Next Generation Farming Techniques Involve the Clever Use of Technology

A drone hovering above farmland.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The next generation of farmers believe that there are better ways to farm outside of mainstream techniques.

Millennial farmers are incorporating technology into everyday farming practices as a means of increasing productivity and streamlining conventional processes. For example, trends show that younger farmers are leaning towards organic and sustainable small-scale farming.

These small farms often gain support for their technology through crowd funding and are sustained by Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Many utilize farm shares where members subscribe for a portion of produce weekly, monthly, or yearly. They use technology that provides accurate tracking of their produce and livestock so that they are better able to plan for their farming needs and the production requirements to deliver goods to consumers.

Technology also offers opportunities to produce food more sustainably. A mixture of data, math, sensors, analysis, hardware and software allows farmers to go beyond what the eye can see. This data can be monitored all at once, creating greater efficiency in the agricultural process.

Forbes reports that “consumers have gravitated to mobile devices and smart technology to live healthier, safer, and more connected lifestyles–monitoring our thermostats and securing our homes and tracking our health. The migration of technologies that we use in our everyday lives into tools for farmers to grow crops more effectively and create sustainable farms is the model for a new generation of farmers.”

Farmers have successfully integrated such technology as moisture sensors, terrain contour mapping, smart irrigation, drones, and self-driving and GPS-enabled tractor technologies into their daily routines.

Drone technology is another powerful addition to smart farming. Drones allow farmers to map fields aerially in real time. Aerial imagery can expose heavily compacted fields and crop health issues, as well as show improvement in yields.

Drones can also help pollinate crops. Bio-inspired drones could have huge effects on the pollination crises and the decline of bees. They can be designed to fly from crop to crop, fertilizing plats mimicking natural pollination. These flight patterns might also provide researchers with some clues about how to help with pollinator declines.

The hope is that smart farming will help our agricultural industry reduce negative side effects on the environment, protecting our planet’s resources, while still producing the best food supply for a growing and hungry population.

Adapting in the Future Requires Adapting in the Present

A note pad with the word "adaptable" written on it. There is a laptop and a cell phone in the picture as well.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

There’s an published in Forbes about what we can expect from employees of the future, extrapolating from current technological trends. The general argument is that those employees will have to be flexible, in order to keep up with and use increasingly powerful technology like artificial intelligence systems.

But this isn’t science-fiction. The article isn’t about the future employees of a century from now; it’s about employees from the last few decades. The phrase “mid-to-late 21st century” gets used, and for some business owners, their companies might still be up and running by that time.

So are you flexible enough to adapt to the changing technology of the future? The article brings up Millennials and Generation Z, who are already pretty well versed at adapting to technology. They’re also going to be the people starting new businesses, which are almost certainly going to be better at adapting to new technology until the next generations come along and think Generation Z is old because they don’t have computers in their brains or whatever.

The point is, hiring employees who are flexible and/or ahead of the technology curve is valuable and, increasingly, necessary. But that alone might not be enough. These employees will need to be under the guidance of bosses who understand what’s going on, at least enough to give them the freedom to be flexible in the first place.

Employees can’t do their best work if their bosses don’t understand the basics of the tools they need, and therefore won’t give them those tools. These employees know they can probably go find a hipper, younger boss who can and will give them access to those tools. So it’s worth asking yourself if you, or your company, are flexible enough to adapt to rapidly changing technology. If the answer is no, it’s time you learn how to be.

Technological Highlights of the 90s

Desk with Mac computer, keyboard, and tablet

The tech development in the 90s has brought us to today, when business and tech are even more intertwined.
Image: Unsplash

The tech industry is known for developing businesses that rise incredibly fast.

In the 1990s, there was an economic boom that saw billions of dollars in venture capital poured into technology companies in hopes of finding the “next big thing.” It was a time when the world witnessed some of the greatest scientific findings and technological inventions.

Fast-forward to 2016, and we now have advanced computers, mobile phones, satellite mapping, advanced software, and more.  The scope of technological advancement has significantly increased and remains exponential.

What were some of the major technological highlights of the 1990s? Let’s take a trip down memory lane:

Revival of electric cars
The American government enforced the Clean Air Act in 1990, which requested automobile companies to create cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars. The energy crisis and environmental concerns regarding pollution in the 1970s resulted in the revival of public interest in electric cars. Electric cars came into existence in the mid 1990s and continue to gain popularity. The 1990 Los Angeles Auto Show marked a milestone in the electric car industry.

