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Seed Money: 6 Ways Streaming Video Plays a Role in Farming

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“Rating the Stock” is one such video, in which Rowe explains the theory of “teaching a dog to rate the movement of the livestock when moving it from one place to the other.” Rowe offers short clips for free, stating that the video clips will “make it easy to understand how to train your dog to rate stock” if the viewer pays for a longer video as part of the Coffee with Jerry series. In many ways, this is similar to the way that iTunes offers a snippet of a song, enticing the listener to purchase the entire song.

Another type of how-to stream deals with proper ways to grow crops, whether they are planted in a field or a greenhouse. Audio podcasts are a popular form of how-to knowledge and a quick scan of internet radio and podcast listings on TuneIn.com shows hundreds of how-to options for the gentleman farmer and professional rancher alike. One such resource is the KSL Greenhouse podcast, which is a recording of a live radio show on KSL News Radio from Salt Lake City in which the “heroes of humus and the gurus of green” answer questions about arbors and gardens.

4. Safety Streams: Another type of on-demand streaming video deals with safety on and around the very big and very expensive farm equipment used for planting, maintaining, and harvesting crops.

While the state of California may be known for Silicon Valley and Hollywood, the heart of California agriculture lies in what’s known as the Central Valley. This area between Route 101, I-5, and Route 99 is flat and fertile, making it ideal for large-scale crop and cattle farming.

The state of California, through its workers’-comp-focused State Compensation Insurance Fund, has produced a number of videos that it offers free for streaming. From ATV safety and how to properly handle a tractor safely when driving along highways to best practices around pesticide use and safety when using cotton harvesters, the State Fund videos cover a wide array of potential safety hazards that farmers may encounter.

There’s even a video for California’s most well-known farm export: wine. The video, “Safety on the Bottling Line—A Training Tool for the Wine Industry,” highlights key areas of safety in the bottling process with both the wine producer and the wine consumer in mind.

Streams for Future Farmers

While the four areas above are for today’s current generation of farmers, ranchers, and farm workers, there are efforts underway to attract future farmers, whether that’s a hipster that wants to be a gentleman farmer or the third-generation descendant of a farmer that’s thinking about leaving the country life and moving to the city.

5. Cattle Auctions and Fairs: This first area of farming innovations powered by streaming comes from a most unlikely place: the local or state fair. These multiday events are more known for portable carnival rides, but they started—and continue to thrive, even in today’s technology-driven economy—as a place where farmers and future farmers meet to showcase prize cattle and livestock.

One portion of this fair atmosphere is captured in the classic cattle auction, where ranchers and farmers bid against one another for horses, bulls, and other livestock. It turns out, though, that the cattle auction streamed online is capturing more than just the attention of bidders.

An example of this, as reported by streaming service MediaFusion, was last year’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto. Even though it’s the biggest agricultural fair in the world, the audience was primarily local. As part of the 2016 fair, though, event producer Jeff Rideout wanted to make a live stream of the cattle auction available.

The end result? Not only did many people watch the live cattle-auction stream, but it also drove foot traffic to the fair itself.

“[P]eople wanted to watch it, and they wanted to engage with it,” said Rideout, “and people actually came to the fair because of what they saw on the live stream.”

Rideout said his expectation was approximately 200 viewers for the live stream, but the 9-day event total was more than 25,000 viewers.

“Sometimes we don’t give enough credit to the farmers,” said Rideout. “[T]he reality is that these people are working with robots and genetic engineering ... We gave them another tool on the technical side to engage with other farmers to learn what’s out there.”

6. The Science of Farming: On the innovation front, a key use of video streaming capturing research into farming innovations. For all the science in agriculture, farming is still a very visually intense process, with crop and livestock inspections key to weeding out or healing sick or diseased plants and animals.

Some of the leading research universities in America’s heartland are using streaming video to highlight their agricultural research. An example of this, from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL), is the StreamingScience.com website. The site offers virtual field trips to farms and agricultural laboratories, with materials produced by students in the Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication department.

In a recent video titled, “Studying What Goes on Below Ground: Good versus Bad Bacteria,” Michael Meier highlights current research in plant pathology. Meier, a graduate student at UNL, focuses his research on root and soil microbiomes.

“Biology is no longer what it used to be 200 years ago,” states Meier at the beginning of the video, surrounded by lab equipment. “The plant pathology is much like human or animal pathology.” He goes on to explain that the Greek word “pathos,” loosely translated, means suffering, so it’s about studying why plants suffer.

Meier studies the diseases that plants face, exploring visually the impact of these diseases on root systems below ground.

“We’re trying to go into the root systems now and trying to understand how plants interact with the microbes that live in the soil,” said Meier, adding that science research at the university affords him the chance to do this type of work to benefit future farmers.

Planting the Seeds ... in Readers

We’ve only just scratched the surface of streaming video in agriculture, but hopefully we’ve scratched it deep enough to plant seeds of interest in the farming community—from massive agribusiness ranches to the small family-run farms—for all you city slickers.

As you can see, there’s more to video streaming in agriculture than just pretty scenery, and we hope this brief industry highlight will germinate within our readership, yielding a crop of innovations in streaming to help future farmers meet the challenges that they face across the globe.

[This article appears in the January/February 2018 issue of Streaming Media Magazine as " Seed Money: Streaming in Agriculture."]

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