Growing up, I visited the ranch regularly. Farming and ranching is very hard on equipment so the tractors often needed repair. My father and grandfather could seemingly fix anything on the tractor without even needing to go to the parts store. (The closest one was a 1 hour drive). Without this capability my family never would have been able to make a living of any kind with their land.
In 2020 farmland is being gobbled up by corporations. The family farmer is going extinct. That means tractor companies are getting a whole new customer who is nothing like the previous. Corporations want tractors as a service, they want them to be self-driving, and they want to manage them in bulk. They don't really care if they can repair them because they pay someone else to do it.
Personally, it is sad to see this change since so much of my family history and memories are tied up in the way things used to be. I sometimes feel out of place in my family because I couldn't fix a single thing on a tractor. On the other hand my grandfather didn't touch a computer in his entire life.
The world changes and sometimes it sucks but that is how progress is made.
One important thing is that a healthy business will survive any particular person's death. And this is very important especially for a family business. Imagine a farmer suddenly passing away in his 40s or 50s with 5 children and no other adult that can take over the business. (This actually happened in my family, but luckily his wife was a badass and saved the farm during a difficult period when other farms were going out of business.)
Another advantage of a business as opposed to a single owner is that the rest of the family is afforded a niche. In my case, I can do scientific analysis, mathematics, music and lots of other things and at the same time I don't have the burden that my grandfather had when he had to run the then very poor and tiny farm at the age of 16.
With regards to the loss of character and the loss of the idyllic romantic image of a farm with its owner: It will happen to a smaller or larger extent and it's really a challenge to figure out how to retain the initial pioneer spirit of a farm.
In my case, I decided to prolong the legacy of those before me by focusing on what I can do that they couldn't. I have quite a few useful innovations that I am working on in weather and agricultural analysis. But it's difficult, and maybe I won't achieve much, but I feel the only way to personalise a corporate business is to be a sort of wild man with an orderly style in an orderly society. I think that kind of economic freedom was what those before us worked hard to gain.
Maybe birthdays will be generic, but it's easier to give a profitable business a personal flair than to make a personal business profitable.
Same thing is happening with John Deere. It may take a very long time for the anti-consumer actions of the company to burn through decades of goodwill.
PS: WRT John Deere, our family business bought quite a few of them and when they refused to train our own workshop employees we sold all of them! The whole thing kind of amused me. Unless you are from the Free State, Massey Ferguson is pretty much your best option. And if you need something with more ploughing power, Landini is doing pretty well too. Actually, I think Italy is in a unique position at the moment to (if they actually wanted to) to grow quite a bit economically with some of their brands.
I believe that's called share cropping..
It's really brutal.
What I'm seeing is products are becoming more and more niche. Kind of like how craft beers became a thing. I think it's easier than ever for a farm to create specialized products and sell them directly to consumers. Before this way of ecommerce tools, it was nearly impossible for a small farm to sell without a broker or distributor or wholesaler. These people consolidated to give pricing power ie Tyson Foods which then forces farms to consolidate in this race to the bottom.
By eliminating middlemen, direct to consumer sales is better for the consumer. It's cheaper and products are better and more specific. In my industry distributors want to make 15% and retailers want 40%. Paying for the shipping is almost always cheaper than buying it in a store. You'll also generally get better products.
Really the only reason to buy from a store is convenience.
We started our own farm a few months ago to meet the increasing demand. In general, this is how I see it playing out in rural areas. Brands will be able to start in rural areas and then sell direct to consumer while sourcing locally. I know a winery and a smoked meats company that operate similarly in my county.
Progress for whom? Seems like a false dichotomy to me.
For example, in Europe farmers can get the money from the EU, but only if they use certain seeds. So basically there are a couple of crops to choose from that get repeated year by year. What happens to the soil is a great disaseter. Obviusly nobody can use more natural kinds of fertilizers these days and the food gradually loses its nutrient value. The farmers are happy about announcing their bio certification but very few actually care about what happens to the soil. A similar "optimization" is being done with animal farming. It's disgusting and very far from actual progress.
If true, this is net positive for humanity as a whole as more people can get fed and there are less carbon emissions doing so.
There is the problem that corporations tend to trend toward becoming sociopathic entities unless carefully managed, so it's not all win.
Intensive farming as practiced by corporations today is among the worst culprits regarding carbon emissions.
It is more profitable to practice intensive till-heavy farming since it takes advantage of the nutrients already stored in the soil. The disadvantage is its unsustainability. After few decades of soil-tilling, it becomes quite poor in nutrients, and will have reduced yield. Corporations can afford to destroy land and move on to the next one, until nothing is left.
This is opposed to regenerative/conservative agriculture.
Relative to what? What are the CO2 emissions per bushel of grain for the practices you've described?
My point about reduced carbon emissions is specific to corporate farms using modern equipment which is more precise, thanks to auto-guidance via GPS, more efficient, as a result of the diesel engines being more modern and also as a result of other technologies that allow the tractors to have larger implements, travel faster, and consume less horsepower and finally lower emissions as a result of being compliant with more recent emissions standards.
The paper itself describes farming practices that are more sustainable, and possibly more efficient after introducing a new formula to measure efficiency. I'm not sufficiently well-informed to critically assess the formula given, although on the surface it seems fine.
To clarify my original assertion, modern farming equipment with the latest technology as employed by corporate farms increase the efficiency of industrial farming methods vs. farming equipment being used that's 30-40 years old.
There are a few common metrics that I use to base my assertion on, that is gallons of fuel used per cultivated acre, as well as yield per acre. From those, one can derive yield per gallon of fuel and subsequently carbon emissions as a result.
I'm not suggesting that represents a lifecycle analysis of the entire crop, but I think it's still sufficient to evaluate the impact of modern equipment vs. aging equipment.
You asked in relation to what modern farming is among the worst culprits regarding carbon emissions. I suppose that merits a comparison to other know ways to grow food? Most of the crops "we" grow use to grow just fine on their own. We've cultivated them to be dependent. It doesn't seem unreasonable to think we can cut carbon emissions beyond 100% (eventually)
To add a funny: We wont optimize the Nodejs to the point it changes into ERLANG. It takes a whole new approach.
