A Short History of Modern Farming

The following is an excerpt from the Local Grown Salads Oxyfertigation Growing System patent.

Until the 1940's the common source for fruit and vegetables were gardens in the backyard or vegetables and produce that was in season grown on farms local to the area. In climates where there is snow several months of the year, vegetables were preserved and eaten over the winter. Rapid improvements in agriculture such as chemical fertilizers in the 1940's, faster transportation, the creation of effective and low cost of refrigeration, and other technologies has changed the nature and scope of fresh vegetable agriculture into a large and big business. These changes have drastically lowered the price of food and created the massive abundance that is now take for granted. A significant impact of the improvements in transportation has been the increase in the scope of the type of vegetables eaten and expected to be available, thus creating the need for the vegetables grown by our Growing Systems.

Variety Requirements

Consumers expect to walk into a local grocery store and purchase vegetables common to people 12,000 miles away, all year-round, at reasonable prices. For the northern climates, this means transporting the vegetables from southern climates able to grow all year-round. Achieving abundance at affordable prices has required farmers and large agricultural companies to introduce what is colloquially called “modern farming techniques”. These are technologies enabling strawberries to be grown in California and delivered to all markets in North America every month of the year. The process starts from seed picking, planting, harvesting, packaging, and ends with transportation technologies enabling a strawberry to be picked (for example) on Monday in California and eaten in eastern Canada by Wednesday. Our Growing Systems' ability to grow vegetables in any locale addresses this need.

The typical vegetable travels an average of 1,500 miles from where it is grown to where it is eaten. And the vegetable is expected to be bright colored, attractive, disease and blemish free. There is a significant carbon cost to moving vegetables from where they are grown to where they are eaten, such that upwards of 60% of the final product cost is the movement of vegetables.

Specifically, consumers perceive as a reflection of produce quality rank in their order of preferences: crispness and freshness, taste, appearance and condition, nutritive value, and price. Studies have shown that two factors normally enter into consumers purchase decisions: competition between like items on the display shelf, and, the acceptability of the item in reference to his or her standard for that item in reference to the above variables.

The following are selected volumes of vegetables grown commercially in the USA.
Vegetable
Weight In Pounds
Cucumbers
1,924,500,000
Greens
2,581,500,000
Leaf Lettuce
398,100,000
Romaine
1,924,500,000
Bell Peppers
1,998,200,000
Small (Cherry, plum, etc.) Tomatoes
430,100,000

(USDA Vegetables and Pulses Outlook, Sept 2014, Statistics are for 2013).

In addition, in 2014 the US imported $6,593,936,000 worth of vegetables (excluding potatoes) primarily for Mexico and Canada. (USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, retrieved Aug 9, 2015).

The following are some sample volumes produced per acre:
Vegetable
Pounds Per Row Foot
Pounds Per Acre
Arugula
0.25
9,000
Basil
0.33
6,500
Cilantro
0.1
3,250
Cucumbers
 
17,500
Dill
0.07
2,500
Eggplant
1.75
25,200
Lettuce, Salad Mix
1
7,200
Parsley
0.25
5,400
Peppers, Red & Green
2.5
36,000
Sorrel
0.35
7,560
Spinach
0.14
5.400
Strawberries
0.375
5,400
Tatsoi
0.3
10,800
Plum Tomato
5
36,000

(Pounds per acre data taken from Johnny’s Seed Catalogue [General], 2015, 2012 Roxbury Farm Manual [NY State])

Problems with "Modern" Farming

With this volume of demand the farmer, is under huge pressure to produce. But weather, disease, and insects are out of the control of the farmer and can only be responded to. Mitigating these risks have led to many innovations, as well as introduced new risks and problems.

The farmer is affected by El Nino, droughts, floods, and many other major weather patterns. A farmer can only start the planting depending on the end of winter and on the soil conditions. Once planted and the crop starts to grow, a heat wave, rain storm, hail storm or some other weather pattern will damage or destroy the crop prior to harvest in just a few days.

Weather is a major contributing factor to disease, for example, while a few weeks of continuous rain will not wipe out the crop, it will encourage the growth of fungus and other diseases. Other sources of disease are insects, birds, and people who work the field. These diseases will require the use of fungicides and other forms of chemical adjustment.

Insects can destroy a crop or seriously affect the visual quality of the vegetable. Our Growing Systems' ability to grow large volumes of vegetables in a protected environment addresses these needs.

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