The rise of Yahoo! and Google
Founded by David Filo and Jerry Yang in 1994, Yahoo! started as a collection of informative web pages, later becoming an online searchable directory. Led by Thom Weisel, Montgomery Securities, one of the largest investment firms at that time, helped manage Yahoo’s IPOs during the rise of tech stocks. During the dot-com bubble, the company’s stock price skyrocketed to an all-time high of $118.75 USD in 2000.

Considered one of the biggest inventions of all time, Google happened in 1998. Started as a research project by two scholars at Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin introduced the concept of page rankings in search engines. Google served over 10,000 search queries a day and quickly gained a reputation as a trustworthy source of information. By 1999, it was serving 500,000 queries a day.

Apple’s iMac
The iMac was launched in 1998 and was known for its innovative computer experience and unique design. During that time, personal computers were dull beige boxes involving minimal artistry. Apple took this opportunity to reinvent the computer with bold designs and outlandish colors.

Apple’s vision for computers hasn’t changed in the last 30 years, when the first Mac ads told people to “try the computer you already know how to use.”

Bluetooth 1.0
Mobile wireless file sharing was introduced in 1999 with the invention of Bluetooth technology, allowing electronic devices to communicate wirelessly. Portable personal computers and laptops were the first devices to use Bluetooth technology; it’s now a standard feature in all smartphones.

The tech industry continues to impress and innovate today with a constant stream of impressive new items designed to make our lives simpler and more plugged in. Since the 1990s, the technology sector has been a great place for a business to be. What will they think of in the next 30-odd years…?

Is the $13 Billion Markit and IHC Merger Good for the Financial Data Industry?

data industry

 

On March 26 IHS announced a $13 billion merger with Markit to form IHS Markit. Leading members of the financial community are paying attention this merger, particularly those on Markit’s board of directors, which includes Edwin Cass, Canada Pension Plan; Bill E Ford, Chief Executive Officer at General Atlantic; and James Rosenthal, Morgan Stanley.

IHS supports businesses, governments, and industries with information analysis for easier decision-making processes. They’re active in a variety of sectors including aerospace, automotive, chemical, defense, energy, and technology.

The merger is an all-stock transaction and will include a move of company headquarters from Colorado to London. Jerre Stead, the IHS chairman and chief executive, said in a statement quoted in a NY Times article that “this transformational merger brings together two information-rich companies to create a powerful provider of unique business intelligence, data and analytics to a broad and complementary customer base. IHS Markit and its shareholders will benefit from enhanced product innovation to deliver strong returns across economic cycles.”

Markit’s chief executive, Lance Uggla, has a passion for making deals. His enthusiasm for this $13 billion merger will be needed to ensure its success. The merger has created a new authority in the specialist financial data market. Uggla created Markit to sell credit data to banks, a product that is difficult to value, but one with large growth potential. The Financial Times reports that in 12 years he has completed 30 deals and transformed the once small company into a major player, “offering data, analytics, outsourcing, and derivatives trade processing in off-exchange markets.”

Information Handling Services (IHS) was launched in 1959 as an information supplier servicing aerospace engineers with microfilm databases. Over the years the company made a variety of acquisitions and became the largest commercial producer of microfilm in the industry. They expanded into digital databases in 1995 and began offering consulting services to government markets.

Some members of the financial community have expressed concern about the merger. “We worry that in three years when the merger benefits are realized, the increased scope of the products being sold to the larger client list will dilute the sales focus,” read a statement from Deutsche Bank, concerned about too much diversification. The industry will be sure to keep a close eye on the results of this merger.

Tesla Earns $7.5 Billion in One Day

 

This week, people lined up around the country or online to preorder Tesla’s new Model 3 car, placing $1,000 deposits on the vehicle. Preorders became available on Thursday, and in the 24 hours since then, the company has received more than 200,000 orders for the Model 3. That means Tesla will make that many cars and at about $42,000 per car, the profits are incredible.

The Model 3 comes with a base price of $35,000, making it Tesla’s most affordable offering and provides a nice offering for car shoppers on a budget. Versions of the car with more bells and whistles are to follow with higher price tags to attract more customers who can’t afford their pricier Roadsters, which click in at about $101,000.

As of this morning, Tesla’s shares were up by 7% after the sale began. The new vehicles should be available starting in late 2017, though previous auto sales have fallen behind by several months. Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley predicts that the Model 3 will also arrive late, suggesting that Tesla won’t sell 249,000 cars until about 2020, though the company hopes to sell 500,000.

