3 Picks: Aquaponics Venture, Aging Farmer, Blueberry Mechanization
Picking Blueberries. Flickr CC via Robin.
Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.
1) A new, ambitious aquaponics venture in Watsonville, California: Donna Jones tells us that “Partners Jon Parr and Drew Hopkins are attempting to create the largest commercial aquaponics operation in the country at a former rose nursery. If all goes as planned, they’ll fill 350,000 square feet of greenhouses with fruits, vegetables and fish within 18 months, all grown in a sustainable, environmentally friendly manner. … Their vision is to create a self-contained operation. The aquaponics system will allow them to use far less water than conventional growers, and no fertilizer or pesticides. To control bugs, they’ll regularly infuse greenhouses with carbon dioxide, a by-product of the wood-chip burning gasification oven that will power the generator that will supply electricity. Aquaponics is so efficient, Parr said, they’ll be able to grow a head of lettuce in a month and more than four heads in a square foot, each month all year. A conventional farmer might get one head of lettuce per square foot, and two to three crops per year, he said. In three years, they’ll be able to send 15-pound sturgeon to the market as well.”
2) Who owns Iowa’s farmland? “Last year, almost one third of Iowa farmland was in the hands of someone over the age of 75. … There are younger owners, although they represent a small percentage of the acres. Over half, 56%, of the farmland in Iowa is owned by someone over the age of 65. … Absentee land ownership has declined in the last few years since the run-up in land values. In 2012, 21% of the farmland in Iowa was owned by an absentee owner.”
3) In Maine, a Switch over to the Mechanical Harvesting of Blueberries: Dave Sherwood tells us yet yet another story about machines taking over from the unpredictable reliability of immigrant labor to harvest blueberries in Maine. “Maine growers see few alternatives to mechanization, as migrant labor dries up and few Americans appear to take their place. Though the state keeps no official tally, the Maine Wild Blueberry Commission said the number of seasonal workers employed here has dropped nearly 80 percent in 15 years, to fewer than 1,000 last year. “There are people that say if we just paid more, Americans would do the work. But that’s a joke,” said Ed Flanagan, president of Jasper Wyman & Son Inc, Maine’s second-largest blueberry grower. Flanagan says hard-working pickers make as much as $20 an hour here, almost three times Maine’s minimum wage of $7.50.”
BONUS: Yesterday’s Non Sequitur Comic.
This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.