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Category: Technology and Broadband

Smart Phones: The Latest Tool for Sustainable Farming

View of farmland and trees

New jointly-developed USDA apps will help promote sustainable land-use practices. ARS photo by Scott Bauer.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Seems like there’s an “app” (application) for everything these days—perhaps because mobile phone use is becoming increasingly global. USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) soil scientist Jeff Herrick and colleagues have jumped on that trend in their efforts to promote sustainable land-use practices and world food security.

This past April, they released the first two of a suite of mobile phone apps that, once all are issued, will connect agricultural producers around the world and provide them with shared knowledge on ways to maximize their land’s productivity while protecting its resources for future generations. Read more »

Harnessing the Power of Global Open Data

At the 70th United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly Meeting, the U.N. Member States agreed to a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals) to eradicate poverty and hunger, protect the planet, and create sustainable economic growth globally. High-quality statistics and data are critical to achieving these goals by enabling us to better target our actions, develop innovative solutions to these global challenges, and ensure prosperity for all. 

Recognizing the importance of this data, the Global Partnership on Sustainable Development Data (Global Data Partnership) was launched on September 28.  This partnership envisions a world in which the power of timely, accurate, and high quality data leads to sustainable development — leaving no one behind.  It envisions a world in which data is produced, organized, shared, and used in an environment of trust, inclusion, creativity, efficacy, and efficiency, a world where “the right data is available to the right people at the right time to make the right decisions for the right outcomes.” Read more »

Taking Broadband to the Next Level

A technician installing cables at Pine Net Telephone and internet stations

A technician installs cables at Pine Net Telephone and internet stations. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Getting broadband to unserved rural areas is one of the toughest challenges we face. It’s far easier to make a business case to serve 500 people per square mile than it is where there are only five people per square mile. Broadband is expensive to deploy through hundreds of miles of countryside, including mountains, canyons, forests and deserts. But that’s our challenge.

The Broadband Opportunity Council report the White House released today lays the groundwork to build on the tremendous success of deploying broadband under the Recovery Act, which helped USDA and the Commerce Department expand essential broadband service nationwide. Yet even with this historical investment, we have much more to do. Read more »

Open Data: a Key to Feeding 9 Billion People by 2050

NPR’s “The Takeaway” program recently examined the “The Biggest Challenges Facing America and the World.” The episode included an interview with USDA Chief Scientist and Undersecretary Catherine Woteki on the challenge of being able to feed a world population that is estimated to reach more than 9 billion people by the year 2050.

On behalf of USDA, Dr. Woteki played a key role in the formation of Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN), an international organization which supports efforts to make agricultural and nutritional data available, accessible, and usable for unrestricted use worldwide. She said harvesting such data could be a key to harvesting enough future crops to meet future challenges. Read more »

Wildfire Smoke Monitors Working to Reduce Health and Safety Impacts

A Environmental Beta Attenuation Monitor in a forest

Environmental Beta Attenuation Monitors (E-BAMs) are portable particulate monitoring stations. They are one technological tool used to monitor smoke. They can transmit their data via satellite to a central location for analysis. USFS photo.

Smoke from wildfires can have an enormous impact on the public and on fire personnel, affecting health, interfering with transportation safety and upsetting tourism and local economies.

Trent Procter, like all U.S. Forest Service Air Resource Advisors, is a technical specialist with expertise in air quality science, including: air quality monitoring, smoke modeling, pollutant health thresholds and communicating about smoke risks and mitigation. Read more »

Secretary Announces New York and Oregon Tall Wood Building Prize Winners

SHoP Architects proposed 475 West 18th in New York

SHoP Architects proposed 475 West 18th in New York, uses extensive wood structural elements and other wood products and allows the team to set ambitious sustainability targets in the building's design, construction, and operation. Copyright image, permission for use.

All around the world, including here in the United States, builders are adopting new, cutting edge technologies to save energy and reduce a structure’s carbon footprint.  Now, technological advances are enabling architects and contractors to use one of the most traditional materials, wood, to construct lighter-weight, more energy efficient tall buildings.

Today in New York, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced two winners of the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition.  The design projects, one to be built in the Chelsea section of New York City and the other in Portland, Oregon, were selected by a panel of architectural and engineering professionals and meet the competition’s criteria for safety, practicality and sustainability. Read more »