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I’m featured in the July/August issue of AgriSuccess, the national publication of the Farm Credit Coop of Canada. You can read the article below, or access the PDF through the image.

Sadly, they printed only a small part of the interview! I dug into my e-mail archive, and so you’ll find the ‘missing bits’ after the end of the article below!


Highlights

  • Development of Ag Ant and photonic weed detection next steps in crop management
  • Be open but cautious when looking at new technology
  • Crowd thinking making a big impact on technological change
  • Acceleration of science has profound implications for agriculture
AgSuccess

Read the PDF version of the article by clicking on the image!

Acknowledged as one of the world’s leading global futurists, Jim Carroll has an extensive list of blue chip clients and has delivered keynote addresses around the world. He has operated his own advisory firm, J.A. Carroll Consulting, since 1989.

What equipment innovations do you see for agriculture in the years ahead?
At the University of Illinois, they have developed what they call the ‘AgAnt.’ It’s a prototype for an automated robot that can assess and detect stress, disease, weeds, soil status and pests. And at Edith Cowan University, they’re working to develop a ‘photonic weed detection system.’ It aims a series of laser pulses at the field, which are reflected back. A photo-detector then analyzes the information and provides instruction to a spray cylinder and valve as to where to apply a treatment.

Science is real. Science is fast. Science is accelerating. And agriculture is science.

I find it increasingly difficult to keep on top of many trends, simply because it is happening so fast. Just five years ago, I was on stage in Las Vegas speaking about this fascinating new, future idea of ‘3D printing.’ And then, just last year, I found myself on stage in front of a group of dental professionals, talking about the fact that 3D printing of dental implants, crowns and other implants, was coming into the industry at a very fast pace. 3D printing is expected to have ramifications for agriculture too. For instance, your local equipment dealership might in some cases be able to “print” a replacement part that you need.

You’ve said there have been some stunningly bad predictions in past decades. As we consider the range of current predictions, how should we sort the good from the bad?

That’s a tough one. Maybe the best ‘worst’ predictions were the ones that rockets would never reach the moon, or Bill Gates’s comment that 640K should be enough for everyone! And yet, some people carry it to extremes suggesting we will soon have elevators that will take us to space or to the moon. How do we sort out the real from the fanciful? Be open, but cautious.

You note that aggressive indecision often kills innovation in companies. Why is this happening?

During the economic downturn in 2001-02, I noticed that many of my clients, regardless of the industry, seemed to have lost their sense of direction. Quite simply, people decided not to make decisions – and they seemed to like it.

The result is an economy in which everyone seems to be stuck in a rut, unwilling and unable to move forward.

Why is this happening? In part, fear of the unknown. And that extends into the world of agriculture. We have a lot of farmers who are afraid to make decisions because the next unforeseen event might prove to have negative consequences.

So what do you do? Do you wallow in indecision, or make aggressive moves to position for a future in which ag only has an upside? I’m in the latter camp.

First, look for the warning signs: a mindset that is averse to any type of risk, an absence of any new product or marketing initiatives, or an organization that is stuck in a rut, wheels spinning, and no one has decided even to call a tow truck.

Second, realize that aggressive indecision means you’ll likely have to respond to external pressures faster than ever before. That’s because while people have learned they can hold off until the very last minute, they are also learning they can still get things right. This leads to a business cycle that involves extended periods of frustrated waiting, followed by a blur of activity as organizations rush about to respond to customers’ demands for instant action.

Third, be prepared to make bold decisions. Want to test it? Find the one big decision you’ve been deferring the longest, and decide one way or the other. Right now.

Technological change has been rapid in the past two decades. Will the rate of change slow, stay the same or accelerate in the years ahead?

It’s certainly going to accelerate – that’s why my tag line has become ‘the future belongs to those who are fast.’ There are numerous reasons why it is speeding up. Certainly the idea of ‘crowd thinking’ is having a big impact. We’ve got this big, global collaborative thinking and research machine with the Internet today.

Science itself is accelerating. The new global mind generates new knowledge at furious rates. We’re going from 19 million known chemical substances today to 80 million by 2025 – and five billion by 2100. The discovery of a single chemical substance permitted Apple to miniaturize a hard disk for the first iPad, which led to the birth of a new billion-dollar market.

The acceleration of science has profound implications for agriculture, since much of ag is science-dependent. Consider bio-genomics. The cost to sequence human, animal and plant genomes is collapsing at the same pace that the cost of computer chips collapsed.

