INDUSTRY FIRSTS Five Innovative Ag Practices that are Changing the World

By Stephanie Metzinger A t a time when the world’s population is soaring—to an estimated 9.7 billion in 2020—and natural resources are quickly depleting, farmers are now faced with crushing weather conditions that are affecting their ability to grow food in a sustainable way. In just the past few years, the United States has seen wildfires blanket regions throughout California; unreal temperatures stymie farm production; warm winters threaten the Sierra Nevada snowpack; and devastating storms and floods decimate cities and towns. Some may call this climate change and global warning, while others may say it is “Farm-ageddon.” However this attack on land and resources is labeled, one thing is certain: there is grave concern on how humanity will continue to feed itself. The United Nations recently released a report that warned how “food security will be increasingly affected by future climate change through yield declines, increased prices, reduced nutrient quality, and supply chain disruptions.” The report, which was developed by more than 100 experts from 52 countries, goes on to detail how we must waste less food and practice better land management in order to maintain food security as the population and negative impacts of climate change increase. In light of the looming food crisis, farmers have already stepped up to the plate to be part of the solution. Today’s farmers are increasingly experimental, and for years, have implemented new practices in their operations that tackle the serious issues that face food systems globally. Whether it is designing innovative packing solutions to reduce food waste or building machines that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, farmers are leading the way in developing agricultural practices and technologies that are changing the world. In fact, many of Western Growers’ 2,400 members have already implemented groundbreaking initiatives on their farms that have allowed them to continue producing a steady supply of food for the state, nation and world. The following five examples are just a small sample of the cutting-edge advancements that have moved the needle for the ag industry. These are not exclusive and, in fact, represent the tip of

an amazing iceberg that could literally become a list of thousands of innovations. 1. Introducing Bagged Salads to Extend Shelf-Life Prior to 1989, consumers did not have the ability to go into the supermarket and buy packaged salads. Instead, any lettuce purchased and not used immediately was thrown out. That’s where an agricultural scientist, Jim Lugg, comes in. In 1963, Lugg was hired as director of research by Bruce Church Inc.—one of the largest U.S. lettuce producers at the time—to look for better ways to preserve crops’ freshness during shipment. Lugg turned to Whirlpool for a solution, which eventually resulted in the birth of TransFresh—a partnership between Bruce Church and Whirlpool—in 1966. The company soon discovered that different gas mixtures of oxygen and CO 2 would extend the shelf life perishables that were being transported in shipping containers and railcars. This

discovery led to the novel idea of cutting and washing lettuce, and then packaging it with the same oxygen-and-CO 2 mixture. Lugg then experimented with the bag’s film, ensuring that it the permeability of the package let enough oxygen in to keep the lettuce fresh and let enough CO 2 out to keep the flavor of the lettuce. Nearly 25 years later, TransFresh introduced the first

12   Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com   SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2019

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