberg said the glass would provide farmers “safety and security of product” and reduce the need for chemicals.

“With a closed environment under good controlled conditions, we want to get to the point where we can actually reduce the use of pesticides, fungicides and any other of the chemicals that are used because at the end of the day you do swallow them and you do eat them,” he said.

There are currently similar products on the market and still in development, but according to Professor Kamal, the solar-glass developed at ESRI was the only energy harvesting glass that was also clear. “There are other technologies that embed solar cells into the glass, so they are not fully transparent, or you could say they are partially opaque,” he said.



This week’s chart comes from Bloomberg’s End of Bacon Boom Sends Pork Prices Tumbling the Most in Three Years. The chart displays wholesale pork prices dropping 5.1% on this Wednesday to $1.53 per pound, the biggest one-day loss since October 2013.







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