While researching some of the information for today’s Page 1 story on the Borden Boys and their donation to the Smithsonian, I found a picture of a “Rotolactor” milking machine. It was featured at the Borden Pavilion during the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City.
The revolving platform held 150 cows while they were milked and it was a huge attraction in the fair’s Food Zone. It was unimaginable 68 years ago.
The pavilion’s theme was The Dairy World of Tomorrow, and it would be interesting to know what else was featured, because the creators were dead-on with the Rotolactor: It mirrors today’s rotary milking parlors.
“The Rotolactor epitomized how technology advanced the production of such a widely-used product as milk. Indeed everything American, including cows, would be influenced by the advancing technology of the ‘World of Tomorrow,’ comments one University of Virginia historian.
We continue to underestimate technology that’s on the drawing board even today. What is it that we can’t imagine now that will be a commercial agriculture reality in another 68 years?
If I were a betting man, I’d wager that in 2075, all livestock offspring will be gender predetermined through cloning or artificial insemination – or maybe even through a different breeding technology.
Manure will be more valuable than the animal’s meat or milk. So will a lot of other animal byproducts.
Driverless tractors will be the norm, along with robotic milkers.
There will be specific agricultural zones, areas were farms are permitted – and areas where farms are not permitted because of urban populations or environmentally sensitive geography.
I’d bet functional foods will be specific and commonplace: foods with fewer sugars, carbs or fats; foods with added cancer-fighting properties; foods that lower blood pressure or cholesterol. Milk will be revamped and branded for specific energy drink or health benefit markets.
Commodity crops will move into branded use crops, and not all uses will be food or feed related. A field over here will grow “tires,” a field over there will grow a particular pharmaceutical drug.
Remote sensing and Global Positioning Systems will scout your crops for you, determine a plant’s nitrogen needs and calculate soil pH.
Identity preservation and animal ID will be a fact of life, aided by nanotechnology, and I’ll bet building materials will be self-repairing and self-monitoring. Carbon credit trading will be as common as corn futures.
I think farms will also go a “local foods” direction, and communities will own their own farms, much like a municipal water system.
And not all farms will be above ground.
Looking back 68 years, who imagined Integrated Pest Management or using plants to make plastic or GPS units could boost crop management. Who imagined sexed semen or that hog heart valves would be successfully implanted in humans?
Looking ahead 68 years, who knows how technology changes will impact agriculture. Just hold on for the ride.
“If you knew everything about tomorrow, what would you do differently today?” – Futurist Faith Popcorn.
(Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 800-837-3419 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)