This time last year, Tesla’s shares hit a low mark of $141.05; they’re currently sitting at a comfortable $230 a piece, a number subject to change based on how many more vehicles Tesla sells—and how many potential buyers will actually keep their bid for a Model 3. It’s worth noting that deposits for the car are entirely refundable, meaning that sale expectations are indeed likely to change.

These changes are “important to the industry because [they] will signal whether or not Tesla Motors is a major threat to the status quo or just another wannabe care company with a fleeting chance for long-term success,” cautioned Jack Nerad of Kelley Blue Book.

GM is currently on track to defeat Tesla’s numbers with a Chevrolet Bolt electric car, launching later this year, which will offer about 200 miles of electric driving range. That car will also cost about $35,000, making it potentially a very fierce competitor for the Model 3.

Happy 10th Birthday, Twitter!

Rather than be the center of discussion for global milestones, this year Twitter celebrates a milestone of its own: its tenth birthday. From a tiny IPO to a kind of leading newsroom, Twitter has seen a lot of news, a lot of changes, and a lot of headlines. Here’s a brief history of the service in honor of its anniversary as our favorite way to complain at companies and connect with one another.

Twitter is now worth more than $5 billion and climbing every day. The tweets we see today really started as a product that would turn messages into MP3s, a product which was then called Odeo. That company then became a podcasting platform, but Odeo also rose just as Apple announced that iTunes, a far more popular service, would also offer a podcasting service. Odeo’s founders began to see cracks in their foundation. So after a lot of conversation that current CEO involved Jack Dorsey, then an Odeo employee, something called “Twttr” was born. That product was honed and changed until it’s become the neat little tool we know today.

More things have happened in Twitter’s history than we can cover here, but part of why they’ve become so successful has a lot to do with how prepared they were to make an IPO, as Henry Kravis would advise. When Twitter offered its IPO in 2013, it put a lot of effort into how it moved forward: Twitter sold 70 million shares for $26 each. The IPO was generally a successful one because, compared to other IPOs like Facebook’s in 2012, Twitter’s was very small, and the IPO itself was blissfully free of technical issues. And while Twitter lost a lot of money in the months following its IPO, Twitter was ultimately able to meet investor expectations—and that’s always a good thing.

Twitter has become a key component of the social fabric not just of the United States but of the world. It’s what we use to connect to each other in times of joy and in sorrow: people were providing live updates about the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon, making that experience collective rather than localized. People have united in feminist hashtags like #YesAllWomen and shared amusing insights about media and art. The beauty of what Twitter has really done is that it’s opened up conversation all around the world, between every person.

Happy birthday, Twitter, and #thanksforthememories.

Facebook’s Limited Internet Plan Banned in India

Facebook’s recent attempts to make inroads into India have hit a roadblock. Their Free Basics plan, which is designed to provide free, but limited, Internet access was banned recently. The problem, as Indians and net neutrality proponents see it, is that the plan allows for free access to the Internet, but only to a limited selection of sites and apps. The idea of net neutrality is that all traffic, and all access, to the Internet should be treated equally. That means that companies can’t charge more for users accessing certain sites, like those owned by rival companies.

Although only 252 million of India’s 1.3 billion people have Internet access, the Free Basics plan only enrolled about 1 million people before it was banned. It wasn’t very successful, and part of that was because Facebook didn’t consider that country’s active civil society. Unlike in, say, the United States, people in India actually talk and do things with their neighbors, and they care about their ability to do those things. That translates to the Internet by allowing access to any part of the web, not just those bits your provider feels you should care about.

Although Facebook hasn’t issued any official statements on the ban, hey don’t seem like they’re too upset, and Free Basics is only part of their larger tactic or gaining Indian users. If they’re smart, then what they’ll do is learn more about India, and try to find a way to appeal to Indian users.

In fact, that’s a pretty good idea for any business that’s trying to expand into new markets: instead of assuming that you know what that market needs or wants, assume that you don’t. Because you don’t. Especially when you’re dealing with a different culture than the one you’re used to, you have to actually learn about that culture. Imperialism is dead, you can’t just go to other paces and say “This is how it is now.”

