February 2nd, 2015

"In 2013, I made my first trip to Ethiopia. Knowing a bit about the country’s economic circumstances, I fully expected the grim poverty that I’d later encounter. After all, like millions of Americans, I watched the devastating famine there unfold on television in the 1980s.

At the same time, Ethiopia has made great strides since then. Ethiopia halved the number of its undernourished people from 75 percent to 35 percent in two decades, according to the United Nations. Still, that 35 percent is considerable – the U.N.’s World Food Programme estimates that 3.2 million Ethiopians need food relief assistance.

So imagine my surprise when I entered a restroom in a small town outside Addis, the capital, and found sensorized urinals – the kind that self-flush. I don’t normally notice urinals, but in Ethiopia, where electricity and indoor plumbing are unreliable at best, sensorized urinals catch your attention. To find something as relatively advanced as a sensorized machine in a small Ethiopian town doesn’t necessarily say much about the country; but it says a lot about the machine.

In particular, it illustrates the potential of sensors and how they could hold the key to significantly reducing the world’s hunger problem. Sensors are everywhere and in everything, at least in developed nations such as the United States. They’ve revolutionized our mobile phones, and are now powering the next wave of wearable tech devices. Sensors are the reason the automotive industry is poised to deliver a driverless car.

The best thing about sensors, aside from their potential? They’re dirt cheap. The average smartphone holds five to seven sensors that cost about $5 combined. In 2007, an accelerometer, which comes standard in all smartphones today, cost $7 — now it costs less than 50 cents. The steep price decline, which has been in place since the early 1990s, is a function of strong competition in the smartphone arena and the growing number of applications using sensor technology. But nothing mandates that sensors are for smartphones only."

Read more from The Washington Post.

February 2nd, 2015

"It was 8 degrees in Minneapolis on a recent January day, and out on Interstate 394, snow whipped against the windshields of drivers on their morning commutes. But inside the offices of Cargill, the food conglomerate, Greg Page, the company’s executive chairman, felt compelled to talk about global warming.

“It would be irresponsible not to contemplate it,” Mr. Page said, bundled up in a wool sport coat layered over a zip-up sweater. “I’m 63 years old, and I’ve grown up in the upper latitudes. I’ve seen too much change to presume we might not get more.”

Mr. Page is not a typical environmental activist. He says he doesn’t know — or particularly care — whether human activity causes climate change. He doesn’t give much serious thought to apocalyptic predictions of unbearably hot summers and endless storms.

But over the last nine months, he has lobbied members of Congress and urged farmers to take climate change seriously. He says that over the next 50 years, if nothing is done, crop yields in many states will most likely fall, the costs of cooling chicken farms will rise and floods will more frequently swamp the railroads that transport food in the United States. He wants American agribusiness to be ready.

Mr. Page is a member of the Risky Business Project, an unusual collection of business and policy leaders determined to prepare American companies for climate change. It’s a prestigious club, counting a former senator, five former White House cabinet members, two former mayors and two billionaires in the group. The 10 men and women who serve on the governing committee don’t agree on much. Some are Democrats, some Republicans.

Even when it comes to dealing with climate change, they have very different perspectives. Some advocate a national carbon tax, some want to mandate companies to disclose their climate risks. Mr. Page suggests that the world may be able to get by without any mandatory rules at all. Some members want to push investors to divest from fossil fuel companies. Several favor construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, while one member has spent more than $1 million lobbying to stop it. But they all do agree on one issue: Shifts in weather over the next few decades will most likely cost American companies hundreds of billions of dollars, and they have no choice but to adapt."

Read more from The New York Times.

January 19th, 2015

"LAST year Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, invested $1 billion into rice production in Nigeria. This new investment is in support of the Nigerian Government’s plan to attain food sufficiency and become a net-exporter of rice by 2015. Rice is crucial to Nigeria food security - 84% of Nigerian households consume rice yet the country has a rice import bill currently exceeding $2 billion, which has the potential to deplete the country’s foreign currency reserves. 

Today the country not too far behind it’s 2015 target and Dangote’s investment will serve to bolster these efforts. Nigeria has currently achieved 80% self-sufficiency in paddy rice production and, in 2013, added seven million metric tonnes of paddy rice to the domestic food supply. 