> ...use to grow just fine on their own. We've cultivated them to be dependent. It doesn't seem unreasonable to think we can cut carbon emissions beyond 100% (eventually)
There are a couple of constraints there. We have a limited amount of arable land to feed the world's population and a significant amount of the carbon emissions in modern farming practices comes from harvesting and transport.
I can't see any way to harvest and transport agriculture products without carbon emissions today.
I like how hn always finds a way to blame everything on programmers. Who would have thought carbon emissions are our fault? (I hope its to blame on my silly mood)
If you think LEDs have gotten epic, check out his research. They're just getting to be more efficient than HPS.
Just to clarify, because it is important. My point is that emissions from land transformation due to unsustainable farming practices dwarf any efficiency due to modern diesel engines etc.
cf. the links in my parent post: a well-regenerated soil can contain up to 25 to 60 tons of carbon per acre.
There is plenty of research to support your point, also another poster replied to this parent with an interesting paper. My assertion is supported by direct observation, that is, if we constrain ourselves to current industrial farming practices, there's plenty of data showing improved yields and reduced fuel consumption as more modern equipment is adopted.
I guess my point is that I don't see our relative assertions being in conflict.
> there's plenty of data showing improved yields and reduced fuel consumption as more modern equipment is adopted.
I absolutely agree with this. My only concern is with relating this to CO2 emissions and the fight against climate change. It is a deceptive argument, since it was not a goal to begin with.
I made a back-of-napkin calculation. I'm not an expert, so please bear with my poor estimates.
Say a tractor burns ~1kg CO2/km (high estimate) while tilling a 4m-long piece of land.
1 Acre = 4m * 1km
The tractor will emit 1kg of CO2 for every pass.
If repurposed, the land will be able to store 25 to 50 tonnes of carbon (equivalent to 10-20t of CO2).
> If repurposed, the land will be able to store 25 to 50 tonnes of carbon (equivalent to 10-20t of CO2).
Repurposed how? We still have to figure out how to feed 11 billion people. Am I missing something from your argument?
As for how we will feed 11 billion people by the end of the century. This is a very reasonable question to ask. Sustainable agriculture has reduced yields, so maybe we wouldn't have enough to feed the world anymore. But, again, you are looking at the wrong culprit.
There is already more than enough food to feed the world. Food waste, food distribution problems and our questionable appetite for meat are dragging us down.
The problem of world hunger is NOT a "global food production limit" problem. Of course, we shouldn't ship food from the USA to Africa, though. But the phosphate imported from Western Sahara for our fertilizers? Maybe they could use that, to kick-start an agricultural revolution.
Although, if your question was "how to feed 11 billion people without changing anything to our current food industry", the answer is we won't, since we have established that the traditional methods are unsustainable. People will die, either from hunger or from climate-related catastrophes.
This answers my question. I was wondering if you were suggesting that arable land be repurposed for carbon capture rather than food production, thus the question, how to feed 11 billion people (projected peak world population).
In any case, I think we're making arguments in slightly different directions. Surely, there are more sustainable farming approaches such as no-till, etc, which saves the CO2 emissions.
Let's presume we've use those approaches and have a field full of corn (or wheat, or what have you) ready to harvest with zero carbon emissions and slightly reduced yield. Then what?
That corn still needs to be harvested at 3.8 gallons of diesel per acre and then transported to market.
> questionable appetite for meat
As most other countries, especially developing ones consume way less meat, this is a US specific problem, though admittedly it makes a significant contribution to greenhouse gasses.
> The problem of world hunger is NOT a "global food production limit" problem
The basis of my arguments has less to do with world hunger as a problem that exists today and more to do with the fact that peak global population is estimated to be 11 billion folks. Feeding that population will be difficult to do with yields well below current industrial farming practices.
> we won't, since we have established that the traditional methods are unsustainable. People will die, either from hunger or from climate-related catastrophes.
We should hit ~10 billion by 2050, I doubt there'll be massive climate change related catastrophes by then. 11 billion is projected by 2100, and well, unless something changes then we likely would.
In any case, thanks for engaging in this discourse. Likely, we agree more than not that more sustainable agriculture practices will be needed.
If we're talking large scale change for the environment, why not electrify farm equipment, expand our solar and wind capacity to meet the demand, and allow for small farmers to still carve out a solid living and make the Heartland a place with thriving communities?
Fundamentally, I believe that corporate farming consolidation is a risk to the global food supply. ADM is proof of how terrible that can be.
Look at how popular 40-year old tractors are :)
It's never been a better time to create a good old repairable machine.
It's a problem for a lot of reasons. First off it's the complete death of ownership. I can't fix things. At some point they will probably just lock stuff back down if I want to sell, assuming I can even sell without them getting a cut.
Second, repairability takes a nosedive. It's no longer a tough but simple piece of machinery that I can maintain indefinitely with some mostly fairly easy to teach skills. I'm an amateur, but I know enough about how cars work that I'm willing to try and fix most issues, up to the point of needing specialized tooling. Instead it's a world of more expensive parts, DRM, and things that just won't work without a dealer authorized repair.
Then we get to the part where I come off an old fuddy duddy. I don't want a car where someone can push safety critical changes the way we push shitty software updates now. I don't trust them to get it right. I don't want to be sold a car that tries to kill me after a mandatory software update. It's not needed, and it's a bad idea.
Consumers haven't pushed back enough to stop this from happening.
The classic example of rent-seeking, according to Robert Shiller, is that of a feudal lord who installs a chain across a river that flows through his land and then hires a collector to charge passing boats a fee to lower the chain. There is nothing productive about the chain or the collector. The lord has made no improvements to the river and is not adding value in any way, directly or indirectly, except for himself. All he is doing is finding a way to make money from something that used to be free.
The 'river' that manufacturers are putting a chain across is the First Sale Doctrine.
It's just rent-seeking wearing a mask. In a similar sense that the legal difference between a pyramid scheme and an MLM scheme is that the MLM scheme is accompanied by a good or service. Legally legitimate, but still morally objectionable.
