Thursday, June 5, 2008

Harvesting on a big scale...

30,000 acre farm in Australia harvesting wheat, and making straw bales simultaneously:

Using equipment like that to harvest food isn't necessarily incompatible with either "organic" or "sustainable" farming. There are other parts of the system typically associated with large capital investments like this that may be -- but not the equipment itself.

The reason is the same as why one school bus is better then ten Volkswagen Beetles to bring 40 kids to school -- the bus uses the fuel more efficiently to achieve the same goal.

We already have sophisticated GPS systems that monitor yields, and will use that information to continously adjust fertilizing and seeding rates the following year on the field. "Steering Assist" helps relieve operator fatique -- the driver increasingly is more a monitor to make sure the computers are making good decisions.

Even the tow-behind baler has a purpose -- along with the straw, it catches the weed seeds. By removing the weeds from the field, the need for herbicides is reduced.

Now expand that a bit -- is it any real stretch to see a day we can have autonmous robots cultivating fields instead of using pesticides? That would go a long way to making organic agriculture economical without giving up the yield gains per person of the Green Revolution.

They need not even be machines this big -- a small tractor for 10 or 15 acre vegetable farms, powered by plug-in electrical batteries would do wonders.

Imagine the impact on a small organic farmer of having a robot that would silently go out to the field with an arm equipped with a camera that can detect "bad bugs" that are difficult to control like Squash Bugs and Colorado Potato Beetles, and when it sees one, uses a vacuum cleaner to suck it up.

Technology is not incompatible with long term, large scale good management of the earth for mankind's benefit and continued prosperity.

No comments: