The Coming Revolution in Agriculture

From the Desk of the Director, JP Gellermann

I am a dedicated contrarian (a person who opposes or rejects popular opinion) (for no particular reason in my case). I have steadily opted to stay “old school” in these modern days. I have fought the fight to keep my flip phone and plant my tomatoes in the dirt. Furthermore, drive a car that has few if any electronics, it drives-that’s it! I have done these things to simplify my life. To assist me to focus on the people most important, my family and those I can see when talking to them. For that reason, I have opted to look up rather to look down at a phone for the majority of my day. I have been steadfast in my belief that not all technology makes our lives better. While, I still believe I am right in this regard to a point. After that “point” I become pretty wrong!


Meeting with Agriculture Experts

Recently, I was lucky enough to attend a meeting with many outstanding minds in the world of agriculture. I listened as they spoke about how they were expanding operations. By including underserved and under-skilled populations in their businesses and succeeding. I learned how they genuinely believed that agricultural operations in urban areas could do great things in reducing crime and poverty. All by building a new industry in old and worn areas.


Not until I listened to a pair of urban agriculturalists, who are using very high levels of technology to grow crops in a confined urban setting, did I see the potential in these ideas. They are using technology to use very little water, no pesticides, and produce no stormwater runoff from their farming operation. As they spoke, I grew more interested. They continued to speak of how they are economically viable and sell their produce to local establishments. Thus, eliminating the 1,500-mile road trip much of our food currently endures from the farm to our plates.


There are few meetings I attend that I think of on my weekends and even fewer that put a smile on my face. The more I thought of the connection between very low impact agriculture, developing a new economic industry for our urban centers, providing jobs and hope for blighted city centers, the more I smiled. Thinking of folks becoming eligible for low income loans to purchase the “Ag Package,” a turnkey ready farm that you can order from Amazon and make a living. I started to think of the people, the kids stuck in food deserts and how their lives could potentially change with access to good nutritious food. Finally, I thought of young people selling lettuce and tomatoes on street corners instead of drugs.


Technology is the Future


Technology is making these things possible, the technology I resisted as a contrarian. The lights are more efficient and produce less heat. Computers can provide irrigation timing that uses absolutely the smallest amount of water and fertilizer necessary and since it is indoors, no need for pesticides. Reduced inputs equate to increased profits, better and more plentiful food!


To me, this is a coming revolution, a disruptor of the agricultural world. In the next 20 years, I envision more small operations growing crops in this way (intense hydropic production). I see fewer and fewer trucks, ships, and planes traveling around the world delivering food to our local restaurants and supermarkets. Finally, I see a future where your neighbor might be a retired teacher and a part time farmer and loving her new job! Now, I embrace the idea of cultivating thousands of new small-scale farmers. It would be great to go to a restaurant and be told the salad you are going to have is grown on premise! Would it not be great to pick your own salad?


I am happy to see this future; a future where young people once again get excited about growing food and can make some money doing it. Also, that we as a nation are able to grow as much as we eat. The technology exists, the folks that can make it happen are here. It’s only a matter of time before someone puts it all together and changes the world! I for one will cease to be a contrarian and opt to embrace the bright future ahead!


Here’s to a Bright Future!











Posted: April 30, 2020

Category: Agriculture, Crops, Professional Development, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension

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