On October 9th, after a class discussing precision agriculture technology and data management, we were asked to do a reading from November 2018 on the Center for Food Integrity‘s ‘Gene Editing, Engage in the Conversation’ about speaking to opponents of gene-editing – namely the pre-2013 Mark LYNAS” of the world, anti-GMO supporter.
In the article, it is explained that gene-editing is the key to producing, ‘healthier, more affordable, and abundant food with less land and water-use’ and that consumers are, ‘inherently curious’ about the source of their food and how it’s produced. It is the job of ‘Ag-vocates’ to explain biotech to those who are curious or misinformed. It is helpful to provide tangible examples, and real-world visuals and anecdotes to aid in communication.
First, it is helpful to explain what gene-editing is, which is ,’the precise, intentional, and beneficial change of the genetic material of plants and animals used in food production for additional health, nutrition, and environmental benefits.’ Many consumers don’t believe plants even have DNA or contain genes.
When presenting knowledge about the gene-editing technique CRISPr to those consumers, finding experts whose knowledge is easily digestible is key.
Secondly, explain how gene-editing is beneficial to human health, i.e., use common ailments like cancers (leukemia, sickle cell, lung cancer) to frame gene-editing in a positive light.
Third, talk about how gene-editing has evolved with time. The process of cross-breeding plants with trial-and-error is a lengthy procedure that can take decades, while targeted editing is much quicker.
Fourth, find benefits that align with public desires. Honing in on what consumers want, be it improved animal welfare or protecting the environment can be the key to swaying dissenters to the side of biotech.
Two analogies used to explain gene-editing are, ‘The Blueprint’ and, ‘the Encyclopedia’ to explain how making small aesthetic changes to a house does not make it structurally unsound or uninhabitable and can make it increasingly easy to find where the right resources are located, respectively.
Ultimately values, and not facts, are typically what sway both hearts and minds.
Finally, the article ends with a helpful glossary of terms and online resources, as well as the relatively recently established in 2016, ‘Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture‘. The Coalition is a collection of various entities from different fields who have shared values about gene-editing.
This past week our class took a trip to Fifer’s Orchards in Delaware. One of the owners Bobby, toured us around the entire farm and talked to us about lots of different crops and how they keep all of them under control. They grows lots of different fruits and vegetables. This was a very enjoyable field trip because this is the type of stuff I am interested in. He explained all of the cool machinery and how they are able to grow all their crops. Their best crop to grow is tomatoes, strawberries, sweet corn, and pumpkins. Those are their best money makers. I would highly recommend Fifer’s to anyone because it is such a friendly and fascinating place.
On October 12, 2019, Mr. Dave WARRY led the class on a tour of Hoober Equipment. Getting off to a slightly late start, the tour began with a brief outline and background of the business and the employees in the particular branch we visited.
Mr. WARRY began by introducing himself, saying he began working with Precision Agriculture at Hoober’s in 2005. He followed this up, by stating how unusual it is to remain in the business so long, saying people usual spend about 18months in the industry. He says this is due to many factors, but he says there are many potential sources of frustration doing the job, such a people calling at all hours, people forgetting how to use the equipment from season to season, and the vast amount of patience required to deal with a flustered farmer who can’t move their product because of broken and malfunctioning machinery whilst waiting on repairs. Mr. WARRY graduated from Penn State after majoring in Agricultural Systems Management and technology, but after college he went to work on a farm for four years, an experience he viewed equally valuable as college. Agricultural Systems Management was not his first choice however- initially he was studying pre-vet, but saw it as, ‘a lot of work’, only switching his major after taking an Introduction to Agriculture course where the Advisor for Agricultural Systems Management (ASM).
Mr. WARRY said that Hoober’s works with Mr. James ADKINS and his irrigation technology, but each employee specializes in different equipment.
Next, we were introduced to Mr. Charlie IRVIN, who’s been with Hoober’s for a similarly long stretch time, doing service installs and working as the shops tractor and shop repairman for 12.5years.
