Category: Stories of Interest (page 2 of 123)

Black Gold, Texas Tea…

In the early 1890s, Texas businessman and amateur geologist Patillo Higgins became convinced there was a large pool of oil under a salt-dome formation just south of Beaumont, TX. He and several partners established what was called the Gladys City Oil, Gas and Manufacturing Company and made several unsuccessful drilling attempts in the area. In 1899, Higgins leased a tract of land at Spindletop Hill to mining engineer Anthony Lucas. A drilling derrick he had positioned on the ground not far from Beaumont, Texas, officially became the first U.S. oil gusher on this day in back 1901. Unfortunately for Higgins, he’d lost his ownership stake by that point. Reports circulating said Lucas drilled to 575 feet before running out of money. He secured additional funding from John H. Galey and James M. Guffey of Pittsburgh, but the deal left Lucas with only an eighth share of the lease and Higgins with nothing. Lucas continued drilling and on January 10, 1901, at a depth of just over 1,000 feet, oil blew sky-high and started coating the landscape, signaling the advent of the American oil industry. The Spindletop geyser was the largest gusher the world had seen, flowing at an initial rate of approximately 100,000 barrels a day and took nine days to cap. Following the discovery, petroleum, which until that time had been used in the U.S. primarily as a lubricant and in kerosene for lamps, would become the main fuel source for new inventions such as cars and airplanes; coal-powered forms of transportation including ships and trains would also start converting to the liquid fuel. Crude oil, which became the world’s first trillion-dollar industry quickly started transforming towns and creating vast wealth. Beaumont became a “black gold” boomtown, its population triplingin three months. The town filled up with oil workers, investors, merchants and con men (leading some people to dub it “Swindletop”). Within a year, there were more than 285 actives wells at Spindletop and an estimated 500 oil and land companies operating in the area, including some that are major players today: Humble (now Exxon), the Texas Company (Texaco) and Magnolia Petroleum Company (Mobil) were all at the inaugural party.

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Agrifood Conversations- A Year of Weekly Webinars


During 2018, iSelect, The VanTrump Report and The Yield Lab Institute are sponsoring a series of weekly webinars featuring the best in agriculture innovation. Agrifood Conversations is all about driving innovation and each month will highlight a specific theme, featuring emerging topics such as soil health, biologics, plant genetics, vertical farming, precision agriculture, herd health and management, and aquaculture, to name a few. Once a quarter, we’ll open up the conversation with a panel of experts on that month’s topic. Learn about new trends in ag, connect with industry leaders and discover new solutions.

Join us each Thursday at 3pm CT for Agrifood Conversations.

We’re kicking off the webinar series featuring biologicals during the month of January. From probiotics for plants to targeted pest and disease management solutions, learn how new innovations are making a difference in the agriculture industry and how you can be a part of it.

Even if you can’t attend the live presentation, registrants will be sent a recording following the webinar.

Learn More About This Month’s Presenters

Persistence Data Mining: Thursday, January 11th at 3pm CT

Fertilizer management costs American farmers millions in lost revenue and capital outlay every year. In fact, $1.5 billion is spent annually in the U.S. just on grid sampling efforts, costing farmers as much as 50 hours of lost work time annually. Persistence Data Mining is an Illinois-based agtech startup that is developing precision soil mapping technology to support proactive and efficient fertilizer use in the agriculture industry. It’s sUAS Precision Agriculture products are designed to help farmers better understand their fields and to fertilize only where it is needed and when it is needed most, with real-time, precise soil information.

BVT: Thursday, January 18th at 3pm CT

Bee Vectoring Technology (BVT) uses commercially-reared bees to deliver sustainable and effective crop control, harnessing the power of nature’s best workers to help farmers improve crop quality with a significant decrease in the use of chemicals. The company’s tray system introduces natural organic compounds to commercially-reared bees as they exit the hive. As the bees pollinate, they leave behind the foundation for a season-long, targeted pest and disease management program. The bees remain healthy and happy throughout the process.

BVT’s technology has been in development for more than 20 years and provides the foundation for comprehensive, stackable and highly targeted pest and disease management solutions.