It definitely feels like "big business" is working against us in this regard. Everything new is locked down because the the rent-seeking those software locks enable. It's a drag on our economy and we've got to stop letting them do this to us.
I stumbled across open source ag / construction efforts years ago, but haven't kept tabs on them since.
And thanks for spending your time on something so useful to society!
And thanks for the kind words! I have been pretty sick of working jobs that don’t broadly benefit society. I’m blessed to be working at a beautiful farm on open source tech!
I think they are still iterating a fair bit on the micro tractor. But overall it seems there was a flurry of activity around 2014 but then it has tapered off.
IMHO, I think they set their sights a bit too high, with the whole construction set. Would have been better to focus on just the tractor first, getting the documentation really hammered out. It is such an essential piece of farm equipment. But as it stands, nothing on their wiki is really viable to contribute to, because you can't really work off of it.
This one sticks out to me from a job-market POV.
Plumbers are already on par with psychiatrists in terms of pay. Sure, the work is hard, but from a supply-demand POV, the markets are saying that they do work that is of equal value (all this varies highly, but stick with me here).
Most repair work takes a LOT of experience until the employee is anywhere near proficient. Farmers will tell you that they learned the repair side in very stressful situations and that there is always something that breaks in new, and more expensive, ways each and every time. Repairing even 'simple' machines like a tractor takes a lot of experience.
So, when you add in a computer that intentionally 'breaks' the machine, and then you have the regular machine that will break, and then you have all the linkages that make the computer control the machine (all of which can break), you are requiring that the repair-person be VERY skilled at troubleshooting and repair.
Then, you eliminate most of the ways that people learn to troubleshoot and repair these machines (via these computers), and you are left with even fewer people that will be able to fix the tractors. Think something more like a bio-tech/MRI company's field-service engineers. Those people get paid bank to get sent out to malfunctioning machines and they are trained out the wazoo.
From the tractor manufacturer's perspective, yes, making machines that work for the manufacturer and not the customer, is going to really work out well for this quarter's stock price. But down the road 7 years? I think this is a poison pill.
It's also a little misleading to compare the numbers that way. It usually takes a lot longer to become a psychiatrist in the first place. Your cumulative earnings in the first ten years after graduating high school might be higher as a plumber; in fact, I suspect most people who become doctors actually lose net worth throughout those ten years due to student loans. They just don't count towards the median income for a psychiatrist because they spend much more time not being a psychiatrist.
Once the plumber and psychiatrist are both in a position where they're running their own business or practice, their income is more of a conscious choice than it is for someone who's working for an employer. Self-employed people can and do sometimes choose to earn less money in exchange for more free time, and it's a lot easier to do that when you don't have six figures of debt at the start of your career.
Plumber median pay is $54,000, while 10% make more than $94,000.
Psychiatrist median pay is $220,000, while 10% make beyond the wage cap for BLS data. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291066.htm
If the market demands it, which with the advent of computers on tractors platform this can and will be modified to allow for the maximum utility for the end user. I see nothing wrong with this.
I don't want a bridge where someone can make repairs the way we make shitty pothole repairs now. I don't trust them to get it right. I don't want to pay taxes for a bridge that tries to kill me after mandatory repairs. It's not needed, and it's a bad idea.
Here's a neat idea: maybe regulating software engineering like other engineering disciplines is actually overdue? Yet at the same time, failure rate will never be zero.
Alternatively, we should renounce all engineering regulations and let anybody with a rivet gun build bridges. and airplanes.
I realize that this kind of misquoting is a traditional "hacker" style of debate. But speaking only for myself, it really rubs me the wrong way.
If you disagree with someone, don't resort to cheap shots like that. Make your point in your own words and with your own logic. You will have a stronger argument and a better chance of informing and educating the rest of us.
Please could you describe this more? I’m intrigued.
I don’t know anything about this and what systems or mechanisms are used to regulate engineering, so any links or simple explanations are appreciated!
If you want to e.g. build a bridge it needs to be signed off on by an appropriately licensed and qualified Professional Engineer. Essentially the parent comment is saying there should be streams of software development that meet the requirements to become a Professional Engineer. Then places e.g. medical, defence, power plants could say "we need software that's been signed off by an engineer" and have assurance that the final product is of a known quality and unlikely to have any life and safety endangering defects. They are strongly incentivised to only sign off on properly engineered projects as they can be held personally liable e.g. if a bridge fails and kills someone.
An example of the level of quality that would be delivered is the software that ran on the space shuttle. See this article https://www.fastcompany.com/28121/they-write-right-stuff for an insight into how it was developed and the practises required.
I don't think all software developers should be software Engineers, but being able to lead a team to enforce quality (and not sign off on poorly thought out "MVP" crapware) would guarantee that the software that came out of that team would be reliable and well designed. It would be good for software engineering overall to be recognised as a legitimate branch of engineering. Unfortunately it seems like most of the industry does not have the sort of rigour needed for engineering tasks.
I think the only way this could happen would be if SWE only used waterfall or some similar kind of practice. Agile and the like might be able to be tweaked to work, but even there...
The problem in software is that you can basically "start in the middle" of something and work your way outward; start coding something, get the design details later and refactor.
You can't do that with a bridge or other regular engineering work. You have to plan, design, multiple sign-offs, etc - then build, and you can't build it randomly or a component here and there then fit it all together (well, you can to an extent, depending on the project and design), and if anything changes - well, in a real project it can't change much, not without a lot of money and time being lost.
Several years back there was a series of commercials on TV, I think for an insurance company, which showed (using CGI effects) "impossible building strategies" - one showed a huge scaffolding structure and cranes building something like the Great Pyramid from the top downward (for instance); I think another had some kind of skyscraper being built from the middle outward or something of that nature.