Hoober’s itself is a family business established in 1941 and has 9 locations throughout PA, MD, DE, and VA. The third generation, Mr. Bud HOOBER is gradually being succeeded by the next generation. Hoober’s values a strong skill set over any degree. They are looking for employees with personality, ‘common sense’, ambition, accountability, and self-motivation. There are opportunities to receive on-the-job training as well as being sent around the country. Mr. WARRY did say that they struggled to find interested potential recruits. He advocates the work with electronics because it offers employees a chance to learn and advance, and is often easier on an aging body than, ‘turning a wrench’ and working solely on mechanics.
Part of the work done at Hoober’s includes troubleshooting, which according to Mr. WARRY, takes very little time, and is done with charts and by computer. Other ventures include a technology field lab and class tours like ours.
Hoober’s deals in agricultural, lawn&garden equipment, and construction equipment with automated technology. Much of Hoober’s competition strives to sell programing tools for whatever technology they’re promoting- Hoober’s programming works across brands, for any equipment they carry. The Tractor Supply Co., while very close by, is not a source of competition, as they only sell small parts- like hitches & chains- and animal feed- products that compliment what Hoober’s sells.
Automated steering is one of the most popular feature and it is used to prevent operator fatigue that often sets in a different points of a farmers 18hour day- the technology will keep the equipment running straight down the rows of a field, working at peak efficiency. Heated cabs, stereos, heated seats, and raised seating are among some of the modern-day features in the latest pieces of automated machinery. When the computerized technology was tested against a conventional, non-autonomous piece of equipment, the drivers were required to take eight hour time-outs, operating only 30minutes at a time, according to test regulations set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The equipment Hoober’s carries is expensive. Some of that expense is simply due to the brand name. Mr. WARRY told use that John Deere is always expensive, even when purchasing the brands signature yellow and green paint. He cautioned us that John Deere equipment purchased at stores like Lowes & Home Depot is cheaper than buying directly from a company dealership, and that those cheaper pieces of equipment are often made of cheaper materials that will not last as long. Other brands we saw included Cub Cadet and CASE among others. Regardless of the brand, when purchasing a $400, 000 tractor vs. a $1, 000 lawnmower, the cost of repairs can quickly exceed the original price.
A stop in the back office revealed multiple shelves packed with service manuals- some as much as 50 years old, and still used regularly. Though the floor might have been pressure-washed before we arrive, the 25-year-old building is due for an update, with new lighting and shrubbery planned for the interior and exterior, respectively. Even with the desire to do some, ‘sprucing up’, Mr. WARRY said one of the best upgrades to the building, was the addition of AC, which made the working environment much more pleasant.
In the shop and ‘Combine Productivity Clinic’ massive repair jobs are underway on equally massive piece of machinery. Brand new tractors shipped to the Port of Delaware arrived with damage received in-transit- required $100, 000-worth of repairs incurred from a rough sea journey.
The expense is understandable when the sheer power of the equipment is compared with that of a ‘standard’ tractor- the first machine we looked at, with 20, 000lbs/ft of torque, a 50, 000gal load of manure, and capable of pulling 70, 000lbs all together, was still able to reach up to 42mph, when a factory-quality tractor may only go 38-40mph. That said, the machine would have significantly less horsepower running with natural gas. Mr. WARRY projects methane from digested animal waste and electric battery technology with hydrogen fuel cells will be the way of the future.
Even with some of the mechanics shortcoming, the data for agronomy and electronics is still making great strides. Automated dairies that record the amount of milk gathered and don’t require farms to manually latch each pump to a cows udder. Center pivot irrigation systems can be calibrated to the unique needs of different cultivars or even different varieties like corn. Every three days, satellite images come in with up to 3ft(1m.) resolution, 30-40ft wide in infrared, near infrared, and color- data that allows farmers to almost distinguish individual plants. In addition to the aerial views supplies by satellites, drones- currently in-vogue for scouting real estate- are now being used to evaluate irrigation, weeds, and nutrient application. Mr. WARRY assures us that drone don’t replace agronomists- people are still needed to use the information they provide- drones just help farmers know where to look and address problems.
