Teagasc Oakpark Tillage Event June 2019

As readers of these posts will know we are all about #smartrural. We are always on the lookout for ideas and methods or in fact anything that will help to have a positive impact on the lives of the people living in rural communities.

We were pleased to visit the Teagasc open day in Oakpark in County Carlow to see what the researchers are up to and to see how it may impact on rural lives in the future.

It was a wonderful day supported by wonderful interested and engaged farmers.

So just a list of bullet points we feel will impact in the future

  • Farmers are using less chemical fertiliser
  • Farmers are using less pesticides
  • Farmers continue to raise yields with less inputs giving hope that the world of 10 billion can be fed.
  • Techniques to develop natural predators of pests are ongoing and showing some promise
  • Plants and methods that reduce weeds in a natural way are being discovered and researched for farm implementation.
  • Machines continue to get more expensive, more complicated and more precise
  • Regulations continue to increase
  • Irish tillage farmers are still far ahead of most other EU farmers in terms of yield
  • Plant breeders are doing very exciting work using new non GMO techniques
  • Bees are starting to make a return as they are treated for the mite that was weakening them and as they build resistance
  • new chemicals will come to market
  • efficacy of some older chemicals is less than 30%
  • Forestry as sitka is not popular but many farmers would love to widen their natural hedgerows if there was a sequestration credit available.
  • Soil Organic Matter and increasing it is of great interest to tillage farmers
  • Min till, no till, cover crops are all seen as interesting and will spread as the skills needed and the benefits realisation is clear.
  • Precision farming is getting better and cheaper with every iteration and will become standard practice.
  • Building healthy and productive soils is very high on farmers priorities.
  • Farmers are rising to the challenge of producing more food in the next 40 years than they produced in the last 8000 years.

Special assets in your community

Another video (Get it here) in the series, rebuilding community. The series is designed to set out a range of projects and ideas that can be used to try to stop the depopulation of rural areas. Some recent research suggests that villages under 500 people are beyond saving. Sadly we have heard even higher figures in more developed countries.

Some have stated that if under 1500 then it is already beyond saving. AS mega cities grow we need to save our rural areas. These are more environmentally friendly and make it easier to enjoy fresh air, no commuting, local food. A better life in our view.

Part 3 of Building community

Project 3. Using the power of photographs, before and after agile project management,  to build a rural community and even to help to rebuild it. Using #5g technology, the #IoT, and building off other #smartcities type of projects to try to offer simple actionable projects for #smartrural communities to do. Here is the video.

Rebuilding communities video

Rebuilding- some ideas. We hope to make a series of videos outlining the projects that we feel may be useful in setting out on the journey to rebuild or maintain a community.

Of course all of these require work, but we hope by setting in out in projects we can help get the structures in place for leaders and others to get going.

Eventually we can get templates as we hear and watch projects get deployed in communities

In general we feel that you need to start with information gathering, to begin the process. But don’t spend too long at this stage. There is work to be done!!

So here is the first video. Let us know what you think!

The need for amenities

We have been researching a bit about towns and villages that are succeeding in growing or regrowing their communities. There are not many examples sadly and far too many examples of the decline of populations and communities are far too common.

It has been suggested that economics are driving the flight from the country to the city. But we hope that people and community are not mere ciphers. That there is a delight and a desire to form social groups of friends, family, and neighbours. These were the heart of villages and communities and indeed are the opposite of the anonymity of the metros.

The main point of this note is that villages and towns that wish to recover will need to plan not only for work, which is growing with all the companies setting up distributed and remote workers, and not only for health and education, but also for amenities.

If people are deciding to move from a city to a rural base then they have many decisions to make and the community needs to help them with that. Housing, work, education need to be available and connected to the advantages that are obtained in the cities. A key tipping point is special and attractive amenities. Communities with special natural attractions and associated activities appear to be benefiting. Strong communities with say lots of beaches and sunshine for leisure hours are attractive to silver citizens, The same beaches can be attractive to younger surfers and kite boarders.

Some communities develop activities around the mountains with skiing in winter and biking and hiking in the summer. Still others develop their wildlife and natural surroundings to be attractive and to be a key advantage for people moving to the area. Others can work on yoga, creative writing, fresh air and produce or communities that are busy in the area of green or other cultural activities. Still others follow the basis of strong universities or research centres where excellence is the norm

People with similar interests tend to want to stay together. If you can develop a community feature or special benefit then that will get the initial seeds sown to make your town or village become a destination.