Science is real. Science is fast. Science is accelerating. And agriculture is science.


Stuff that didn’t make the cut!

In some of your presentations you talk about the rise of urban farming and jobs for vertical farm infrastructure managers. Most farmers that I know see urban farming as a quaint idea rather than something that will feed a significant number of people. What’s your take on it?

It’s simple — the simple fact is that global food production has to double in the next 30 years to keep up with population growth, and there is little new arable land coming online.

Add to that some basic realities from an international perspective: By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities. Africa is urbanizing so fast that by 2030 it will cease to be a rural continent

Those trends are already leading to the rapid growth of urban farming. I dug out research that shows that there already there are 800 million ‘city-farmers’ according to UN statistics — some 25% of population of Burkina Faso, 35% in Cameroon, 63% in Kenya, 68% in Tanzania. Consider this: 90% of the fresh vegetables in Accra, Ghana come from farming within the city! That’s why we are seeing a lot of agricultural research and innovation around the idea of vertical farming … and hence, a new profession of farmers involved in this field.

Vertical farming is just an example of the massive types of innovaton occuring throughout the global agricultural sector. That’s why futurists like me exist : our job is to remind those who are very involved in day to day realities, and who don’t have a lot of time to think about what comes next, that there is a tremendous amount of change occuring out there.

Lets’ come back to the idea of vertical farming — visit http://vertical-farming.net, which is a global initiative that brings together researchers, academics and others involved in this field. 20 years ago, we didn’t have that type of global mind, but today, we do. This provides for a lot of collaborative thinking, research and idea sharing. This accelerates the pace of innovation and discovery.

Or take a look at http://www.instructables.com/id/Vertical-Hydroponic-Farm/ . This is an example of a community where people are using low-cost computers known as “Raspberry Pi’s” ($5 to $35 per computer) to advance vertical farming concepts. Sure, it might involve hydroponics, but the fact that tech-enthusiasts can share softawre and code also accelrates technology.

Is there any risk from relying on too much leading edge technology?

There is a tremendous amount of risk — privacy, security, criminal activities, social and ethical challenges. The list goes on. That doesn’t mean the pace of technological change is going to slow down.

When I talk about this on stage, I often help people think about their discomfort with change by quoting Ogden Nash, who observed that, ‘for some people, progress is great, but its gone on way too long.’ That I think captures in a nuthsell the reality that we faced with today. Many in my generation — baby boomers — are extremely uncomfortable with the rapid change that envelopes us.

But I really believe that its going to be differen with the next generation : my sons are 21 and 23, and I really believe they are a part of a generation that has a different view with respect to technological change. They’ve already grown up in a world in which they’ve witnessed the arrival and disappearance of entire technologies: think about DVD-players. I often talk about how they view some things from my life as being ‘things from the olden days’ — 35mm film, TV guides, CD’s.

Those young people are coming into the world of agriculture today — they’re taking over the family farm, or working within large industrial or agriculture cooperatives. They’re open to new ideas, new ways of working, and paritcuularly, new technologies.

They’re sitting in the combine with an iPad, an iPhone, and are eager to utilize rapidly evolving precision farming technoogies to achieve that year over year yield increase.

And when it comes to the risk of rapidly evolving technologies, I think they will deal with it in very different ways.

At least, I hope so. As a futurist, I have to stay relentlessly optimistic!

Here’s a clip from a keynote I did for GE — what is the real impact and potential of the Internet of Things (#iOT)?

 

#thkpgapro — Video from my keynote for the PGA of America Merchandise Show: where I thank 3 key PGA Pros in my life!

It’s the 100th anniversary of the PGA of America, and they are running a campaign to encourage people to thank the PGA Pros in their life. In this clip, I’m going on stage to open the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, and I start out with my own personal thanks!

Volvo / Mac Trucks has now had me in twice to keynote major leadership meetings. These talks have focused on the future of transportation/trucking/automotive sector.

My message is resonating — I was just booked by Honda USA….!

Here’s a clip from one of the sessions: I’m speaking about accelerating change in the industry, and getting the audience to think about how quickly today’s in vehicle dashboard experience might quickly become something from the ‘olden days.’ This was a dinner talk, so there was a lot of humor that had to be thrown out there.

You can hear the crowd react.

 

I’ve written another article for the global GE Reports publication : you can find it online here.