Hoober’s own connectivity network includes way stations all the way out to Ohio, with 1-1.5in. horizontal and vertical GPS accuracy, allowing its autonomous software to autocorrect and re-calculate paths with great precision.
One of the machines we spent a great deal of time going over was the Quadtrac. This particular machine had been stuck in the Delaware River/ocean, submerged with water well over the cab. While Mr. WARRY repeatedly reminded us this piece of equipment was not, in fact, a submarine, he did tout it’s capacity to do a large amount of work- more than a bulldozer and dump truck combined. Initially running after being fished out of the drink, the saltwater burnt the Quadtrac’s starters and batteries. When fully operation, the powerhouse machine can travel 24mph on it’s treads with horse power ranging from 470hp up to 620hp, making it a go-to for beach reclamation and recovery, pushing sand on the dunes. They are favored by the Delaware Dept. of natural Resources and Environmental Control(DNREC). The Quadtrac cost about $480, 000, but will cost the customer $1mil for repairs and having ht mechanics re-tuned.
Certain costs of repairs can be mitigated if the customer chooses the right features and tools for the job and puts the proper care and maintenance into his/her equipment. With the Quadtrac, the Rubber-on-rubber treads generates heat, so dirt and sand are a good lubricant for those moving parts. If a customer decides to upgrade to chrome over steel, this upgrade can prevent significant wear that would usually occur in just 2-3years. 1 (relatively) small chrome part, can cost $8, 000.
Using all this precision machinery, it can cost a farmer over $1mil just to complete a harvest. Hoober ‘s provides expertise & technical support- for a $120, 000 service fee.
Next, after a brief safety-scare- while standing in the ‘Combine Clinic’ where the mere tires of the machinery dwarfed us, workers were servicing a machine off to the side, over our heads- we headed out of the shop to allow those employees to work. Our next stop was a small field of grass where we would be able to drive three pieces of equipment- but not before learning a bit about them. A brief discussion before the highly anticipated interactive portion of the trip- almost like grace before a meal…
First there was the Sprayer– a 120ft. Class 4 vehicle costing around $430, 000. It’s great width prevents greater damage to small grain crops like soybeans that aren’t planted in rows. Equipped with 72 nozzles, each is powered by it’s own computer. The droplets sizes emitted from the sprayer are adjusted through pulsing pressure changes from the nozzles. Regulations are in place to keep the pressure, ‘on target’ to avoid spraying private property & gardens. With the Sprayer’s electrified network, any application of nitrogen is prone to mess up any one of the 72 computers onboard. Mr. WARRY said that due to the info.-input overload of having each computer sending it’s own date, Hoober’s is going to do an $18, 000 re-tool on a 12-row sprayer, using just seven computers for a batch of nozzles using a new company’s technology.
Next up, we saw the Planter. This machine was not one we go to drive, but we went through a run-down of its features too. It cost around $150, 000- $180, 000- one of the cheapest pieces of equipment we spoke on today. The seed is sucked into numerous individual planters by a vacuum. The Planter is able to change its seeding rate and use markers to mark the rows, via satellite imagery and overlaying maps. Seeds are planted using hydraulic downforce– how hard the see is placed into the ground. This machine can plant and fertilize seed. There is also a no-till setting with which the machine parts the organic matter in a V-shape before depositing a seed and packing the soil over top.
The talk concluded and, instead of unfolding our hands, the Sprayer was folded into a much more compact, easier-to-drive setting. During this transition, Prof. ISAACS reminded us of the $150mil cost of taking an idea to the construction phase- all the changes and improvements to each iteration of the equipment that had to be tested and approved before making it to market. One student asked what type of equipment might cut costs for the farmer. Mr. WARRY said it depends, but a $60-70, 000 piece of machinery could be combined with an $11, 000 planter, then stripped and fit with electronics and computers, an do an acceptable job when compared with a top-line model.
During my ride in the one of the machines- the older of two CASE tractors, I was able to have some of my questions answered too. I learned that Hoober’s does rent some equipment and there are places to go for that, but usually a farmer will invest in their own. I also learned that new farm equipment may also come with failsafes to prevent damage from improper use- for example, when the Sprayer was being folded, Prof. ISAACS mentioned that if the sections were folded out of sequence they could crumple the components or even come through the cab! Lastly, in response to what Mr. WARRY had mentioned about the technology component of precision agriculture being easier on older bodies, I asked about accessibility for farm equipment- a thought that came to me simply because I am shorter and climbing into the cabs, though not impossible, was a bit daunting. Mr. ISAACS told me such a program exists- it’s call AgrAbility. He told me that they make entering the cab much easier, but unlike other services that make custom vans from the ground up, there are no, ‘custom cabs’ because tractors cannot deviate from there factory default specs like that.
The trip concluded with a class picture and free Hoober ball caps and snapbacks for everyone.
On October 2, 2019 Mr. James ADKINS spoke to us on irrigation practices across the state of Delaware and how they’ve evolved over time. Mr. ADKINS has a Bachelors degree from the University of Maryland and works at the UD Carvel Research Center and is an Extension Specialist with fruits and vegetables. He also worked with Mr. KEE- the man who brought PictSweet to Delaware along with mechanized pickling. Additionally, Mr. ADKINS works with equipment, technology, and irrigation nationally and internally, as well as handling irrigation on Warrington Farm.
The talk began with a brief history on irrigation in relation to the systems used today. Only 20% of the world’s farmland is irrigated but 40% of the world’s food supply is produced with irrigation. Mr. ADKINS traces irrigations humble beginnings to the Towers of Babylon in Machu Picchu, originally pumped by slaves. Irrigation systems requiring man-power could be found in other ancient civilization throughout the world, as well as animal, wind, and water power.
One of the first methods of irrigation Mr. ADKINS discussed was flood irrigation. Also called gravity/furrow irrigation, it is used when a weir controls the water flow. This type of irrigations works best on heavy (capable of holding a lot of water), mostly level soil where 3-4inches of water is applied per application- Delaware is not level enough to employ this method. In California, however, each farm receives this type of water delivery method 4 times per year with a 4 inch application each time. Siphon tubes are used to run water across a ditch with grated pipe, a system used by 30% of U.S. farms. A canal manager/operator oversees the transfer of water between farms as farmers upstream receive the water, then that tailwater is re-used on the next farm down. Mr. ADKINS tells us that there are stockholders in canal water- reiterating the points made by Mr. KEE about the complicated water rights in California. The Homestead Act and combined with the controversy around who owns what means farmers may not even own the water underneath their property.
After WW2 came the advent of the pressurized sprinkler system. With this system came the second method of irrigation, using hand-moved pipe. This pipe was made from aluminum, originally sourced from scrapyards in Washington and Oregon where airplane manufacture had been done. This system was often used in the western U.S. A variation of this system, side-roll wheeled-pipe, could be hooked to 150-200ft risers underground and can be seen in use in Idaho. This system doesn’t work well with corn.
Another pressurized system, the traveling gun, can be used for corn, soybeans, wheat, and other agronomic crops. This device has the spraying power of 10-20 fire hose in pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure. This force is not evenly applied, however, and the machine itself requires lots of power and fuel, meaning it has negative energy efficiency. This device is often used on sports fields, running 6hours at a time to cover 10acres. It is a poor choice to give water to newly plant, fragile, and shallow rooted crops.
Frank ZYBACH’s center pivot irrigation, uses an anemometer powered by water. The crops it is used on are often planted in circles. Mr. ADKINS showed us examples of it’s use in Nebraska, but it is broadly used, even in largely desert countries like Saudi Arabia. The system is used in Delaware and works well with furrow planted crops.
The greatest percentage of irrigated land exists in Asia, where 68% of the farmland receives water via surface water irrigation like dams and hydroelectric. Half of the 60 million acres of U.S. farmland that are irrigated use flood (surface water) irrigation. Mr. ADKINS informed the class that the first source of irrigation is often surface water before acquirers are sourced for water instead- aquifers require more pressure to pump water and therefore more money. Most of the irrigated farms in Asia are small, encompassing less than 5acres. 90% of India’s freshwater is used for agricultural irrigation compared to 65% of China’s freshwater.