That's essentially SWE applied to regular engineering - or at least, that's how it feels at times. Now tack on Agile and other practices, and it gets 10x worse. Actual engineering is a strict discipline, starting with almost set-in-stone practices along with a lot of hard-won knowledge about materials and mechanics (books filled with tables and diagrams), that are then all used to inform an engineering design, which is then tested and retested in simulation, perhaps coupled with scale models that are also tested, and the plans changed and signed off by multiple other engineers, etc - long before it ever gets to building the thing.
And then that thing is built in a very specific and strict manner; I won't further belabor the point.
Even with all of this, sometimes things fail terribly.
Today in software, we have a ton of tools and practices we are constantly trying - and despite all of them, at least from my perspective - things really haven't gotten much better than they were 20-30 years ago. I would say that widespread use of software versioning tooling and testing frameworks, etc (plus automated build and deployment) have made some of it better - but even after all that, we still seem to be making the same number of bugs and errors that we had before (and rather than a QA department usually, we've farmed this out to the end user for the most part).
So while I'd love to see SWE become more like regular engineering practices (with the selfish request that I and others like me could be "grandfathered" in, as I don't have any kind of compsci or comparable degree, but I have been doing this for 25+ years) - I just don't see it happening for the above rational and reasons.
I could be wrong, though (and if anyone has a counter argument, please post it - I'd love to read it)...
* You have to make your machine good the first time. The customer buys it completely, no chance to update and fix things.
* Your machine is marketed as reliable. This means it has to be reliable, so you put a lot of effort / material / money into your machine, when your competition puts in much less.
* If your machine is indeed reliable, your customers won't show up for another in a few decades(!). They also won't need many spare parts. This will make your machine much more expensive up front. On a market where an average machine is priced in hundreds of thousands USD, this may be a deal breaker.
* Since you are a newcomer, there's little implicit trust to you, right when you are selling very expensive hardware much higher than competition.
It looks like everything is stacked against you.
And I'm speaking from growing up in a village with the highest agricultural % of population in Belgium. Which my family is also pretty involved with ( my dad is a veterinarian for farm animals, my uncle has ~40 tractors)
Also: a cousin with a garage, some friends who work at a big manufacturer and another cousin who with worked there.
My background influenced my opinion, not a unfunded comment like yours. I am curious what your background is, it's far from reality up here.
Mechanical parts are becoming a selling point. Just no manufacturer realizes it yet, because of "subscription access", lol.
I'd actually buy a mechanical environmental-friendly car. Not some electrical car that needs an overpriced official garage to work on. I want the guy I know, to work on my car. Because it's simple to fix and it didn't need a official licensed laptop to be serviced.
And I'm not alone:
On a personal note, it means I'm abandoning Mercedes-Benz for my next car or have a lease from work.
Ps. All newcomers try full-electric cars. Which have a lot of breaking parts.
it hasn't changed much, it's still serviceable with a hammer and a couple of pulleys and wrenches. Not sure if it's available in Belgium(it is in eastern europe) and it sure as hell isn't as comfy as a BMW or a MB, but it's cheap to buy and maintain.
Garage 54 English (dubbed) channel - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCydCOEgfcXAQnkRaLCTsAQ
Garage 54 Russian channel (has more videos) - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBByzLy3MGJT8UMVLYLScNg
This is exactly my point.
Imagine that you are selling cars. If you sell a reliable, easy to fix car, you don't get any recurring revenue. But you need to make as much money as the competition who sells less reliable cars, and more because you can't cut corners. So your upfront cost is higher.
The competition, which sells less reliable cars, can ask much less upfront, and offset this by some recurring revenue from fixing it periodically at licensed mechanic shops that pass a cut to the manufacturer.
This is very much like inkjet printers are sold at a loss, and the money is made on selling the ink which is regularly needed. But with cars (tractors, etc) the manufacturer sells maintenance / spare parts.
In this way, the manufacturers of service-intensive machines credit the buyer initially, but then more than make it up in the "interest" payments.
This is sad dynamics, but I don't see an easy way out of it.
I hope there exists a large enough segment of consumers who distinctly prefer the more expensive, more reliable; from your words, you seem to belong to it. But I'm not sure such consumers are a majority.
For cars, at least, "discounted" repairs are pretty much impossible in the USA: manufacturers aren't allowed to own the service shops here, by law. The service has to be done by independent dealers. Of course, the manufacturer could heavily subsidize this service (by paying most of the cost directly to the dealer), but that's going to take away all their profits.
I agree. In fact an electric car could be simple. Just because it has an electric motor doesn't mean it has to have a computer too.
I should also add that i mostly just want a car, i don't need it to drive for me, I think the telsa's could be very very simple if they dropped all the self driving stuff. I know they won't but it would be cool to buy a crate telsa engine and battery pack for a rolling chassis without the infotainment system.
Even electric scooter size motors will have smart controllers. They're a big market for microcontrollers, e.g. TI: http://www.ti.com/solution/dc-input-bldc-motor-drive
It should serve the driver, and be low-profile and unobtrusive.
> Your machine is marketed as reliable. This means it has to be reliable, so you put a lot of effort / material / money into your machine, when your competition puts in much less.
The good news on this front is that every single patent covering a 40 year-old machine is expired. That means a lot less upfront cost of designing a reliable one. You'll want to redesign the body panels to avoid copyright; you'll want to consult with the community to patch some known defects; but there's no need to reinvent the whole danged thing. And that can go a long way towards establishing trust in your brand.
All of your points are related to making it reliable, but all it needs is to be repairable. Then look what happens:
Or you do the opposite, get it to market quick so you can undercut them on price. Then people buy it for the lower price and don't mind as much when it breaks because the repairs are cheaper. Paying $500 twice is far better than paying $10,000 once.
> If your machine is indeed reliable, your customers won't show up for another in a few decades(!). They also won't need many spare parts.
If it's of average reliability but more repairable then you'll do above average business selling spare parts because your equipment will remain in service longer. Meanwhile your customers will also notice that they're paying much less for repairs than your competitors' customers, and good reviews and word of mouth will drive new sales from other people.
> Since you are a newcomer, there's little implicit trust to you, right when you are selling very expensive hardware much higher than competition.
