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I’m doing a lot of interviews these days around the future of agriculture. Maybe that’s because I’m doing a lot of keynotes in this field (pardon the pun), but also because a lot of searches for trends in agriculture hit my site.

"Plants might someday be able to analyze themselves, through genetic coding or embedded computer chips, he says. Do your plants need a nitrogen boost or a drink of water? They’ll send alerts directly to your computer."

“Plants might someday be able to analyze themselves, through genetic coding or embedded computer chips, he says. Do your plants need a nitrogen boost or a drink of water? They’ll send alerts directly to your computer.”

Here’s the latest, from AgWeb / The Farm Journal Technology publication. You can find the original article here.

What will agriculture look like in 2043?
by Ben Potter, Farm Journal Technology, April 2013

Driverless tractors! Weed-zapping robots! Data-transmitting crops! Forecasting what farms will be like 30 years from now might seem an exercise in science fiction, but imagine how alien today’s farms might appear to someone from the early 1980s. Imagine pulling a farmer aside from that era and trying to explain telematics or precision ag technology. Imagine explaining what your smartphone can do.

Making a multi-decade forecast is a challenge, admits David Nicholson, head of research and development at Bayer CropScience.

“I always say we can look 10 years into the future because that’s how long research and development projects take,” he says. “We know what’s going to happen because it’s in our labs and our pipelines today.”

Anything beyond that window is trickier, says Nicholsen, who foresees a more localized precision ag experience.

“It will be precise,” he explains. “That seed in that bit of the field is working well. That same seed in that other bit of the field isn’t. Why? What’s different? We will have the tools to do plant-by-plant analysis.”

Noted futurist Jim Carroll takes the idea a step further. Plants might someday be able to analyze themselves, through genetic coding or embedded computer chips, he says. Do your plants need a nitrogen boost or a drink of water? They’ll send alerts directly to your computer.

“It’s not farfetched to think of intelligent plants with connectivity,” Carroll says. In fact, connectivity is a concept that will drive agricultural advancements as the next generation moves in.

“The farmer of 2043 is five today,” Carroll says. “He or she has never known a world without mobile devices and mass connectivity.”

Another driving force comes down to mathematics, says Ron Restum, vice president of North America sales with Koch Agronomic Services.

The generally accepted equation is a world population of 9 billion people by the year 2050 with a dwindling amount of available arable land. Therefore, Restum says farmers must produce more bushels per acre, or the numbers won’t pencil out.

Technology Driven. “Progress will have to be tech-driven,” Restum says. “We have to continue to be on the forefront of R&D.” Some technologies that sound far-flung should be staples before 2043, but technology and human concerns must be balanced before a product can be integrated.

The autonomous tractor is a prime example. Several companies have developed prototypes. John Deere has been working on driverless tractors for 5 to 10 years, according to Bob Dyar, a product manager with the company’s Intelligent Solutions Group.

“The real hurdles aren’t technological ones—they’re social ones,” Dyar says. How comfortable would you feel driving down the highway and seeing a driverless car alongside, he asks. A similar comfort level for driverless tractors will take time to develop, he says.

“It’s quite easy to make a tractor autonomous where it can drive itself,” Dyar says. “The challenge is making it perceptive, so you trust it not to hit a tree or the family dog.”

If farming goes “robotic,” will a farmer’s role fundamentally change? The farmer becomes the general, and the office serves as the command center where the troops (remote-controlled tractors, robots armed with lasers that identify and zap weeds and insects) are sent into battle each day.

What the farm of the future will look like is anybody’s guess, says Craig Ratajczyk, Illinois Soybean Association chief executive officer. “Significant changes are inevitable,” he says. “Thirty years from now, farming won’t look anything like it does today.”

(July 2016 update: Most of my servers are now on droplets on Digital Ocean. LEMP stack with Ubuntu is the current favourite. Raspbian on Pi’s with Ubuntu for #IoT projects. sudo-apt get update should apply to old blog posts!)

A big shout-out to the 10 companies that helped the most in keeping the JimCarroll.com Web site infrastructure in great operating shape throughout 2011. If you want to do a great Web site, you need to do it right. These are some of the technology companies that have supported my site in various ways through the year.

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Throughout 2011, my Web site has played an incredibly powerful role in supporting my speaking activities worldwide.

Quite a few clients have told me that they’ve found it through a Web search for a ‘futurist’ or ‘innovation speaker’, or have been sent there by one of my speaker bureau clients. They’ve told me they’ve watched the video clips throughout the site, and that with other background information, has convinced them that I’d be a great addition to their corporate leadership meeting or association event.

Keeping a Web site such as JimCarroll.com up and running with little downtime,  in a way that it is fast, responsive, and always available, takes a bit of effort. I do all the maintenance, blog postings and updates on my own. But it’s also through the help of a variety of partners that I’ve got a site in which the average Web page loads in under 3 to 4 seconds — pretty good for a media rich, complex site.