After Asia, America comes in at a mere 17% with it’s irrigated farmland, followed by Europe at 9%, Africa at 5%m and Oceana at 1%. The U.S.’s irrigated farm area expanded rapidly from 1950 to 2000, going from 250 acres to 700 acres, or 280% in 50years. This is staggering, compared to the 10% increase from 2000 to 2010. Despite the more modern methods of irrigation utilized in the U.S., many aquifers are struggling. An example would be the large Oklahoma state high plains aquifer that is being depleted faster than it can naturally recharge- the rivers going through aren’t given the chance to percolate. Globally 15-35% of irrigation withdrawals are projected to be unsustainable. In California, irrigation withdrawals were a mere 19% in 2005, with almond trees allowed to die as irrigation water is diverted to the city for people to drink instead.
In Delaware, 30% of the farmland, or 15, 000 acres is irrigated. In Sussex County Delaware, 50% of the farmland is irrigated. In the older properties of the county, many wells are hand-dug and only go as deep as 40ft, when modern wells are often much deeper. Controversy often arises from citizens believing the neighboring farms center-pivot system is pumping out their drinking water, however this is often incorrect as domestic-use wells are deeper than irrigation wells and often tap into different aquifers because the aquifers are ‘stacked’ underground. Companies like Tidewater and Artesian can capitalize on these water disputes by promising new residents in their brand new developments, ‘fresh, uncontaminated drinking water’. When consumers buy a property they purchase water allocation rights, meaning the cone of influence to off-set their neighbor can’t exceed a foot of their well water.
Irrigation can also give locales on brink of disaster a second chance. In Ken BURNS’ documentary, ‘The Dust Bowl’ an Oklahoma city is irrigated after a lack of rainfall due to climactic change and the farmland is able to be recovered. In Saudi Arabia, 16, 000ft. well are dug to pump acquirers in the desert and increase the countries food security in times of conflict. Water desalinating technology is another expensive method used to bring water to the desert.
Lastly, Mr. ADKINS discussed ways in which aquifers are made more effective and efficient. 1 million gallons of water usage equals 10 households per year, 1.5 Olympic swimming pools, and 100 acres of corn in 1 day during the pollination stage. Much of the water applied to crops can be lost to the soil and air in a process referred to as evapotranspiration,or ET. Mr. ADKINS showed us an image of an old dike system where the aquifer was lined with concrete to prevent water loss from water seeping through the salt rock. He shared an interesting anecdote in which, through his travels, he learned that Idaho kids can ride a raft down the river for 20miles to an overpass for recreation. Certain cultivars, like corn, can use copious amounts of water- anywhere from 20-25inches, or an average of 22 in per year. Crop coefficients can be measured and estimated based on crop and growth stage charts and taking variables like humidity, rainfall, and wind into consideration. Increasingly high temperatures can make irrigation even less effective, as water is lost when plants are under heat stress. In Delaware, the sprinkler, drip, and sub-surface irrigation may require more water usage in sandy soil, but still used less water overall that alternative methods. In New Castle County, specific methods like drip irrigation can be better for the general soil type.
New irrigation technology was shown briefly at the end of the lecture. The Warrington Pivot works via SmartPhone and can be turned on remotely, creating added convenience and reducing the need for travel for farmers. When using the corner system and center pivot, zone control can be employed to adjust the water distribution rates for varying soil types on different plots of land- also known as Variable rate irrigation, or VRI, a small system for an area f low variability can cost $25, 000 as opposed to upwards of $30-$40, 000 for a larger, more complex system. To justify the expense, farmers use a free AGIS soil survey with records dating back to the 1940s to determine the needs of their property. For additional support, farmers can seek the help of a Natural Resource Conservation Specialist. Major soil variability will often occur near rivers and swamps, but any equipment for slight variability is usually used as a research tool, instead of a practical farming expense.