Which is where the repairability comes in again. If you can only get replacement parts from the manufacturer then the customer has to worry whether the manufacturer will still be in business in ten years, but if you can get parts from any third party parts supplier even after the manufacturer is long gone then the customer doesn't have to worry about that.
What if the primary form of business is selling the parts instead? Then repair shops become the primary customer, with home repairs and selling the actual vehicle just being the PR model for adoption?
You say they won't need many spare parts. But thanks to emissions regulations, they'll still have to have plenty of electrical components, and those do still break. Easily.
Even on the old-style tractors, I've still replaced plenty of parts. Things do break. Simple things that are easy to replace, but you still need the parts. Clutches, bearings, etc. Tractors are exposed to harsh environments for most of their lives. Plenty never ever come indoors.
The engines don't often need replacing. But plenty of other things still do.
AFAICT, say, John Deere do nearly the same thing. But they insist on your using their own spare parts (not cheaper third-party parts, or something you fixed yourself), and go to great lengths way to ensure that (with chips, online activation, etc).
Especially now "right to repair" is gaining traction and reducing waste is becoming a social issue.
> The world changes and sometimes it sucks but that is how progress is made.
This touches on something I think a lot about. Massive driverless farms, in my mind's eye, looks like one puzzle piece towards the utopia of the future. But you do lose the human aspect. It reminds me of Star Trek where Picard is working with his hands on a vineyard. Capitalism is abolished so he does it just for the human reasons. There's no way he can compete with a replicator.
So that leads me to thinking about how we're in a really tight spot. The "human" present (past?) of salt of the Earth people making our products with a human touch and passion vs. the demands of the future utopia we want(?). It's a tight spot because capitalism mode is still active. The people who want to be passionate about their craft still have to compete commercially. In a future it might be that they can do it just because that's what they feel like doing. (super tangent: that reminds me of the "Primitive Technology" trend on YouTube where people re-discover technology just for the heck of it)
It also reminds me of a response I once got. I regularly use farriers as an example of a skilled job that has pretty much gone obsolete because of automobiles. Someone once responded, "have you seen a farrier at work? It's art."
* easy automation for those that need it; if corporations want to driverless tractors doing all their farming, so be it. They're responding to a market that is demanding a lot of cheap food.
* occupation as a choice; the productivity gains from automation shouldn't all just pile on to the people who made the investment; but it could be used to provide necessities to those that need them. So a small scale farmer, for instance, would not be competing directly in the same market as the corporation, and they wouldn't need to make a profit to do what they want to.
Human brains are great at seeing patterns; we shouldn't be wasting them on repetitive work that can be mechanized. Let people do what they want to without existential threats and see what happens.
In a certain sense, this is already true for the wealthy. The nature of wealth is that it gives you safety nets to fall back on if you fail at what you want to do. A lot many of the greatest artists came from wealthy backgrounds.
I would honestly want a lot more people creating art, video games, curing cancer etc. than have more people picking crops.
Some old school small farmers did this. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, they famously did not, leading to the dust bowl. That was caused by small farms, not industrial farmers.
But I totally agree that modern industrial agriculture only does the bare minimum to keep nutrient levels up.
It could be trivial as a few new virgin test carrot patches vs established farms and get telling results. Yet tellingly they didn't do that simple test for their hypothesis let alone correlaries like by assaying various characteristics like perhaps if slower growth speed has more to do with higher accumulation of nutrients than soil content.
Small farm automation is an urgent need. No one is doing it. Maybe in Europe.
Most food production should be taken indoors/covered cropping/CEA and commodity food crops should be taken off speculative financial exchanges and markets(Wall Street/commodity markets) but traded at consumer level.
It isn't progress. It's mechanization. Mechanization demanded by economics. Our food is lower quality (especially fruits and vegetables) and full of pesticides and antibiotics, the ground water and soil are depleted. With the ease of global shipping, farmers compete on a global market which amplifies competition even more. And if people in Timbuktu don't like the taste of my apples, who cares. But hey, food is cheap, ubiquitous and fewer people have to be farmers. But what that really means is bigger profits for fewer people, more environmental overhead, and throwing lots of people out of a line of work that stretches back literally ten thousand years.
How did you come to this conclusion? I'm close the industry, and in my experience, corporate farms spend a great deal of effort maintaining soil, which includes using drones to visually inspect crops to see where soil may be lacking certain nutrients based on foliage color analysis.
I believe prime tillable land in Iowa currently goes for something like $10k/acre. That's not really in the realm of "cheap" when you need 100s of acres to be profitable in today's farm economy.
Further, the agricultural colleges in the Midwest have extension offices specifically devoted to spreading best practices regarding sustainability and soil health.
Healthy soil is productive soil. There's a reason yields keep going up, and its not just down to plant breeding.
And he did his own repairs: I remember sitting with him at Christmas at his kitchen table with a little mechanical part, precisely machined, part of the fuel injection system. He had me looking at the part, including the moving part, to see if it could be the cause of some problem he was having with the fuel system. So, yes, he did his own repair work.
Heck, for his house he got plans from Better Homes and Gardens and did nearly all the work himself. For the baseboard heat, he innovated and made the parts himself. He did the carpentry to make his own kitchen and dining room tables and chairs, living room coffee table, etc.
For the chickens, he mixed his own feed, and for that built his own feed mixing facility with, yes, used parts. He would include corn, 55 gallon drums of anchovies from Chile, etc.
At the time, there was money in chickens due to suddenly progress in breeding, nutrition, and disease control.
For the chicken houses, he got plans from the USDA and built the houses both longer and wider than in the plans. He used no concrete and had tar paper for the sides and roofs. For the floors, those were dirt, and between batches of chickens he would use his tractor to clean out the floors and then spread wood shavings. For feeding the chickens, he designed, patented, and built his own feeders -- so the chickens have to eat all the feed and not just pick out the corn which is their favorite.
He learned the hard way that he had do to his own marketing: Some grocery store chain would promise to buy the whole flock of 40,000 but when the chickens were ready would find an excuse to delay, say, a sale on beef or pork. A delay of a week meant that had to feed the chickens for another week, and there went most of the profit. So the store would string him out until he would sell below cost just to get rid of the chickens.
So, he did his own marketing: He worked with a guy who did big chicken dinners for large organizations. Then the dates, quantities, and prices were all SET in advance. Smart.
Eventually due to NE Indiana winter snows, the chicken houses sagged a LOT, but by then he was out of the chicken business and head of the local electric power cooperative! So, building the chicken houses cheap paid off! Others built tiny chicken houses with concrete floors, cinder block walls, and tin roofs, outlast the Pyramids, and long since standing empty as the farmers went out of business.
Yup, gotta be smarter than the average hick to be successful in farming!
I don't think software is eating the whole world but it's eating that one. That tells me it's ripe for disruption.
It's not sad, it's progress.
Like so many human activities, fashions, and innovations, the reduction in numbers required to work the land started off providing a benefit and ultimately went much too far. Looking at the destruction such as algal blooms in countless water courses from over fertilisation, steady soil erosion, loss of wild flora and fauna caused by industrialised agriculture and the colossal fields with a single crop, as far as the eye can see in every direction, it's hard to call it progress. It's change. Milk in shops is older than it was, homogenisation allows older milk to pass without notice. It's not progress, and hasn't been for quite some considerable time.
We have large, pretty, consistent fruit and vegetables, but there's been a 50% decline in nutrient content since the war, and a similar decline in taste -- frequently replaced by sugars. We've hugely increased systemic risk from use of monocrops as all it takes is a single virulent disease to put the entire world's production at risk -- see bananas.
Even the productivity gains are overstated. On the old mixed, family farm the raw individual crop productivity was far lower, but the chickens, pigs and plants overlapped such that the waste of one provided food or fertiliser for the others, the animals provided some degree of pest control, and as a whole the productivity was far better than usually assumed.
Industrialisation begets simplification, begets monoculture, for the sake of profit not progress.
But I'm pretty sure there is no mandated federal minimum retail price, although some individual states (Maine, California, Pennsylvania, probably others) have state-specific laws regarding retail pricing. Are you maybe confusing a state law where you live with national policy? Or am I out-of-date?
I am surprised by how inexpensive compared to local brands Walmart's Great Value milk is where I shop in Vermont. My guess was that this is because the local brands pay their producers at the higher North-Eastern rate, whereas Walmart sources their milk from the mid-West and can pay a much lower wholesale price.
The people who make money on dairy farms are the ones who chemical companies and pharmaceutical companies. The cost of raising milch cows eats away at margins. Dairy farmers survive because of subsidies until they have to keep producing more and more ..they stretch and stretch and then they collapse. Tragic.
It makes sense for people as a whole to optimise as a society and have the locally produced society
That's where we can choose an economic system that ensures that we optimise in general rather than individually, so we avoid the prisoner's dilemma type problems.
I can't stop myself from eating an entire of package of Oreos if they're in the kitchen. So I don't buy them. I don't give myself the choice, because I know I'll make a bad one. Instead, I choose to restrict my choice (and the choice of the rest of my household) for our overall well-being.
This feels pretty bad if you're a 10-year-old and just want some freaking cookies. Sorry you weren't able to make your own choice there. Our overall well-being took priority over your individual liberties. I get why that is unacceptable to some folks, but there has to be some balance, and sometimes that means restricting personal liberties in order to maintain the health of the overall system and community.
Local is "sexy" but it has had worse efficency instead of better like promised and is often premised upon overassumptions of the cost of transit and a denial of inconvenient fact of economies of scale because it doesn't fit their world view.
It appears that part of the reason it is popular is because people think they understand it and think the logistics would be easier. I would put it in the simple, easy, and wrong camp of ideas.
I make six figures and I can get by at $4/gal but if/when you apply that reasoning to subsidies/protectionist regulations across the economy my ability to purchase goods and services is greatly reduced and so is my quality of life. I'd get by though. But it's not about me. It's about the family making half of what I make with three children that need to be fed and clothed. They're the ones who really get screwed when you hike the prices of commodities with protectionist measures. So given the choice of who gets screwed I'd pick the local dairy farmers every time.
Of course, co-ops aren't common in the US, but they do exist (like REI) so I'm just curious about the details of this criticism of the legal landscape in the US but without further information am unable to research the claim.
Not the food and vegetables and fruits we consume. Hogs and corn and sugar beets and canola and soy are subsidized.
So... human nature. Human nature is stopping people from doing that.
Seed monopolies . Costco is undercutting chicken production just to maintain a $4.99 offering to their customers . Mega farms have put over 2700 family farms out of business in Wisconsin . CAFOs create pollution equivalent to 168 million people in the state of Iowa with only a total population of 3.2 million people . All of this manure gets dumped back into the soil for monoculture corn farming which is grown to feed livestock which is also significantly inefficient and drains local resources on clean and fresh water supplies and significantly pollutes downstream via runoff into large rivers . The main polluters are, again, these large scale farms concentrating operations for efficiencies to fulfill the ever expanding lineup of highly processed foods the majority of western culture now eats on a daily basis.
Money stops local farming. These mega farms are not in the business to make a great product, they're in the business to make a great profit - at the expense of their customers, no different than the tobacco manufacturers agenda. Between lobbyism, patents, mergers and grants by states desperate for revenue the concentration of control in farming has become very bleak in a short decade.
What is sad, though, is the distinct lack of empathy that this ideology instills in its adherents. Leaving people behind is not a sign of progress; instead, it's a sign of an ill society.
Further, consider that, since the invention of artificial nitrogen fertilizer we have been converting oil into humans, and population growth is the main driver of environmental impacts. Food security is an illusion: if anything ever interrupts the production of nitrogen fertilizer in a serious way billions of people will starve.
Jared Diamond called agriculture "The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race"
We cannot judge the benefits of our civilization just yet.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haber_process circa 1910
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population Look at the graph, notice that it curves up sharply circa 1925-1950.
The book is a giant analogy for huge inevitable changes that affect society.
It also showed how society dealt with the changes. Some people were supported by unions. On the other hand, some goverments tried to control things too much and the shipping industry just left and went to other cities or states.