It’s a new challenge and one that we will come back to in future posts

Innovation and development

A big mouthful of words and one that can immediately scare most people off! But it does not have to be frightening. Unless of course you want to reinvent google or something. Now that could be a bit of a tall order.

It could be argued that it is easier than before thanks to technology. and remember that is the point of smartrural, to use technology to assist us humans in the countryside so we can prosper and continue to enjoy to live in the place we love.

The first step, to my mind is to do something you don’t normally do. Change the channel if you will. If you ahve a routine say of having an evening meal and then having a watch of netflicks or your computer before going to sleep, then change it. Get up go someplace different and see what other people are doing. Go to the cinema, go to a restaurant, go to a hotel and see what is going on. Who is there, are they spending money, why are they there, could they be somewhere else, could you do anything to make them have a better experience (legally of course). Write it down. Do the same at the weekend, if you normally shop in one supermarket in local town, go someplace else. See what else is going on.

If you use online shopping do something else. Look for the craziest products on the internet. Write them down, talk to others about them. If you normally jsut say hi to your neighbours change it, ask them can they take a walk with you to the local corner store? Tell tehm about this stuff, listen if they have stories back.

Sign up for things you never did before. Change the thoughts in your head. The ideas will come. Most of the best ideas are so obvious when you see them first you can be sure you will believe someone is already doing them.

Do not have huge expectations. But do set a basic target of at least earning money for the time you invest pretty quickly.

Get a side gig. Help someone who has a side gig. Volunteer.

Write down any ideas you have of pain people feel or how something can make them have an easier life.

Change your news sources, if you read the paper of record, change it to another one, ideally selling more. IF you listen to the same radio show every day, change it, find one with more listeners and listen to that. Write down how you feel about it. See if these can be turned into solutions, because others probably have the same feelings needing solutions.

Listen to podcasts about start ups, go to any start up event you can. The energy is infectious (in a good way)

Don’ be afraid to fail, just write down what you learned and start again. Write down what you see for about 3 months, then review it. See are there any gems, are there any synergies with something from this month and something from last month

Development and innovation are jsut two words. Its not jsut for someone else. It can be you. Ask! watch, listen. Innovation can be tiny small little idea or improvement on existing one. Development is about getting that out so others can also use it. The trade is they then pay you for making it happen. Its a fair trade.

Get a mentor, ask someone you like or someone you think can add to your skills. Most people love to help other people. It is one of the most satisfying feelings.

Don’t become so secretive that you think you cant talk about your idea for fear someone else will steal it. The more you talk about it the more help you will get and also you will win the court case if lots of people heard you talking about it first!

Work and income generating

There are a great many subtitles in this area.

We can start with the basic idea of the traditional job. One where you get up, go to work, go home etc.

Then we have smart working where work is not really a place. Work is an agreement to use your skills in exchange for rewards. This can be based on the road- so called nomadic workers, in a shared or community facility, a company called we work is probably the largest example of this, but many more are getting involved too. And finally working from home for either all the hours that are in the exchange or for some hours and then going to a place (office, shared facility, coffee shop, conference, etc) to continue to work or to colocate with other team members to deliver the skills exchange required.

We also have then the idea of service providers or experience providers. This should be a growth market in #smartrural. The city dwellers all want to get out of the city and go to the country for the weekend. Of course this can be either a blessing or a curse. If they crowd the mountains and block the roads with their cars then no one is happy. However it can become an opportunity, albeit part time and casual, to use the demand to provide a service.

What do we see in this area, farm shops, fruit picking, animal feeding, horse riding, bike ways, mountain walks, guided tours to sites of interest, kiddies play areas. Not to mention sales of famers products, experiences in the countryside, seasonal adventures in the oudoors. All these have never been so easy to set up and market with platforms to host the experience, advertise it and collect the money on your behalf.