As the lecture lasted right up to the end of class, there was little in the way of closing statements or remarks.
This Field trip was very fun and I learned a lot about how precision ag is changing the way farmers do things. Hoober’s from the sound of it is where I would buy all my farming equipment. They are helpful and more important than that they are knowledgeable. Driving the tractors was very cool. The closest thing I’ve driven to a tractor was a bulldozer with a small backhoe on the back. The tractor was a lot smoother. Unfortunately, the auto steering didn’t work while I was in there but it started to right at the end so I got a little look at what was going on. It defiantly is cool how it just completely takes over and immediately starts to mark where you have been and I’m sure it would track everything you’ve harvested or sprayed. Which like professor Issac said would be very beneficial in a court case. This field trip definitely showed off this side of the industry very well and taught me a lot.
I was unfortunately unable to attend the field trip, but after speaking with some classmates who were in attendance, I now have a better idea of what happened and what was learned during the trip.
It seems that this trip was all about technology and it’s importance in the lives of those involved in agriculture. Hoober’s is an agricultural equipment and machinery supplier; selling more traditional farm equipment as well as equipment used in precision agriculture. It is due to places like these that farmers are able to stay on the cutting edge of new technological developments, and because of this technology being supplied, farmers can do so much more in less time with less physical labor.
These technologies are very important for improving the lives of the farmer through reduced labor, increasing the amount of food through higher rates of harvest in the same amount of land, and doing so in an environmentally friendly way.
I really, really enjoyed the field that we took to Hoober Equipment. It was nice to be able to get a first hand look at a company like that and as large as that works. It was probably one of my favorite field trips I have ever been on. It was really interesting to be able to see how a company like that runs and operates. I thought it was cool being able to drive the tractors and first hand be able to see how precession agriculture is used and works. Especially with auto steer and and how the GPS coordinates can keep a tractor on track all the way through a field just by picking two points on the map. It was really interesting to be able to walk through there shop and be able to see tractors that were taken apart, and I was able to actually see things on a tractor that I had not previously seen. Hoobers has a lot of job opportunities as well that I had never really thought about but am extremely interested in pursuing because I would love to work at a place like that.
Last Saturday, our class took a field trip to Hoober in Middletown, Delaware. Founded in 1941, Hoober specializes in both the sale and repair of agricultural tractors, sprayers, harvesters, and planters, as well as precision agriculture equipment. Over the years, Hoober has established a reputation for reliability and professionalism. Hoober has several locations throughout Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
The tour began with two employees explaining their career with Hoober and discussing their current jobs. Eventually we came to the workshop and saw several tractors in various states of repair. After this, we were given the opportunity to drive three tractors around a field with the aid of a precision agriculture tool, the auto-steer. The auto-steer is a very helpful tool used by most farmers to make steering a tractor easier. Using GPS, the auto-steer automatically drives the tractor along a predetermined course. Overall, I enjoyed this field trip and what it taught me about the many applications of precision agriculture used by Hoober, Inc.
On Saturday, October 12th, the Understanding Agriculture class went to Hoober Inc. in Middletown, Delaware. Hoober Inc. is a well-renown farm equipment supplier across the east coast. They sell reliable equipment like Kubota, Case IH, and JCB Agriculture products, as well as many more! We were given a tour of the workshop where technicians and mechanics repair tractors, combines, sand-separators, etc. and were shown various parts that make the farming equipment viable for crop production. The class was also informed about the importance of precision agriculture and the up and coming technologies that are used for farming, like satellite mapping and aerial robotics that are already being used by Hoober. Once we were done in the workshop, the class was given the privilege of riding tractors that are used for planting, tilling, and covering acreage on a farm. I had no idea that these things were actually auto-steer, making it so much easier for farmers to finish their hard labor, especially when they are fatigued from working their fields all day. Companies such as Hoober Inc. are very crucial to the agriculture industry, and with developing technologies every day, this company is proving that agriculture is becoming more environmentally and technologically sustainable and much more convenient for farmers when they need this convenience the most, and they are always on the farmers side when they need repairs or advice on their farm equipment. The farm industry would be nothing without companies like Hoober!