Twitter Says Goodbye to Five Executives

executives

Twitter has some serious turn-over coming up as five of their top executives are leaving the company. Product head Kevin Weil, media head Katie Jacobs Stanton, senior vice president of engineering Alex Roetter, vice president of human resources Brian Schipper, and Vine head Jason Toff are heading out, and Twitter will be covering their positions while they search for replacements. Rumor has is that vice president of business development Jana Messerschmidt might also be leaving in the near future.

Apparently, they will be appointing two new board members, one of whom is a “big media name,” while also bringing in a new hire who is a well-known executive and CMO. They don’t have replacements lined up for everybody though. Weil and Roetter, who have not been fired, apparently left as part of a decision by the company, while Toff is heading to Google to work on virtual reality.

All of this comes at a time when Twitter is struggling to keep their share prices up. After naming founder Jack Dorsey as CEO, those shares dropped to their lowest point. They then rebounded after a rumor dropped about a tie-in with News Corp that turns out to have been false. As the company fights to increase user growth though, their stock has been under pressure. Twitter growth seems to have hit a significant slowdown, as by this time, the people not using it seem to largely be set in that decision, leaving them waiting for ne users to age into the service, or for new markets to open up. The Internet being what it is though, unavailable markets tend to be in nations without significant access, or which are denied that access by their government.

The dropping value of Twitter stocks have begun to fuel speculation that they could become an acquisition target.

New Streaming Platform Focuses on E-Sports

video streaming

Streaming live play of video games is a relatively new business, but one that’s doing pretty well for itself. The market is currently dominated by Twitch.tv, which pretty much invented the market, so it makes sense that they’re still on top. They’re the Netflix of streaming video games.

But the market is starting to get more interesting. Last year YouTube got into the scene with YouTube Gaming, but the streaming side of that hasn’t really taken off yet. Not the way the likely want it to. Part of the problem seems to be that YouTube hasn’t pulled on their home team celebrities enough, or found a niche that Twitch doesn’t dominate.

Now a new platform has entered the competition. It’s called Azubu and it recently raised $60 million in bonds to grow the company. Azubu was founded in 2011, has over 75 employees, and gets about 9 million unique viewers a month. 93% of those viewers are watching live video game tournaments, especially those played in South Korea and Brazil. Those countries currently dominate their service, and they’re looking to branch into tournaments with more Western appeal, something Twitch still controls.

Their main plan is focusing on e-sports, competitive gameplay, often team based, which is huge in South Korea and has a massive online following. While they aren’t the only platform that covers e-sports, they have signed a number of contracts that allow them exclusive contracts with tournaments that have a big draw.

The new cash infusion will be used to expand the company, but also to improve its platform so that, when they expand into new markets, they can do so as seamlessly as possible. Keeping technology up to speed is essential for services like this, which can take a nosedive in viewership with even a day of poor service or an outage.

Vintage Technology is Making a Comeback

No, you won’t be seeing any 8-track players or first generation Macs reemerging on the market, but old school technology has hit its retro phase, meaning companies are modeling brand new products after their now defunct predecessors, and consumers young and old get the change to mix a little bit of history with modern day, technological advancement.

This year’s IFA consumer electronic convention is now underway in Berlin, and among the many products on display are those mixing a little bit of old and new. One of the big new items for the fall that hits this niche is the Polaroid Snap Instant Digital Camera, where users can upload their photos to Instagram while simultaneously printing out a copy for their refrigerator.

Unlike its predecessor, this pocket-sized camera doesn’t use ink, but prints through a program called ZINK that uses paper embedded with cyan, yellow and magenta dye crystals that are heat activated, and thus results in high-quality, colored images. Yes, this is more of a novelty item, as many today have no need for printed photos, but those looking to collect images on paper can do so for $99 (whenever the TBD camera date is revealed).

Then there is the Walkman. No one is going to carry around the gargantuan machine that played cassette tapes (and later CDs), but Sony never gave up the trademark and is introducing a new Walkman for the ages. It seems silly to think that people would want to carry both a phone (which plays music) AND a Walkman, but the Walkman NW-ZX100 is perfect for smartphone users who are constantly troubled by their phone’s ever-draining battery. The ZX100 has a 45 hour battery life and 128GB of memory; that’s a lot of music that won’t drain your phone, and it is small enough to fit in a pocket or purse. Its release date is set for this fall.

While both of these items are less vintage and more updated versions of outdated technology, IFA is seeing that media users want a touch of the old-school style that works in the fast-paced world of today. It won’t be shocking if more companies follow Sony’s and Polaroid’s lead and make some throwback products of their own.

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