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Farmers Are So Desperate For Field Workers That They’re Resorting To Robots

If you ever find yourself out in the Salinas Valley of California in the spring or summer, you’ll come across quite a few berry fields, many of which supply Driscoll’s, one of the largest berry companies in the world. You’ll find workers out there harvesting the fruit, but not as many as there used to be.

Those who oversee the harvesters are finding it much harder to find employees to come work in their fields. One such foreman from Scurich Berry Farms in Salinas told me that farms in the area attempt to draw away workers with competing wages and benefits, and often times, that results in a shortage of workers for some farms as they all move to where the most money is.

Between that, an overall shortage of field laborers, and the Trump Administration’s crackdown on immigration that could potentially take out half of the available workforce, farm owners are struggling to find people to harvest their crops. Yields are affected as a result, with some major berry farms in the area operating at a paltry 40% yield due to these factors, according to the aforementioned foreman.

It isn’t just a problem in Salinas Valley, however. Many fruit orchards and other farms across the country are experiencing similar labor issues, and are looking to solutions to up their yields and fill needed jobs in a market where there are way more available positions than willing workers.

Most are looking to harvesting robots as the future for their fields. According to Popular Mechanics, a couple are almost ready to launch and can pick produce for 24 hours a day at a 90-95% yield.

Harvesting robots can currently service crops like wheat and corn that don’t require careful harvesting to prevent crop damage, but fragile crops like apples and berries are still harvested by hand. Both robotics companies (FFRobotics in Israel and Abundant Robotics in California) that are almost done developing machines for these fruits say they can pay back themselves in a couple of years, putting the cost of these machines at a couple hundred thousand a pop at minimum. Prototypes will be tested in fields as early as this fall.

In a future of food where these farmers can’t find enough workers to tend to their fields, robots might be the only solution to help ensure we harvest enough produce to feed the planet.

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Hit-Or-Miss

Ebola May Cause Chocolate Prices to Increase This Halloween

Chocolate-Prices-Ebola

Chocolate prices have gone up and are expected to go up more thanks to Ebola. According to NPR, chocolate bars like Hershey’s milk have already increased by 5 to 10 cents and may continue to do so as Halloween approaches.

Jack Scoville, a senior market analyst at Price Futures Group, has been tracking the price jumps and the reasoning behind them. Scoville told NPR that chocolate prices have hit a three-year high now because of the Ebola crisis.

Before panic sets in and you trash your secret stash of office sweets (you’ll never find them, Elie), it should be mentioned that one cannot contract Ebola from eating or handling chocolate. The reason for the price hike is a fear of Ebola spreading to the Ivory Coast, causing cocoa farmers to move to avoid exposure. This leaves crops of cocoa beans unpicked and unready for shipment.

Now that the borders are sealed, they can’t just hop back and start harvesting again. While farmers are looking to hire locals to pick the cocoa for them, the uncertainty of the Ebola crisis has left the cocoa market in the dark.

Thus, because supply is limited, prices increase.

H/T NPR

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Hit-Or-Miss

Research Shows Slow Jams Actually Help Cows Get Into the Milking Moo-d

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According to a study by psychologists at the University of Leicester, milk production can increase by as much as 3 percent when cows are listening to slow music.

Similar to humans, slow jams can help relieve stress and relax the cows getting them in a friendlier mood to be milked. While 3 percent may not sound like a lot, but when you multiply that by all the dairy cows it could really help out the milk industry. So the next time you need Bessie to bust out a gallon, throw on some Barry White so she can get it on.

Though the study is over ten years old, farmers agree with the results. Modern Farmer talked to some farmers who believe it’s not so much the genre of the music that matters as much as the beat of the song:

“[In studies] animals seemed, in general, to find slow, rhythmic music most relaxing. Perhaps easy listening or new age would be best.”

Besides simply calming the cows, the music also helps to drown out more unpleasant sounds such as machinery and other loud noises. As much as the cows love music, apparently they aren’t fond of Willie Nelson’s stuff — the country legend tends to rile them up.

H/T Consumerist, Modern Farmer

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Technology

UK Dating Site ‘Muddy Matches’ is for Farmers Who Don’t Mind Getting Dirty

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Looks like lonely British farmers won’t have to rely on their livestock for companionship anymore — not with the growing success of dating site “Muddy Matches,” which caters exclusively to farmers who don’t mind getting a little dirty. The rustic dating service is the brainchild of Lucy and Emma Reeves, two English sisters who were less than satisfied with the dating pool in their local farming communities. They hatched the idea of a dating website focused solely on agriculturally-minded UK citizens in 2007, and now Muddy Matches is “the UK’s premier farmer dating site.”

In an interview with Modern Farmer, the sisters revealed that the site’s typical user:

1. Is up front about their hobbies and interests, “Loads of blokes will put up pictures of themselves with tractors and diggers [and] dogs first, then horses and cats, then livestock.”

2. Knows how to rock a fashionable farming look, “I wouldn’t be comfortable putting up a picture of myself in a tweed jacket on a normal dating site. It’s easier when you’re showing yourself to like-minded people.”

3. Is very technologically savvy, “I don’t know any farmer who isn’t online these days […] we have a lot of problems getting broadband in the countryside — but everyone’s connected.”

Sounds like a pool full of winning candidates to us. The only snag we see is the fact that the sisters who founded the site (aka the posterchildren for lovelorn rustics) don’t use their own dating service, “We both met our other halves on dating site . . . just not our own.” We really can’t imagine why.

H/T + PicThx to Modern Farmer 

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News

479° Popcorn: Pimentòn de La Vera

‘Pimentòn de La Vera is grown near a monastery garden by the Tietar River in a region called “La Vera.” Here, farmers smoke tiny paprika pods over oak wood, and mill the dried peppers with heavy stone wheels. We accent this gorgeous spice with a hand-ground mixture of organic sun-ripened tomatoes and onion to create a luxurious snack that is at once smoky, sweet and salty. If you feel a sudden urge to take up flamenco dancing halfway through the box, we suggest that you act on it.’ (Thx 479° Popcorn)