 The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger
I totally agree. Id say, however, that we should be making it so those people, and we all, are okay without a job/with our jobs being automated away, not be Luddites about it.
A small team of engineers can displace thousands or tens of thousands of workers without creating any new opportunities.
A corporation that did that would have significantly increased its profits, and this new wealth is often (not always) indirectly redistributed to society. For example the corporation could increase its production (ie. hiring more workers), or increase salaries/bonuses, or increase stock buybacks (therefore benefiting stock owners whoever they are), or spin off new business units, or decrease the prices of their products/services to further improve their competitiveness (hence benefiting customers), etc. Rarely does a corporation sit on piles of cash doing nothing (one notable counter-example: Apple.)
What happens when you can produce enough for ten? What do the other 70% of people do? Make products nobody actually needs, using up raw materials. That's what we've done since the War and we decry all the waste. You can't have it both ways.
What happens when you can produce enough for 15? 20? 100? In theory that means leisure time in heaps for everyone. In practice we don't have societal structures that actually allow that to happen. You will not receive a week's pay for 6 hours of work. You will not be accepted by your neighbors and peers for working 6 hours a week. Or zero.
You're meant to be doing something. We enforce this with microaggressions on people we've literally just met.
I'm saying that technology is _bad_. I'm saying that losing your job is bad, and if your boss replacing you with a machine is what causes that you're right to be upset.
Yes, there are numerous documented detrimental effects to children raised in poverty, and many of those effects follow them for life.
Might be great for me, but it sucks balls for you. And it tends to suck balls for more people than it helps.
Edit: and that basically follows through to your kids...
It's like taking a childs binky away. Over time, you totally forget why you even had the thing in the first place.
Efficiency and longevity can be inversely proportional. May the reductionists alone reap their crop.
The consolidation you're talking about was a massive disruption, which brought a lot of change to families and societies. Most kinds of change are painful even when they lead to greater efficiency.
While the transformation of agriculture has led to great prosperity, prosperity also brings hierarchy; i.e. more unequal social forms.
Much of the US has transitioned from a relatively agrarian and egalitarian society to one that is much richer, but also less equal and more divided, in the last 150 years.
There are clear tradeoffs in that transition, which some people might call the march of progress. Ways of life die off, and those who knew them in childhood often regret their passage, regardless of whether the world's wheat production increases.
These are not mutually exclusive concepts.
I’m having a hard time getting numbers for track in Europe, but the UK was the real pioneer and Germany followed quickly.
Those same self-driving-tractor-as-a-service companies can offer service to farmers also!
In some ways I can relate to that, but that is an extremely dangerous trap to go down.
I hope in the future there are more companies that try to align incentives with their customers, such that their business practices help customers be more successful (although many of them preach this, very few actually do). Many businesses these days seem to be geared toward making a quick buck, rather than really providing any value.
It clearly is good for business, even if it's bad for customers and society at large. Pretending it's bad for business just encourages complacency because it suggests that the natural discipline of the market will drive the milkers out of business and encourage good business practices. But that doesn't happen, and if we want that to change there needs to be some source of external regulations to prevent it from happening.
I believe you. This is how Netflix got born. A customer was so embarrassed about how Blockbuster milked him with late fees that he decided to start his own business. We all know what happened to Blockbuster.
Are they? John Deere has increased its revenue from $28B to $39B in the last 4 years....
I've personally repaired a broken dishwasher (temperature sensor's solder busted), the hot-surface ignitor of a gas-fired water heater, the water-filter socket of my frig, and helped a friend repair the ignitor in his gas-fired dryer.
All thanks to Youtube videos with instructions/tutorials, and the availability of parts.
Prior to these, I would have had to call a repairman, and then he'd probably say "you need a whole control board" or "the unit's dead."
Cost to replace the unit with a new machine, $500
Either way, I suspect, apples to oranges.
My washing machine is leaking at the moment. I have to decide whether or not its worth my time pulling it outside and apart to see if it can be fixed, or if I should just go buy a new one for $750
External Regulations is what created the problem in the first place
it is a Perversion of Copyright, Patent and trademark laws that allow these companies to lock down their hardware in the first place
A return to proper, very limited, copyright is the solution, not more business regulations
Boutique tractors, hand repairable, simple parts. If people are hoarding onto 40 year old tractors, then that's a market signal that people want those type of tractors.
It is extreme hubris to think you can use some other power to get consumers a product that they magically want more than the one they're going to choose to spend their own money on. People value their money; they'll try and get the best value they can for it.
All of those things, people could have simply chosen not to buy, or not buy from companies employing those practices, yet it took laws (i.e. collective action and organization), to affect them. Telling people to limit themselves to "simply not buying", is telling them to only use forms of protest that have been repeatedly proven not to work.
Don't like companies hiring paramilitary squads to kill union members ? Just don't buy Coca-Cola! Spend hours or weeks of research for every minor purchase or risk funding something abhorrent - just God forbid you pass any laws!
When an industry is offered a technology-based productivity improvement by a vendor, the increased profit associated with that improvement can go to three places:
1. The technology vendor itself
2. The business purchasing the technology
3. The customer
When the business purchasing the technology is a commodity business (its product is undifferentiated from a large number of competitive producers, e.g. corn, soybeans), the value from the technology will generally either stay with the technology vendor or flow down to the consumer in the form of lower prices.
This is why technology investment in a commodity business is often about a need to keep up with your competitors and not about actually increasing your profit. To paraphrase Charlie Munger, the productivity improvement doesn't 'stick to your ribs' if you are the farmer.
I think any business sophisticated enough to build highly automated farm tractors is also going to be sophisticated enough to realize that it doesn't make sense for the farmers to own the value associated with those productivity improvements. That is the plight of a commodity producer in the supply chain, I don't think it's a moral failing of the technology vendor.
In a way, it is. There's no argument today's machines (including even consumer cars) are more technologically complicated than those of 40 years ago. There's more stuff (read features) that can break, and there's more microcontrollers and embedded computers that run software (read bugs) with sometimes intricate behavior.