Food production is a very real concern in Africa. The average annual growth in food demand is projected at 2.83% per year from 2000 - 2030, due to population increase which is set to increase rapidly. By 2030 the continent will need to feed 1.5 billion people and 2 billion by 2050. 

Whilst there has been significant increases in agricultural productivity globally, current productivity growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is not enough - at the rate it’s going today, only 13% of total food demand will be met in 2050. 

North Africa will however fare better with the Middle East and Northern Africa region able to satisfy 83% of total food demand, at it’s current total factor productivity rate. Sub-Saharan Africa’s huge gap will need to be closed through investments in productivity improvements, selective expansion, intensification, and trade."

Read more from Mail & Guardian Africa.

January 16th, 2015

At the rate things are going, the Earth in the coming decades could cease to be a “safe operating space” for human beings. That is the conclusion of a new paper published Thursday in the journal Science by 18 researchers trying to gauge the breaking points in the natural world.

The paper contends that we have already crossed four “planetary boundaries.” They include the extinction rate; deforestation; the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous (used on land as fertilizer) into the ocean.

“What the science has shown is that human activities — economic growth, technology, consumption – are destabilizing the global environment,” said Will Steffen, who holds appointments at the Australian National University and the Stockholm Resilience Center and is the lead author of the paper.

These are not future problems, but rather urgent matters, according to Steffen, who said that the economic boom since 1950 and the globalized economy have accelerated the transgression of the boundaries. No one knows exactly when push will come to shove, but he said the possible destabilization of the “Earth System” as a whole could occur in a time frame of “decades out to a century.”

The researchers focused on nine separate planetary boundaries first identified by scientists in a 2009 paper. These boundaries set theoretical limits on changes to the environment, and include ozone depletion, freshwater use, ocean acidification, atmospheric aerosol pollution and the introduction of exotic chemicals and modified organisms.

Beyond each planetary boundary is a “zone of uncertainty.” This zone is meant to acknowledge the inherent uncertainties in the calculations, and to offer decision-makers a bit of a buffer, so that they can potentially take action before it’s too late to make a difference. Beyond that zone of uncertainty is the unknown — planetary conditions unfamiliar to us."

Read more from The Washington Post.

January 7th, 2015

"The Asmark Institute announced the ResponsibleAg Auditor Training Course has received recognition from the Board of Environmental, Health and Safety Auditor Certifications (BEAC).  The course is designed specifically for auditors who intend to perform facility assessments under the ResponsibleAg Certification Program.  BEAC’s recognition of the course is based on a comprehensive evaluation of course content, training materials, course environment and instructor qualifications.  The ResponsibleAg Auditor Training Course joins other training programs recognized by BEAC such as the American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care®, SOCMA’s ChemStewards and The Auditing Roundtable courses.

Brian Miller, CPEA and Compliance Assurance Specialist with Agrium and Fred Whitford, Ph.D., Coordinator of Purdue University Pesticide Programs, are the lead instructors for the course.  Together they bring fifty years of EHS experience backed by more than seventy years of experience in agriculture.  “We couldn’t be more pleased than to be working with instructors of this caliber,” said Billy Pirkle, Chairman of ResponsibleAg.  “They are each nationally recognized for their work within, and on behalf of the agricultural industry.”

At the heart of the ResponsibleAg initiative is the goal of providing accurate and credible assessments consistently across the entire group of carefully trained and credentialed ResponsibleAg auditors.  Each auditor must successfully complete this course before applying for credentials under the ResponsibleAg Certification Program."

Read more from Ag Professional.

January 2nd, 2015

"The eighth annual One Acre Fund gala at Navy Pier's Grand Ballroom attracted more than 300 guests Dec. 11. Co-founded by Andrew Youn and John Gachunga in 2006, One Acre Fund's mission is to supply small farmers in Africa with the tools and financing they need to grow their way out of hunger and poverty.

The evening honored the Combe family, longtime One Acre Fund supporters, with the 2014 Farmers' Humanitarian Award. Patriarch Christopher B. Combe accepted the award along with his wife, Courtney, on behalf of their family. "This organization has directly taken more than a million people out of extreme poverty and starvation to where they can live relatively normal lives. For centuries, they've been starving," he said.