Hoober inc is a company working on selling, maintaining and fixing construction and agriculture equipment since 1941. They have other locations on Philadelphia, Maryland, Virginia and, of course, Delaware. We went to the Hoober inc shop in Middletown, Delaware. We visited their office, there are a whole wall of manual and document of equipment which can track back to 50s. It touches the bottom of me. When I look these files, it really shows their passion and love on this job. It matters to them. They want to supply the best service to their customers. Then we visited their workshops, we saw many staff working on their position. And there is some equipment took apart. When I look inside of an engine, I can’t imagine how hard to take it apart, find the problems, fix them, and put everything back. We also got opportunity to drive some of equipment. They are truly huge, like a tank, or bigger than a tank. And they cost a lot of money, some of them cost over half million dollars. I can figure that. They have so many technological equipment on one vehicle. For example, a sprayer with its 140-gallon fuel tank and 1,200-gallon product tank can keeps working in the field for a full day of spraying, and there are dozens of minicomputers, in its trailer for the each of the sprayers, which are complicated to monitor. They are trying to reduce the computer to 7 computers now.
It was a fascinating experience for me to learn about that the new equipment and technologies improve the precision agriculture in the modern agriculture.
On October 12th, at Hoobers, we were able to see up close the technological side of Precision Ag. Not only does Hoobers sell tractors and other various precision Ag. equipment, but they also help repair equipment that people bring in. Another part of their job is to go out in the community and help educate people on the correct way to use their equipment. For them, the most challenging part of precision Ag. is finding people who are interested in working there and know what they’re doing. In a job like Hoobers, each individual working there has to have the skills required for their job and also be able to be good at cooperating with the other sections of the company. As for new technological advancements that Hoober’s has, they have a connection with base station, which allows them to track and program all their equipment within the radius of the station.
“You have to know what it does, to fix it and make it go” (Dave Wary). Dave Wary, service technician and sales representative of Hoobers Inc., informed the University of Delaware students about Hoobers Inc. through giving a small lecture about the operation as well as giving a tour of Hoobers Inc. and the different equipment they sell and are currently fixing. Hoobers Inc, unlike many equipment companies, began in the mid-19th century when the 1st generation, Charles Hoober, signed an agreement to sell International Harvester farm equipment in Intercourse, Pennsylvania and started a business in that same year; which later caused him to open the Hoobers & Son Farm Equipment in 1956. With the start of the operation from the first generation, over time the family has continued to grow and expand the business and operate in various locations such as, Middletown, Maryland and Seaford, Delaware and sell and fix equipment such as, lawn mowers, sprayers, combines, and other tractors, and consult farmers, on equipment that the students were able to see today. Essentially, with the Hoobers operation, selling, consulting farmers and servicing equipment, farmers and producers are able to contact the operation on a piece of equipment when it breaks down or has issues before or during planting season, and is able to speak to a specialist who will guide them on how to operate the equipment or will go out to the field to fix the equipment the producer is having issues with. Essentially allowing farmers to get the service they need to operate and continue there work again.
With seeing and learning about the equipment and different services Hoobers Inc provides, Dave Wary allowed the students operate the sprayer, planter, and spiker which allowed the students and myself to experience the equipment farmers use and Hoober consults and fixes which essentially allowed myself and the other students to learn part of a new skill set, broaden our understanding of the agriculture industry in terms of precision ag and the equipment that is used within it; and learn a something that grabbed my interest which is that there is a lot of specifics in building a piece of an equipment, thus to build it, takes a lot of skill set, knowledge and labor to create something to allow farmers to have a more efficient way of producing a product.
On September 13th, former Secretary of Agriculture, Ed Kee, came in and presented on how the state of Delaware is the US food shed. He also spoke on programs that benefited individuals in the agricultural community. One of these programs is the AgLand Preservation program, which has made it so that there is 110,000 acres permanently preserved for agriculture specifically. If that land becomes vacant, it has to stay agriculture based. This takes up 20% of Delaware’s farmland, meaning that a decent amount of Delaware farmland will always be protected by the state. Another program is the Young farmer’s program, which provides up to 500,000 to a young farmer for a year. Secretary Kee also gave a brief history of the canning industry from the Napoleonic era, all the way up to today. So far, the major tomato canning producers was in Virginia, at 369. In Delaware, the most that could be grown from the year 1866-1946 was only 14-29 bushels. The advancement of agriculture, especially in the produce and poultry industry, is due in part to modifications of genetics, precision agriculture, irrigation, minimum tillage, soil fertility, weed control, and pest management. His final statement was that there is a need for farmers, land Agriculture, and technology to advance the agriculture field.
In class we had the opportunity to hear Dave Mayonado talk about biotechnology and his experience with Monsanto, and now Bayer. He started out but briefly talking about agricultural practices before we had all this precision agriculture technology and biotechnology. Explaining how land grant universities had the ability to conduct great amounts of research about agriculture. Afterwards he began to dive into how the knowledge of genetics and proteins in a plants genome has created for so many advances in agriculture. The ability for seed companies to insert targeted traits, silence traits, or add traits into a plants DNA allowed for them to start producing seeds that wouldn’t die from glyphosate, withstand drought better, produce higher levels of oil, and much more. This changed the face of agriculture. However, this technology is something that is heavily targeted but anti-GMO activists despite the fact that it is constantly being proven as a safe technology. In being employed with now Bayer, Mayonado has to be an agvocate for such technology, although that may not be formally in his job description.
I thought it was really interesting how Mayonado explained he spends a lot of the time in his job, working with government officials to educate them on this technology. The food and fiber system is quite the platform for political figures but yet a lot of them really have no idea what they are actually talking about. In saying so, I think a lot of people don’t realize that major seed companies have to take many different roles in educating consumers/political figures in order to continue to have successful company. He also talked about how they are constantly having to research, create, and produce new products in order to keep up with the producer and the demands. A big concern with this technology is the development of resistance in pests, so marketing new products so producers have different modes of action is crucial to a biotech company like Bayer. Creation of such products is lengthy, costly process but if done correctly can be very financially rewarding. Clearly, Monsanto/Bayer have been able to do just that.
Mayonado gave a great lecture pertaining to biotechnology and his experience within the company. Although I may not have understand all the technical science in his presentation, the one point that stuck out to me was that he never has the same work day. Things are always changing, and that is innovation something that excites me as a future producer.
Tuesday November 13th, Bill Cowser and Bill Northey came to the UD STAR Campus to discuss biofuels and modern agriculture. All majors were welcome to this hearing and as a bonus at the end there was free UDairy ice cream! On Bill Cowser’s farm he raises beef cattle and grows soybeans and corn. He mentioned that every third row of corn goes to produce ethanol. In Iowa, 39% of its corn crops is used for ethanol. Cowser also mentioned the three commodities that come from a corn field: stalk/corn, feed, and bedding. One thing that I thought was kind of funny was what Cowser calls “The Chase.” The Chase is one thing that he needs/ wants to control the most but is unable too. He would like to control the weather but it’s impossible. He even said that he knows he can’t be he’s going to try. This past summer Iowa got a lot of rain. More than Delaware which destroyed some of the crops there.
Both men talked about the main goals of the agricultural industry. For instance, farmers want renewable, sustainable, environmental friendly, and profitable products. If it’s not profitable then that’s a huge lost right there because no one will be able to afford it and therefore, no one would buy the product. They also talked about the VTA or the Vegetative Treatment Area. What this is, is an area of perennial vegetation, like grass or forage. It is used to treat runoff from either a barnyard or a feedlot by settling, infiltration, and nutrient use. And when the runoff has settled into the soil, natural processes allow plants to use those nutrients. To me, this presentation was really interesting to hear. Even though it went over most of the topics we covered in class there was more to learn from it which is pretty cool. It’s also nice to get an insight view of the production from a different area.