Those 40-year old tractors are easier to maintain because everything is mechanical, so it's easier to diagnose and easier to fix.
Maybe that's true in high-choice, low-stakes consumer situations, like "where should I eat dinner tonight?", but is it true in industries with high barriers of entry?
If I decide I'm flying across the country to visit family, I'm going to buy a ticket from some airline that is in fact trying to extract as much revenue as possible from customers. And the airline business seems to be healthy.
If I need to buy a new car, I'm going to be presented with models and trim packages designed specifically to extract the most money from the customer. Honda doesn't offer DX, LX and EX trim packages to save you money - they bundle things together so that even if all you care about is a sunroof, you're also paying for alloy wheels, fog lights, etc.
I've never shopped for tractors, but I'd suspect that maybe the tractor companies that stay in business are in fact the ones which extract as much revenue as possible from customers.
Sometimes the invisible hand is invisible because it's not there. I don't understand how "fewer regulations" is supposed to address problems like these, or really any market failure state.
The family farmers are dinosaurs that will be out of business anyway. The regulatory framework, market consolidation and finances work against them. The only way to thrive is to be really big or really small.
Manufacturing at scale is hard and expensive. John Deere has been doing it for years, creating the most reliable tractors in the world for decades and has only recently decided to bend customers over to give them the ol' in-out-in-out.
A new brand would need to start from almost smaller than scratch, and have tens of million dollars of investment to even get started producing their own tractors. Then they'd have the uphill battle of a set of people who are extremely reliant on these machines to trust a new company with no track record with highly mission-critical equipment.
It would be an incredibly high-risk investment, with little to no guarantee of success.
Instead, as the article says - these farmers are not buying new tractors from anyone at the moment.
A new brand would need to start from smaller than scratch? So what? People start new companies every day.
It would require tens of millions of dollars of investment? So what? We keep being told how capital markets are just sloshing with cash looking for investment opportunities; that one of the reasons for rising inequality is due to the dearth of investment opportunities for the rich to use to seek returns.
They'd have trouble finding customers willing to give them a shot? So what? Every startup has this problem. You solve it by differentiating yourself from your incumbent competitor. When your competitor is so hated that they're getting negative press in national news outlets and state legislatures are being pressured to pass laws, your differentiation proposition is practically written for you.
I'm sure there are tractor upstarts out there trying to get funding. The question is, if they're not getting funding then why not, and why doesn't anybody know about them?
Hotels, Food, etc are very much Brand focused, and absolutely people have their preferred brand of Hotel and Fast Food (and despise other brands)
It takes a LOT of capital to build a company capable of manufacturing something like a tractor. And nobody will buy it initially because it has an unknown reliability record.
Look at the article, the farmers all make predictions about exactly how long those John-Deere tractors will last because they have roughly 40 years of experience working with them.
Deere doesn't have a monopoly. But they do have an incredibly strong brand.
Because modern capitalism is not a system that will magically fulfill customer needs, despite propaganda to the contrary. The way the system actually works is that the wants/needs of the capital-holders take priority over the wants/needs of other stakeholders (e.g. customers and workers). The other stakeholders are often forced to accept minimally acceptable deals, as long as the capital-holders are able to maintain barriers to entry (like large investments in capital).
A new market entrant will likely be tempted (eventually, if not immediately) to implement DRM just like Deere has. And Deere can always drop DRM temporarily if it will let them fend off a competitive threat.
Deere would need to decide whether to drop DRM to prevent your presale campaign.
If they do the consumer wins, and the new company can refund the presales and walk away.
If they don't you get your tractor manufacturing setup build and are then in the game.
The capital-holders did not (in most cases) get a "you are now free to hose your customers" card. The cases where they are free to do so are cases where there is a lack of competition. So "modern capitalism is not a system that will magically fulfill customer needs in the absence of competition". But if there is actual competition, and the wants of the capital-holders take priority over the wants of the customers, that's not going to work out well for the capital-holders.
But modern capitalism, at least in the American context, is a system being drained of competition. Competitors conspire to destroy it by merging and acquiring each other, and the deregulatory economic zeitgeist that's been in force for 40 years means the government has done little to foster it.
Markets tend towards equilibrium, and bitter competition is a kind of disequilibrium.
I agree, and I agree that it's a problem. But it's the "being drained of competition" that's the problem, not capitalism itself. (Well, capitalism itself is something that would prefer to drain itself of competition - even Adam Smith knew that - but for capitalism to work properly, there has to be competition.)
There seem to be two kinds of "draining of competition". First, there's the "just too good" kind. Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and (the subject at hand) John Deere may all be of this kind (though Microsoft did plenty of dirty tricks to get there). Economics of scale and network effects create positive feedback loops where one competitor can win it all. I don't really know what to do about that.
The second kind is government-caused (or at least -allowed) monopoly. There's only one electric company here, because the government thought it made sense for there to be. Some other monopolies are less directly government caused, but heavy regulations can make it so that only the largest firms have the resources to comply, and all the smaller firms die.
Government-allowed is when the government approves a merger of firms that are big enough that the merger significantly decreases (or eliminates) competition.
With the government we've had for the last 40 years, I don't know what to do about this kind, either.
- if there were an existing competitive market, that would help.
- if there were a clear long-term market, that might inspire competition.
But in this case, market forces caused the problem.
That's a nice hypothetical, but hardly helps these farmers. The real solution is America's most hated four letter word: regulation.
That can be said every time the market fails to adjust itself.
They look pretty cool, simple and repairable, but I don't know if they make ones the size of commercial John Deere tractors. All the Mahnindra tractors I've looked at were small.
Kioti (I used to build these w/ my grand parents)
Seems like an American thing, in part.
That is unless you are a government contractor...
You're probably gonna need to wait until the current generation of MBAs retires for that.
This is an educational issue to some extent. All the problems that are now coming home to roost are the result of things business schools have been preaching as gospel from the 80s to present. New ideas are going to need to come along and all those people trained in the old ways are going to need to cycle out before we see meaningful change.