The next two recordings we are releasing from the 9th Annual Soil & Nutrition Conference are workshops presented by John Kempf. For those unfamiliar, John is a young, brilliant leader in the Biological Agriculture community. Well-known for his work as founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture, one of the leading biological agronomy companies in North America, John also hosts a very successful podcast, offers webinars, and has recently launched a blog – all of which can be found at www.johnkempf.com. He even has an excellent reading list for those interested in curling up with a couple books this winter. As Joel Salatin says, when asked what helps him succeed, “read broadly”.
John kicked off his first workshop, The Future: Bringing Regenerative Agriculture into the Mainstream, by announcing a collaborative effort with the Bionutrient Food Association to build out the first-ever “AI Agronomist”, with the goal of providing real-time guidance to growers at any scale and anywhere, empowering farmers to tap into the existing (and growing) wealth of scientific information so they can produce crops that are healthier, with greater pest and disease resistance, as well as a more nutrient-dense crop.
Listen here to the full workshop.
This would change the conversation altogether from a reactive approach to a proactive paradigm - instead of looking for solutions to a specific insect pest or a specific disease, the grower would be able to identify and address the underlying nutritional issues that result in a specific insect pest or disease afflicting a crop.
"Let's say that we have a potato farmer in Colorado who has 11 fields of potatoes," John says. "It would be possible for that potato grower to get an alert that says, 'You need to begin scouting your fields for potato beetle because they're expected to emerge from winter dormancy in the next 24 to 48 hours. And of your 11 fields, field #3 and field #8 are very highly susceptible to infection. Field #3 is susceptible because it has high levels of nitrates because you have low levels of molybdenum. You need to apply 50 grams of molybdenum per acre to move your susceptibility from a '9' down to a '2'. Field #8 is very susceptible because it has low levels of magnesium. You need to apply 5 pounds per acre of magnesium sulfate to move the susceptibility down to a '2'.
"That completely changes the conversation," John explains. "Now, it's no longer about needing to apply an insecticide. It's about why you have the problem, and what you can do to reverse it. All the information already exists to put that platform together, but nobody has done it yet. And we intend to do it."
How? We are working on the next generation Bionutrient Meter, which will be engineered specifically for use in the field by growers and agronomists, and would return a spectral signature from a leaf of the crop. Combined with some basic data points about soil type, fertility program, weather, etc that the user would input, the "AI Agronomist" algorithm would then generate specific recommendations for what types of soil amendments you might need, for example, or what types of microbial inoculants or foliar applications you might benefit from.
We hope to have the farm-focused Bionutrient Meter and AI platform available to growers and consultants in roughly 2 years, by which time we also plan to make available the next-generation, consumer-oriented Bionutrient Meter.
Certainly an interesting project to be worked on by two people brought up barefoot and in a subsistence ag/homesteader culture. Perhaps that is part of the beauty of it!
On the heels of this exciting announcement and the dialogue that flowed from it, John’s second workshop was an "Ask me Anything" – a rollicking, broad conversation guided by the attendees based upon their questions on issues they are experiencing in their own growing operations. Listen here. John being one of the pre-eminent agronomists of the time, this was an hour-and-a-half full of nuggets and insights, and well-worth the listen. We encourage you not to miss out on either of these wide-ranging discussions!
If these whet your appetite for even more, again, so much valuable content is being produced and shared on www.johnkempf.com. For those with time to study and learn, this is an amazing resource, truly worth the effort – a well-curated and deeply presented reservoir of knowledge.