Duxton’s Agri Bits and Pieces – Vol. 355
Posted on: October 25th, 2017


This week’s quote of the week comes from AeroFarms CEO David Rosenberg at Dell’s IQT even in New York last week on vertical farming, an emerging form of agriculture that combines data science with horticulture to grow crops indoors.

We’ve lost a third of our arable land in the past 40 years. Seventy percent of our fresh water goes into agriculture. Seventy percent of fresh water contamination comes from agriculture. If you want to address water security, you need to address agriculture. Technology and data science is a big way that we’re going to get there… If you think of the age-old question of nature vs nurture, the world of AgTech has focussed mostly on the genetics…Here, we don’t focus on the genetics as much as the environmental stresses. As funny as it sounds, we actually get a plant to eat differently, sleep differently and exercise differently to change their nutrient density and shelf life.”


The great American egg glut keeps claiming victims, among them millions of hens that won’t be moving anytime soon into lodging spacious enough for what they lay to be called “cage free.”

After the likes of McDonald’s Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. pledged to switch to eggs from birds able to actually spread their wings. Farmers stepped up to provide cage-free products, but buyers haven’t materialised in the anticipated droves, or anything close.

The whole industry is slowly climbing out of a period of losses, which sets up a sort of chicken-and-egg predicament: Many farmers are too strapped at the moment to build facilities they may need in a few years.

A cage-free bird isn’t exactly allowed to run wild in the open but does get more room. At Rose Acre, she has 144 square inches of space, while a squeezed sister in a traditional setting is confined to 67.

Then came the glut, the egg oversupply built up after the 2015 avian-flu outbreak killed tens of millions of chickens, sent prices soaring and spurred aggressive restocking. Now the regular variety is too darn cheap for many to resist. A dozen cage-free large browns cost as much as $2.99 in the Midwest last week, for example, while a carton of Grade AA white conventionals went for as little as 39 cents, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That higher price gap, has cut into specialty-egg demand, at the same time, some producers started expanding hens’ living quarters. The cage-free population may continue topping demand through at least 2020, according to government and industry estimates. By 2025, the U.S. would need some 223 million cage-free hens to meet all the commitments, up from less than 50 million now. The cost to get there could be more than $4 billion, said Sam Kuafman, director of pre-construction services for Summit Livestock Facilities, which built some of Rose Acre’s bigger barns.


Africa is a farm lover’s dream: abundant uncultivated arable land, roughly over half the global total; tropical climates that permit long growing seasons; a young labour force; and an expanding population that provides a readily available market for produce consumption.

Yet, African countries are yet to harness these opportunities to ensure sustainable food security and food production. The average age of farmers is about 50 years – in a continent where 60% of the population is under 24 years of age. Farmers are also less educated, with younger, more educated Africans are leaving rural areas, where farms are located, and moving to cities.

Some of these youngers are also discouraged by the difficulties of accessing funds or land, the reliance on manual technology in smallholder agriculture, all compounded by the low and volatile profits. The African Center for Economic Transformation says focusing on the entire value chain of the process – land tenure, farming technology, markets, and pricing – would help transform food systems around the continent. This marked transformation could be instituted by boosting productivity within the farms and bolstering the link between farms and other economic segments. For instance, strengthening land tenure privileges ensures the rights of women and minorities and increases the formality of property rights.


This week’s chart of the week comes from the Financial Times in relation to the bountiful harvest seen in Brazil which has helped lower the price of food for five consecutive months and contributed to lower inflation rate, allowing an economy emerging from a historic recession to breathe.







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