How simple technology can help feed the world

02/21/2014 01:25:00 PM
Bob Whitaker

Bob Whitaker, Produce Marketing AssociationBob Whitaker, Produce Marketing AssociationIn 1986, Johnny Georges and his father invented a way to help citrus growers protect young trees from frost.

Their idea was the Tree T Pee, a simple, inverted cone-shaped piece of recycled plastic about two feet tall that is positioned around the base of young trees.

After more than a decade of having his product on the market, Georges realized the Tree T Pee could also help growers irrigate more efficiently. This would translate into dramatic savings in water, energy, fertilizer and herbicide costs.

Today, the Tree T Pee has not only helped citrus farmers in Georges’ home state of Florida protect young trees from freezing temperatures, but it has also planted a seed to revolutionize agricultural water conservation across the country and around the world.

Innovations like this will prove critical in helping the global produce industry face an immense challenge — the need to increase food production with fewer resources while also bolstering consumer confidence in the safety and quality of fresh produce.

Technology holds the key to helping us feed the world through innovation. But in order to reap the rewards, our industry has to make the right connections to identify and apply forward-thinking technologies.

As Georges’ story demonstrates, technical innovation goes beyond the digital realm. It’s also using existing tools or resources in new ways to help reduce input costs like energy, water, fertilizer and labor, and deliver better results in the process.

After collecting feedback on technology needs from members of PMA’s Produce Safety, Science and Technology Committee, the Supply Chain Efficiencies Committee and other industry thought leaders, we’ve realized that in addition to production input management, technical advances in food safety detection and data science are also of particular importance to our industry’s future.

That’s why all three of these topics lay the foundation for PMA’s expanded year-round resources that we’ll be delivering under the Science and Technology area of our new strategic plan.

Take food safety detection, for example. We know improved testing technologies are emerging and taking on new roles like testing allergens, detecting pathogens, and even product integrity.

Now consider the possibilities when we’re able to learn about the future impact of these testing technologies and the most effective applications for your businesses.

Then there’s the area of data science. Every day you’re collecting data from a number of areas including consumption patterns, food safety audits, weather patterns, market analysis, environmental tests and more.


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