GoingGray

The U.S. and other countries are doomed by tremendous water usage and leaky infrastructure. But a thirst for innovative solutions is leading entrepreneurs and communities to rethink ways to use everyday wastewater.

Let’s talk about water.

There are big energy opportunities that come from innovative thinking about water usage, particularly given that much of the Western world’s infrastructure is not set up in such a way that wastewater is reused and recycled.

Consider some key statistics:

  • 16 percent of the U.S. water supply is lost due to leaky pipes and goes back in the ground.
  • Only 7 percent of U.S. communities recycle wastewater.
  • Compare that to Israel, where more than 80 percent of household wastewater is recycled, with half of that going to irrigation.

Bottom line for the U.S.? Utilities lose enough water every six days to supply the nation for a day.

That infrastructure challenge of wasted water exists for many Western nations. Canada is one of the highest per capita users of water on the planet. The average person there generates 300 liters of waste water per day, compared to 20 to 30 liters in developing countries. Other developed countries show similar patterns.

That doesn’t have to be the case if strategies are adopted to more aggressively recycle “grey water ” within a community. What’s grey water? Quite simply, it’s the water we send down the drain from showers, toilets, sinks and other commercial and residential sources. Most of it disappears, draining into oceans, lakes or ground aquifers.

What if we could recycle that water and reuse it, and thus engage some of the expense of moving so much other water around?

Consider the Irvine Ranch Water District in California, which has had a recycled water program since 1961, serving areas such as Newport Beach and parts of Orange County. The results are impressive: recycled water meets some 21 percent of the area’s water demands. While initially aimed at water use for agriculture, it now provides services for landscape irrigation, industrial use and toilet flushing in commercial buildings. The system now delivers 23.5 million gallons of recycled water to more than 4,000 customers daily.

This is while water supply and access are becoming increasing challenges in many areas of the world.

In California, the energy cost of water is particularly expensive. In an article in The American Journal of Public Health, some of the numbers are pretty clear:

  • Pumping, treating, transporting and heating California’s water currently represent nearly 20 percent of the state’s energy use.
  • Much of this energy use is the result of a heavy reliance on “imported” water, because the majority of California’s water users are concentrated far from major water sources.
  • Transporting water via California’s State Water Project –the state-built water delivery and storage system — is 2 to 3 percent of the state’s total energy alone and results in roughly 4 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

The potential energy savings are huge if more recycled grey water is utilized. If 10 percent of imported water in California was replaced by recycled water, there would be a savings of 80 million kWh of energy annually .

It is estimated that some 9 percent of U.S. carbon emissions are related to transporting water, and that heating water totals 58 percent of the national energy footprint of water usage.

That’s why the grey water opportunity is clear.

One of the companies using technology to deal with the challenge is Nexus eWater. They market themselves as the world’s first home water and energy recycler, providing a solution for residential water reuse. Nexus has some pretty bold goals that can be met utilizing their system:

  • reducing city water into the home by up to 40 percent;
  • reducing sewage from the home by 70 percent;
  • reducing water heating energy by 70 percent;
  • generating total savings of $50 to $200 per month per home for water, sewer and electric bills, at least for the the River Islands community in Lathrop, California.
  • Oh, and harvesting rainwater as well.

How does it work? With advanced filtering and energy capture technologies, they provide recycled water of a quality that is safe to use on lawns and in toilets. In addition, they can capture the heat in grey water, and thus produce hot water using 75 percent less energy than that from the electrical grid. The cost? Currently at least $10,000 per home.

Nexus is just one such initiative. ReWater Systems, also based in California, offers a grey water solution that reuses sink, toilet, shower and other residential water for lawn and garden irrigation. Spend some time on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, and you can find all kinds of initiatives geared towards the idea.

There are plans to develop communities that employ efficient recycled water systems. The Sea Cliff community, under construction in San Diego, is specifically built with this purpose in mind. It is estimated that each of the 52 upscale homes there will save up to 100,000 gallons of water per year.

It’s clear there are leaders who are looking at this problem as an opportunity. I’d hazard a guess that this will be a pretty big growth market in the years to come.

What should you do?

As I suggest with any new area of opportunity, you should “think big, start small and scale fast.”

Gain some inspiration from the many initiatives in this area; and maybe take on a pilot grey water program. Learn from your efforts, and then determine how to go further, either from a simple residential project or an overall community initiative.