As we have travelled we have done rafting, horse riding, wine and cheese tasting, cooking including Ceviche, jams, bread, speciality salsas, bike riding, waterfall climbing, zip lining, tree climbing, rock collecting, fossil reading, snorkelling, birdwatching, animal identification, flower identification, harvest of grapes, potaotes, rice etc. Plus countless others. The important thing is that we as customers booked all these on line, and paid our money in advance. This gives the operators time to organise and get the infrastructure in place for the event. Prices are set based on numbers in a group and sometimes the trips did not happen if there was not sufficient interest (money) for the service providers. The booking process includes collection of contact phone numbers to allow for last minute changes (or cancellations) and the opportunity to share and review is built in.

Our pictures are taken and posted in so many locations on the social media as these business promote their offering into the crowded marketplace.

But it is the future. Platforms exist. Lets go

Tourism in the countryside

So what do we know about this? It is complicated. What are the recent big successes? Wild Atlantic Way springs to mind as do all the Greenways being developed following the huge success of the one in Mayo.

Irish tourism is a huge product and one where there are clear gains to be made from our Green and clean country but especially our extra friendly people.

But it is not all roses, staffing in hotels, cafes, hostels etc is a task. How many people are needed, for when, what skills do they need, how long do I need them for and what do I pay them? These are all questions that are hard to answer when setting up.

Oddly enough data and software can help. Most people will book a hotel or guest house, airbnb, or campsite. This information allows the owners to see what staff they need. Some hotels and restaurants have arrangements with cooks, cleaners etc to ‘follow the customers’ . So for example a hotel in middle of Ireland may be quiet mid week but out the door on the weekend. Once the bookings arrive in the systems can generate a message to gig workers like cooks, cleaners, bar men, serving staff etc., offering them work, and usually accomodation to match the new emerging demands.

They pay a premium for this of course but it is cheaper than carrying staff for hours they are not needed. Staff get well paid and get to do other jobs or study or follow their dream outside of these hours.

Owners of stand alone business will need to form alliances with their neighbours to be able to share the information. Guys renting bikes on greenways will need to talk to hotels and guesthouses so they can be ready with teh bikes. Coffe shops and stalls along the way need to link up with the bike guy so they can know when there are potential customers coming.

A simple example is a guy on a greenway renting bikes. When he has 50 out he whistles up more help for the return process- as this probably will happen in a rush. A couple of the coffes shops have an arrangement where he tells them when he passes 30 bikes. They then know there are 30 people on the greenway and maybe they need a few more scones. It’s simple stuff but it helps give the customer and the business people better experiences.

Without getting too big brother about it, this can all be automated so that the computers do the heavy lifting and talk to each other . This is our hope, that a community based platform will work with the community to help give everyone the benefit of the tourists who come to town.

Ski resorts are increasingly using this to make sure they have enough food, cooks, instructors, and cleaners to deal with the weather driven surge in demand. The software and tools are out there, we need local leaders to help roll them out.

Uber probably invented the idea and constantly use software to identify spikes in demand. Airlines use it to price seats and to reallocate planes if there is lower, or higher demands. The technology exists. #smartrural can exploit it.

Smart cities

So these are getting huge investments all over the world. Mainly to help manage the gridlock, pollution and services to the citizens. All seem to assume that the cities will continue to grow. It is coting a fortune to make the cities smart. Surely if we made the countryside smart then people could live there and work there. Is the future of work city based? #smartrural

4 Game changers in Property

So what a fast moving world we are seeing now in the property sector. . Watch for huge changes here. There are so many movers and shakers here, each trying to be be the one to disrupt this industry.  Some wil succeed. No old business models are safe as knowledge, technology, and lean and agile management take hold.

We are watching 4 companies at the moment who have all received major funding to drive the space they are in to a disruptive place.

These are WeWork, now the largest office owner in New York. The company has gone to market looking to sell a $500m bond. It released some eye watering figures in its pitch:  220,000 users, 255,000 desks in 20 countries, revenue per person of just under $7,000. They commited to pay over $5billion in rent by

Lemonade- seeking to disrupt the hundreds of years old home insurance business. They also ahve just announced a signup with Roomi.

Open Door- What is this model about?? They are buying, buying, buying.

Katerra- a new development company with huge ideas. Buy your home directly from the people that built it.  The roofers, blockies, window fitters. carpetners, plumbers, sparks, painters , kitchen makers , designers, enginners, etc etc.  all on technology to speedup development and reduce waste.  Lean mean cosntruction driven by the diverse really skillful teams.