During the cocktail reception and silent auction, guests bid on native African items that included Rwandan art carvings, Senegalese woven baskets and bracelets, Ghanan ceramics and stuffed toy animals from Kenya made from local plant materials. A small tree held holiday ornaments, crafted from banana leaves by Kenyan and Ugandan artisans, that could be purchased for $20. This "banana fiber art" is a cottage industry that brings fair trade income to rural communities."

Read more Chicago Tribune

December 31st, 2014

"At the start of the new year, many of us make a resolution — usually to do something better. My FFAA resolution for 2015 is to raise awareness of the resolutions already adopted and in place by the Florida agchem industry regarding regulatory compliance and workplace safety.

The unsung heroes in this industry are those whose everyday commitment to safety and security means growers continue to have access to essential crop inputs, which help them grow better. These professionals never waver in their resolution to safeguard their coworkers and communities.

Their daily work is guided by many memorable mantras:

  • Safety never takes a holiday.

  • Safety doesn’t happen by accident.

  • Know safety, no injury. No safety, know injury.

  • Safety isn’t expensive, it’s priceless.

  • Safety is as simple as ABC: Always Be Careful.

FFAA focused on greater participation with Local Emergency Planning Councils (LEPC) in 2014. Member companies stepped up and worked with emergency responders to host site visits and a LEPC training exercise.

Ramping Up Responsibility

In 2015, FFAA is focusing its efforts to promote safety and security by encouraging its members to participate in ResponsibleAg. What is ResponsibleAg? A visit to its website,, tells you the following and more."

Read more from Growing Produce.

December 29th, 2014

"The FINANCIAL -- Sinofert Holdings Limited, China’s one of the largest fertilizer producers and distributors, has transformed its business with new mobile apps to help hundreds of millions of farmers across the country increase crop yields such as rice, wheat or soybeans, according to IBM.

China’s agriculture and food supply chain is critical for the country’s stability and contribution to global food markets. Therefore, it’s important that farmers avoid disruptions – including access to fertilizer – that could negatively impact production of vital crops.

To continue to grow its business and remain competitive, Sinofert needed a more efficient system to service its massive sales and distribution network. Key to that growth was investing in mobile technologies to help its sales force improve decision making from the field, better anticipate demand, and offer customers more relevant products and services. Sinofert’s network includes 17 branch offices, nearly 1,700 sales outlets, more than 600 transit warehouses and 2,100 distribution centers, according to IBM."

Read more from The Financial.

December 8th, 2014

"It is often said that a house is only as strong as the foundation upon which it sits. The same may be said for the importance of soils in keeping our agricultural sector productive, sustainable and resilient.

Soils are the cornerstone of our food chain, yet they receive scant attention or recognition for the role they play. For this reason, the United Nations has declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils – to raise awareness while coordinating various sectors’ efforts to research and care for soils.

Perhaps nowhere else than in Africa is this issue of soil more important. More than 70 percent of the African population relies on agriculture in some way for their livelihoods, and its growth has the potential to catalyze much broader development goals – from reducing poverty and hunger to improving health and nutritional status.

Africa has 60 percent of the world’s remaining uncultivated arable land, yet Africa’s soils are in crisis. It is estimated that 65 percent of arable land is degraded by eroding topsoil or depleted nutrients from “unhealthy” farming practices. The economic loss from these nutrient losses are estimated to be worth the equivalent of $4 billion annually in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

In a continent whose population is predicted to add almost one billion additional people by the year 2030, our soils present a strategic natural resource for nations. African countries are at a critical point in their development where they can harness – as most other developed countries have already done – agriculture’s role in driving economic prosperity.

This agricultural transformation in Africa will require both smallholder farmers as well as commercial farmers to symbiotically work together. More critically, it will also require the commitment of African political leaders to live up to the commitments they made in the 2003 Maputo Declaration, where they adopted the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) as a framework for the restoration of agriculture growth and food security and where they further pledged to increase budget allocations to agriculture to 10 percent of GDP expenditure."

Read more from Business Day

December 1st, 2014

African leaders and farmers need to launch an agricultural revolution to eradicate hunger and malnutrition on the continent within a lifetime.

This is a new campaign by IFA and its partners in conjunction with the FAO 2014 International Year of Family Farming and the African Union 2014 Year of Agriculture.

View the video on YouTube.

Read more from International Fertilizer Industry Association.

Read more from International Fertilizer Industry Association. - See more at:

Read more from International Fertilizer Industry Association. - See more at: