Tag: farming

Crowdfarming: Naranjas del Carmen

Friday, 9 March, 2018 0 Comments

The next agricultural revolution will connect people with food and farmers will grow only what’s going to be consumed. Says who? Say the brothers Gonzalo and Gabriel Úrculo of Bétera, a village in Valencia. They founded Naranjas del Carmen in 2010 as an online business focused on the direct sale of citrus fruits, but disruptive times require flexible business models and now, instead of selling oranges, they sell orange trees. And people from all over Europe are trekking to Bétera to see their threes and collect the fruit of those trees. This means a boost for regional tourism as well.

Gonzalo and Gabriel came up with the idea after inheriting a disused orchard from their grandfather that was set be sold. Today, they have some 11,000 orange trees in the orchard, and more than 5,000 would-be-owners on a waiting list. Naranjas del Carmen sells 50,000 kilograms of oranges a week, shipping to owners throughout Europe. Annual sales have climbed from an initial €25,000 to €2.5 million.

Business model: Each tree is planted specifically for customers, who have the right to receive its produce whenever they want. In return, the customer pays an annual upkeep fee for up to 25 years. What happens before the purchased tree begins to produce fruit? The company offers the customer oranges from a fully grown tree that doesn’t yet have an owner. Muy inteligente.

Naranjas del Carmen


The IoT of farms, cities and 5G

Monday, 22 February, 2016 0 Comments

On Friday here, farming was mentioned in connection with everything being connected at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Now, Nokia is getting in on the act with the announcement of a $350 million fund for investments in IoT (Internet of Things) companies. The focus will be on connected cars, digital health, the enterprise, big data, analytics and farming. Presenting the fund to the press, Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri said:

“For example we have worked with KT in Korea on the application of real time analytics and automated action to increase farming productivity. We have conducted a market trial for connected bus terminals in New Zealand. Trying new business models for smart cities that go beyond advertising and that improve the overall transportation experience. We have worked on providing intelligent transportation on the highways of Germany with real-time hazard warnings and other safety information, enabling vehicle to vehicle and other infrastructure communication.”

Smart cities are found in smart nations and Ericsson, Nokia’s Nordic rival, is making an IoT move in Singapore in partnership with Singtel, a Singaporean telecommunications company, with a combined mobile subscriber base of 500 million customers. Snippet:

“IoT connectivity is an important part of Singapore’s enterprises and supports the Singapore Government’s Smart Nation initiative. We anticipate a growing demand to connect a multitude of sensors and devices in a cost-effective manner… With the early introduction of low-powered IoT devices, this brings us a step closer to 5G goals, where new device and sensor technologies can leverage network connectivity to power a variety of use cases, such as lighting and vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity.”

The common factor in the Nokia and Ericsson moves is 5G — the next generation of cellular technology. After all, if you’re in the network business, you need to get customers to upgrade to 5G so you can make more money. The carrot and stick of the IoT is a clever way of persuading them to spend.


The seventh Station: Farming

Monday, 30 November, 2015 1 Comment

Each cow had a name and a designated place in the stall. All had unique personalities and this had to be taken into account during the milking, otherwise the bucket might be kicked over and its valuable contents would merge with the rushes and dung that covered the cow-house floor. Unappetizing. Unprofitable. It paid to be mindful.

Mother milking

Nothing much changed when the milking machine arrived. The hard labour of milking by hand ended and the herd size doubled, but the individual attention to the cows remained the same. Mother and father fed them all kinds of good things: wheat pollard decorated with pulped turnips; crisp hay adorned with scented beet pulp and, above all, good grass. In return, they delivered quality milk. My mother’s love of cows was more than the stereotypical affection for those big bovine eyes. It was bound up with the firm knowledge that care and attention would be rewarded with a product that fed the family, warmed the home and provided for the rainy day.

The cows and their precious milk were part of an ecosystem called “the farm”. Like the cows, this was not an anonymous conglomerate: each field had its own name: the Paddock, the Long Field, the Spout Field, the Drainy Field, the Meadow, Egan’s, Neill’s, Franks’… That latter name was bound up with a contested Anglo-Irish history that stretched back to the 17th century and both my parents had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the connections between the parts that made up the whole. Twice, in the 1960s, they bought fields that helped turn the farm into a more viable enterprise. This was the biggest “play” of their careers. Money had to be borrowed which was risky because farming, regardless of the scale, is a hazardous industry and an accident or an illness can change everything in an instant. With a young family and a lack of “staff”, as my mother used say, they took the chance, anyway, and it paid off. Their assembly of fields, paid for with blood, sweat and tears, was their joint masterpiece — a true labour of love.