A quick video clip from my keynote for QAD 2016 in Chicago.

Here’s a promo clip I just filmed for my upcoming keynote at EdNET 2016 in Dallas.

When we think about the future of education, we need to think about the careers that the kids of today will be working in. Many of those careers don’t exist. Let’s hear what think about that!

The kids understand the future! Does the education industry?

What do you need to be thinking about now when it comes to skills issues? Read my PDF  here or by clicking on the image.

21stcenturyskills

“Skills are Experiential. Skills are Generational. One of the most important assets that a company can invest in is “experiential capital”—that is, the cumulative knowledge the company has generated through innovation, risk, failure and success. Boost that skills capability and you’ve done something that flows onto the bottom line.”

 

Are wearables about to disappear, and become a ‘technology from the olden days?’ They might as smart clothing comes to dominate our world of movement and fitness tracking in the coming time.

Over the years, I’ve had regular discussions with my personal trainer about the exercise routines she has been trying to get me to do. After all, being intensely curious, I want to understand the purpose of each particular exercise and what muscle group they are supposed to be ‘firing’ (her terminology). Today, we’re on the edge of an era in which smart clothing will become common, and this will help us to achieve this goal.

And so rather than carrying around a variety of ‘wearables’ such as a FitBit, you’ll simply put your clothes on, and throughout the day, your muscle activity, breathing rate, heart activity zones and other information will be automatically tracked. Wearables will disappear — and the way you conduct your exercise routines will be forever transformed.

I recently spoke about this trend during a recent keynote for the national meeting of the YMCA of Canada: here’s a clip from the Q&A portion of the talk:


The estimates for the growth of the smart clothing sector indicate that it is certainly a “next big thing:” Tractica, a research firm, predicts total shipments of smart clothing growing from 968,000 units in 2015 to 24.8 million by 2021; another firm, Research & Markets, expects growth from 140,000 units in 2013 to 10.2 million by 2020.

Smart clothing will provide several distinct capabilities, although any particular smart clothing item might contain one or more of these capabilities:

  • spatial awareness capabilities: you or your personal trainer will be able to determine if you are using the right muscle group for the exercise at hand. The clothing will allow for monitoring of your body position from a 3D perspective on a connected mobile or table device.
  • performance tracking metrics:  such as calorie burn or oxygen consumption, useful to understand if you are performing at the right intensity for the exercise at hand
  • cadence  measurement, such as when you are jogging or cycling
  • clothing that lights up and changes in relation to music or movement; this will be the new fashion and fad accessory!

There will be many other capabilities as well.

We’re already seeing some fascinating developments in the smart clothing space:

  • L’areal  has developed a UV tracking sticker that could help prevent skin cancer. Designed” in partnership PCH, with sensors from MC10, My UV Patch is a soft wearable heart sticker, packed with ultraviolet- tracking sensors
  • Athos sells “smart performance apparel that monitors your biosignals and distills them into meaningful insights” — in other words, if will tell you if you are doing your squats or other routines properly; it will measure muscle activity and effort,and help you interpret the data.
  • Hexoskin sells smart clothing that monitors calories burned, energy expended, breathing patterns and other information.

Right now available smart clothing products such as that from Hexoskin are premium priced, and are definitely not ‘mainstream’ when it comes to design. (A Hexoskin shirt can cost about $450!).

But as with any new technology, the price will steadily decrease, the technology and sophistication of the clothing will accelerate, and new markets and opportunities will be born!

Will the era of smart clothing result in the disappearance of personal trainers? Might we start using holographic trainers instead of real human beings? I put these questions to my trainer, and her response was:

  • -personal trainers will not get replaced by technology
  •  people want instant gratification, generally speaking they will not take the time to learn and correctly perform these more complex exercises on their own
  • the feed back that wearable technology and smart clothing can give them is great for motivation and will promote adherence
  • humans are basically social creatures and nothing can replace the face-to-face coaching experience
  • Nor the power of the words “good job!” And a smile! 🙂

And I certainly agree with that!

The popular buzz is that manufacturing in North America is dead, dying, or in a continual state of decline. Politicians seem to want to wave a magic wand and ‘fix everything.’

That being said, the sector has already done a remarkable job in reinventing itself for a new world of digitization, changing business models, changes to process and optimization, competing in a post-flat world and other opportunities.

Here’s a clip from a recent manufacturing keynote I delivered in Chicago in which I look at some of these trends.