AS THE WHEELS came down on my cross-country flight, I prepared for our landing at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Looking out the window, I could see the sprawl of Silicon Valley, the East Bay, and in the distance, the San Francisco skyline. It is hard to believe that I was here to explore agriculture in 2013, given that what I could see from the plane was mostly concrete, highways, and heavy construction.
Not too many miles away from SFO, I began to wind through the tight curves of back roads, making my way to the headquarters of a major agricultural producer. While I had never visited this company before, I had the opportunity to sit down with the executive team to explore the topic of big data in farming and agriculture.
I embraced the calm and serene scene, a far cry from the vibrancy of San Francisco and the rush of Silicon Valley. As we entered a conference room, the discussion turned to produce, as I asked, “Why is it that the strawberries that I bought last week taste so much better than the ones I bought the week before?” While I posed the question as a conversation starter, it became the crux of our discussion.
It seems that quality — and, more specifically, consistency of quality — is the foremost issue on the mind of major producers. I asked about the exquisite quality of produce in Japan. The executive team quickly noted that Japan achieves quality at the price of waste. Said another way, they keep ...