Farmers look to produce more food at less cost

February 15, 2012 5:39:04 PM PST
Medical technology, micro-biology and hydroponics are all being adapted to produce more food at less cost for consumers. There are some prime examples at the World Ag Expo underway in the Central Valley.

The giant tractors and other field equipment get lots of attention, but technology promises to have a greater impact.

The drought has opened an opportunity for one product, called Fodder Solutions. It can grow barley grass from seed to feed livestock in six days in a self-contained trailer. One day's output can feed 40 cows.

"It'll use 2 percent of the water that's traditionally used for forage methods, so from that standpoint, it's efficient," Simply Country CEO Curt Chittock said. "Energy, it's very efficient because it grows on the farm, so there's no transportation, there's no tillage costs, there's no transportation costs, no fertilizer, herbicides."

With alfalfa going for over $300 per ton today, the technology that originated in Australia can reduce costs by two-thirds.

Soil depleted of nutrients is a growing issue as the world's population increases. Agrinos, which originated in Norway but is based in Napa, has developed an organic method to introduce microbes and amino acids to cropland.

"So we introduce microbiology to the soil, something they cannot see, but we transform it into results, something that they can see," Agrinos Chief Technology Officer Karl Fick said.

It's an organic, non-chemical approach that has generated interest in China, Africa and the Middle East, besides the U.S.

But one of the simplest technologies on display may be the most effective ? a gel-filled mat for dairy cows. The more they lay down, the more milk they produce. A soft mat does more than pamper them.

"Hospitals use gel mats to disperse weight from pressure points," Promat International spokesperson Chris Keane said. "Now that a cow is on a gel mat, all the weight is dispersed evenly so there's no pressure points for the cow. The longer we can keep her laying down, the less stress on the animal."

Gel mats are comforting cows now in 43 countries.

There has never been more interest in, or demand for, technology that produces results and efficiency, leading to profits that can be taken to the bank.


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