Episode 42: The New Face of Modern Agriculture with Jenny Maloney

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The Produce Moms Podcast

Episode 42: The New Face of Modern Agriculture with Jenny Maloney

“We’re now working on robots that can go through a field, and through imagery, differentiate between weeds, plants, and insects, and target them as they go along.” – Jenny Maloney (11:24 – 11:47)

Jenny Maloney is a Food Chain and Sustainability Manager at Bayer Crop Science. She is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about the agriculture industry.  She has also been instrumental in starting many of the farmer’s markets in the Fresno, CA area. She grew up on a small farm, and she has witnessed the transformation of the agriculture industry first-hand.

Technology Has Transformed the Agriculture Industry

Technology has had an enormous impact on almost every industry during the last few decades, and agriculture is no exception. In the earlier days of the twentieth century, farmers and growers had to be creative to remain profitable. Animals were heavily involved in the harvesting process, and approximately 30% of the workforce took part in agriculture.

Today, we have robots that can go through the fields, and through imagery, differentiate between weeds, plants, and insects. We can use drone imagery to see the changes in a field over the span of a few years. Growers have access to large amounts of data that enable them to make better decisions. And now, agriculture only accounts for 2% of the workforce today, as a result of the vastly increased efficiency in the industry.

“For any young women that are interested in a career in agriculture, the opportunities are endless as long as they are eager to learn, and are willing to work hard.” – Jenny Maloney (15:31 – 15:49)

The Increased Role of Women in Agriculture

Traditionally, women’s roles were limited in the agriculture industry, but today the opportunities are endless. There are various avenues for women to be a part of the agriculture industry. For example, women can identify consumer trends like the rising popularity of avocados, and create marketing plans that encourage people to eat more avocado toast. They are also increasingly active on the field. With an understanding of crop weather patterns, they can help in making decisions on when to harvest, when to fertilize, and more.  The possibilities are endless.

The industry mindset has significantly evolved regarding women’s role in agriculture. It is no longer uncommon for women to occupy upper management roles in industry-leading companies like Bayer, both in the United States and globally. Today, for young women that are willing to learn and work hard, the sky is the limit in the agriculture industry.

Modern Agriculture is Encouraging Kids to Eat Fresh Produce

Fresh fruits and vegetables are a crucial part of a healthy diet for both adults and kids.  Research has shown that most kids in America are not getting their daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. It is a difficult problem to solve because children generally aren’t predisposed to liking vegetables. Modern farming and innovative companies like Bayer Crop Science are taking a multi-prong approach in making fresh produce more palatable for kids.

Bayer and other companies are partnering with various school districts and donating equipment to make vegetables more accessible to kids in those communities. They’re also working to encourage kids to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables when they are not in school. 

To help make vegetables more exciting and fun for kids, Bayer has undertaken some innovative projects. They are working on home garden products, which can be an excellent opportunity for kids to grow their own food in their backyards. This would help them develop a connection with healthy produce. By growing their own food, the kids will be more likely to eat it. On a much larger scale, they are working on seed technology, the vast majority of which are non-GMO.  The hopes from new seed technoloys is that will make fruits and vegetables more palatable to kids, in a way that’s sustainable to all stakeholders.

“I think a lot of people probably have no idea about the incredible things happening at the seed level to help increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables.” – Lori Taylor (33:19 – 33:30)

Organic vs. Conventional Farming

Many people are confused about whether or not it is really important to eat organic vegetables. With current farming and environmental standards, they’d be happy to know that it is absolutely safe to eat either kind. The difference lies in how they are grown. There are rigorous standards in place to get the USDA Organic seal. Growing organic means they are not allowed to use any synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. So, organic farmers have to come up with more natural, and mostly manual ways, to prevent pests from destroying their crops. As far as vegetables that are farmed conventionally, the EPA has stringent rules in place for both the development and use of synthetic crop protection products.

As technology increases, the produce industry will continue to move forward as well. However, in the midst of all of the change, the importance of fresh produce remains the same. Organic or conventional, make sure your family is getting plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, to stay healthy and strong.  

You can connect with Jenny on LinkedIn, and keep up with all the new innovations from Bayer Crop Science.

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Podcast: Modern Technology

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Episode 38: Jason’s Deli – Changing the Way the Food Industry Feeds Your Family

Episode 37: Food Safety – Truth, Evidence and Facts


About Lori

Lori Taylor is the Founder & CEO of The Produce Moms. For ten years she sold fresh produce to over 300 grocery stores throughout the United States, and today she is fully focused on working with the produce supply chain, media, and government to increase fresh produce access & consumption in the US and around the globe. Connect with Lori on LinkedIn.

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