There’s a vague memory of early summer Sunday mornings, when the milking still took place in the fields. It was early because the milk had to be taken earlier than usual to the creamery on a Sunday. The splish-splash of the milk hitting the inside of the metal buckets was accompanied by the sound of my mother and father singing. They were in their prime, they were healthy, they were happy and they were in their fields.

Our next station in this series of meditations on 14 photographs is Bibs.


The first Station: Work

Tuesday, 24 November, 2015 0 Comments

Look at these faces. What do you see? Life. Health. Energy. Family. Friends. Play. Work. This photo opens a door to the past and reveals a summer glimpse of a lost world. We know now how the story will end for some of the characters in this scene, but that’s hindsight. For the moment let us stay with what was captured on film when the shutter was released on that summer day.

Hay day at home

What’s going on here? The hay that was saved has been transported from the meadow and is being stored in a barn so that the livestock will have food for autumn, winter and spring. It’s an existential moment because that hay is the fuel for the engines of the enterprise: the cows. No hay, no milk; no milk, no money. No money… It’s a knife-edge moment, but there is no sign of anxiety in this image. Instead, there is acceptance. It was hoped that the hay would be saved. It was expected that it would be gathered in to the barn and it was accepted that whatever obstacles emerged along the way the cycle would repeat itself annually for the benefit of all those present and to come.

Yes, there was fatalism in this worldview, but not resignation. “‘Tis the will of God” was how misfortune was explained. There had to be a reason for setbacks, especially those that affected the most vulnerable, but it was assumed that a higher agency was involved and life went on and so did work.

For my mother, work was neither an occupation nor a career. It was an all-encompassing mission. Work secured. Work provided. Work was noble and necessary. “She’s a great worker” was the ultimate praise. “Slavery”, on the other hand, was the word used to dismiss the miserable life of the workaholic. “He’s a pure slave” is how she would describe the farmer bent over double with rheumatism after a lifetime spent in pursuit of money. It was the definitive waste of our brief time on earth.

For my mother, work was an extraordinary series of tasks that began at down and ended, often, after midnight. There was lighting the fire, milking the cows, feeding the calves, baking bread, preparing dinner, washing clothes, making tea, knitting jumpers, darning socks, planting vegetables, pruning flowers, visiting the sick, attending funerals, going to Mass, selling livestock, buying hens, painting, cooking, cleaning, shopping, caring, helping, loving, talking, thinking… This list is not exhaustive, but it is exhausting. Not that she ever used the word. “I’m tired,” she would sometimes say. “I’m exhausted”, never.

Our next station in this series of 14 photographs is Food.


Robots rising

Thursday, 15 January, 2015 0 Comments

The title of Martin Ford’s new book, due out in April, is Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future. Snippet:

Rise of the Robots “Artificial intelligence is already well on its way to making ‘good jobs’ obsolete: many paralegals, physicians, and even — ironically — computer programmers are poised to be replaced by robots. As technology continues to accelerate and machines begin taking care of themselves, fewer jobs will be necessary. Unless we radically reassess the fundamentals of how our economy and politics work, this transition could create massive unemployment and inequality as well as the implosion of the economy itself.”

No industry will be spared. In “precision farming,” for example, a “nurse” robot will tend to individual plants, injecting water, pesticide or fertilizer in the exact amounts required — instead of spraying an entire field. And “picking” robots are going to take over back-breaking jobs that would otherwise go to migrant workers.

Meanwhile, San Francisco startup Modbot is designing industrial and hobby robots that will piece together like Lego. Typically robots like this might cost $25,000, but the modular nature of the Modbot could reduce the price tag to $2,500. The picture is completed with a simple smartphone app that would control your robot.


Protection from internal parasites

Friday, 2 May, 2014 0 Comments

Agriculturally, sheep dip is a liquid insecticide that farmers use to protect their herds from parasites such as ticks and lice. But the term was also a synonym for home-made whisky, which was made illegally and stored in plastic containers marked “Sheep Dip” to protect it from the inquisitive eyes of policemen and revenue collectors. In the 1980’s, British farmers were ordering hundreds of cases of “Sheep Dip” from distillers and including it in their accounts as insecticide until the scam was exposed and the customers were fined for tax evasion when it was discovered that most of them didn’t have a lamb or a ewe or a ram on their lands.

The legal version of the drinkable Sheep Dip is made of pure malts from the four distilling regions of Scotland. It is a mild and pleasant drink made all the more charming by its backstory and the fierce-looking sheep on the label.

Sheep Dip


The desire to brew and drink beer

Sunday, 14 July, 2013 0 Comments

“So, if people didn’t settle down to take up farming, why then did they embark on this entirely new way of living? We have no idea — or actually, we have lots of ideas, but we don’t know if any of them are right. According to Felipe Fernández-Armesto, at least thirty-eight theories have been put […]

Continue Reading »