And so as we wind down the year 2011, I thought it would be a good time to give a shout-out to the many technology partners that I use to keep this Web site in tip top shape, or let me watch how well it is working. In no particular order, these partners include:

  • Blogvault: A fabulous WordPress backup service. Plug it in, pay a small fee, and you’ve got peace-of-mind knowing that your Web site is being backed up on a regular minute by minute basis. What’s better is their 1-button Web site restore. For example, I just had to move my son’s Web site over to my main Web server, and using the backup copy it worked like a charm – instantly!. Highly recommended!  
  • VaulltPress; another WordPress backup service that I am using. I started out with VaultPress before I met Blogvault, but I’m not one to easily leave a relationship that is working so well. Like Blogvault. this service does a regular minute by minute backup of my entire WordPress based Web site. Redundancy of backup can be a good thing – that’s why I’ve got two backup services!  
  • Woopra – Web site analytics software. With these folks, I’ve got a fabulous real time dashboard that shows me how people are using my Web site — how they found me, what they’re looking at, and what pages they are spending their time on. This has allowed me to continually redesign my site, ensuring that my clients can easily find the insight they are looking for. There are almost 1,000 blog posts — and I’ve discovered where people really spend their time. 
  • OpenTracker. These folks are a competitor to Woopra — and have their own unique strengths. I particularly like how I can do some pretty deep analysis of Web traffic as it is happening in real time – it gives me a real sense of what people were looking for, and what pages really draw significant attention. 
  • MediaTemple: extraordinary Web hosting with incomparable service — if you are willing to pay for a strong, reliable host, you’ll get stellar service. I had a support question on Thanksgiving Day — and it only took minutes for them to respond. I started the year out with a shared Web hosting service, and to be honest, you can take a significant performance hit if your site gets busy. In April I moved over to their DV (Dedicated Virtual) service, so that I’m the only one running as a server on the space I share. I’ve seen major performance improvements and fabulous reliability. Pingdom tells me I’ve only had 5 outages, and I know that each of those times has been due to something I’ve screwed up on my own. 
  • W3TC: a typical Web site / WordPress blog can slow down when it is serving up a variety of video, images and other information rich sources, particularly under heavy traffic loads. That’s where this service comes in — it spreads out the content to my “content delivery provider,” Amazon CloudFront …so that the images that you see on the Web site don’t actually come from my site, but from a variety of Amazon servers around the world. If you want to speed up a WordPress based Web site, W3TC is likely the best tool out there. 
  • CopterLabs: every once in a while, you need some custom programming done on a Web site. I found and hired Copter Labs to design the cool ‘image slider’ that you see on the top of this post. They do great work, are extremely professional, and truly do draw upon a team of WordPress experts worldwide – while my project was managed from Portland, Oregon, the actual work was done by a fellow in the UK. 
  • GTMetrix: to keep this complicated infrastructure moving and in great operating shape, you’ve got to able to do some deep analysis of where any bottlenecks might be emerging in your site. Every time you add a new feature, you run the risk of introducing some slow performance. GTMetrix lets me look into performance and continually fine tune its operations.  
  • easyDNS: the key component to any Web site is having a domain service that figures out just “where” jimcarroll.com happens to be located — and where and when images are being serviced from Amazon Cloudfront. Not just that, but a great domain service should automatically flip your Web site to a backup host in case things go wrong. That’s the role of easyDNS — I’ve been using them for 15 years — and could not recommend them more highly!  
  • Poll Everywhere: last but not least, but PollEverywhere ranks as my favourite tech tool of 2011. I was described in a blog post as a ‘raving fan’ of this service, and that is extremely true. I use PollEverywhere to do live text message polling while on stage – while they’re not really a part of my Web site, they are a very, very important partner! 

That’s my list of my key 10 providers for 2011. Obviously, there is a lot more at work here in terms of the technology infrastructure. I must mention Apple in light of the  : the home office consists of a Mac Pro, new Macbook Pro, iPad, iPhone, and just about everything-Apple. Between the home and the chalet, we’ve got 4 Apple TV’s and just about ever other whiz-bang iDevice possible. The fact is, Apple has helped to take my business to new levels — Pages, Number, and most importantly, Keynote have all replaced the Microsoft office tools that I was using up until 2007. Earlier this year, while on stage, I actually had to use Windows 7 when I wasn’t allowed to use my Mac on stage — and I was completely, totally lost!

Not to forget as well Keynote Pro: these folks designed the Keynote presentation template that I use on stage — one that has now probably been viewed by over 100,000 people in the last two years alone. It’s not a key part of what I do on my Web site, but from a stage perspective, it’s certainly a key part of my success! 

Thanks to all – and here’s to 2012!

Update: For those asking about how I manage to walk on stage and do what I do, and also manage the tech infrastructure — you can’t figure out the future if you don’t deeply into the technology that will drive it! For what it’s worth, I’ve been geeking out as a hobby since 1982, starting with a Radio Shack Model III. My latest project, in my ongoing effort to keep the Website humming along, is to utilize a MediaTemple VE server running on an “LEMP stack.”  (I’ve had a test site running with Apache and Nginx as a proxy, but there’s still a lot of Apache overhead.) So the next stage involves a barebones Ubuntu operating system (Linux), running Nginx (instead of Apache, for performance), Mysql and PHP. (Hence, LNMP, not LAMP). It’s based on this article here. Looks awesome!

Phil Gyford is one cool guy!
February 6th, 2006

I’ve had this blog for a few years now, and have done most of the recoding of the MovableType templates to support the look and feel of my website. Yet I’ve always had a challenge with the way individual items posted. I poked around the ‘Net, and found a guy named Phil Gyford who seemed to have a good reputation in this area. I sent him an e-mail, pointed out the problem, and he took the time to figure out the problem, and sent me some code to set it straight.

I don’t even really know the fellow, but this more than anything demonstrates why the infinite idea loop is expanding at a furious pace.

And I’d be pleased to give him a recommendation at any time if you ever need some special web integration/coding work!

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