Holganix: Thursday, January 25th at 3pm CT

Holganix, produces natural, plant probiotic-based fertilizers and soil conditioners that are 100% organic and good at controlling nematodes. For plants, nematodes are bad news, causing an estimated 14% of plant losses every year and costing the economy nearly $100 billion in damage. Preliminary results have shown a 50-75% decrease in pathogenic nematodes where Holganix is used, and the product shows excellent promise as a biostimulant.

ROCKY Movie Surprised Most Everyone

Many might not realize it but the Oscar winning movie Rocky was actually written by it’s star, Sylvester Stallone. Filming of the movie actually began on this day back in 1976. Stallone had his own rags-to-riches tale: Born in the gritty Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City, he was a juvenile delinquent who was kicked out of a number of schools before he turned 15. After attending high school in Philadelphia and studying drama at the University of Miami, Stallone moved back to New York and later to Los Angeles, with dreams of becoming an actor. Interestingly, he began writing scripts so that he would have better roles to play. According to a profile in the New York Times, published November 28, 1976, he wrote the entire Rocky script in a frenzied three and a half days. The inspiration for Rocky was a real-life fight between the world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and a little-known club fighter named Chuck Wepner. In March 1975, Wepner went 15 rounds against Ali in a title bout in Cleveland, Ohio; he had been such a big underdog before the fight that Sports Illustrated ran his picture on their cover with the headline “Boxing’s Strange Encounter.” After a long negotiation process, Stallone sold the script to the producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, on the condition that he play the lead character, the underdog boxer Rocky “The Italian Stallion” Balboa, himself. It is reported that Stallone trained six to eight hours a day for five months to play the role of Rocky. The film was shot in an amazingly short 28 days on a budget of just $1 million. It opened to somewhat split reviews but soon became the sleeper hit of the year, becoming the highest grossing film of the year, making Stallone–who negotiated in 10% of the gross–a very rich man and a bona fide star. At the 1977 Academy Awards, Rocky was nominated in 10 categories, including Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay, and won three Oscars: Best Director, Best Film Editing, and Best Picture. He became the third man in history to receive these two nominations for the same film, after Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles. Sylvester Stallone went on to star in many Hollywood hits and is now 71 years old and worth hundreds of millions. Click HERE to see a cool Rocky tribute video.

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Has America Hit Peak Grocery Store?

Consumers in the U.S. have drastically changed their shopping habits over the last decade. The evolution has been most visible in the retail sector as brick-and-mortar stores fall victim to the so-called “Amazon Effect.” Basically, this is the impact of the online marketplace on traditional business models that provide goods direct to consumers. Recent examples of this have been very focused on apparel and department stores. However, food retailers are also finding themselves under threat as more consumers opt for pre-prepared food, subscription meal-kits and restaurants. This is coming at a time when the amount of retail space dedicated to selling food is at an all time high. Commercial square footage of retail food space per capita last year set a record, with 4.15 square feet of food retail per person, according to CoStar Group. That is almost 30 times the amount of space dedicated to groceries in 1950. Despite the massive expansion, sales at major food retailers was flat last year and expected to remain the same this year. As CoStar analyst Suzanne Mulvee succinctly explains, “There’s only so much food we can buy.” What’s more, the pool of grocery shoppers is shrinking. One of America’s largest generation, the baby boomers, is past its food-consumption peak. And as the boomers get older, their numbers in general are shrinking. The other major demographic group, millennials, simply does not shop like other generations have. They are increasingly turning to nontraditional options. For instance, convenience stores, where sales of prepared food and beverages has grown a whopping 72% since 2010. Then there are the online options. About one-quarter of American households buy some groceries online, compared to 19% just three years ago. Amazon and WalMart are two of the biggest players in that space, but there are a host of other online options, like meal-kit company Blue Apron, and general grocery delivery services like Door-to-Door Organics. The number of online options is expected to just keep growing too, with the digital share forecast to be the equivalent of nearly 3,900 grocery stores by 2025. (Sources: Wall Street Journal, CNBC, FastCo)

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Biggest Cyber Threats For 2018

Our modern-day technologies have made many aspects of life more convenient but they also bring with them a heightened security threat. Hackers are constantly upping their game, conceiving new ways to breach cyber defenses in order to steal information or extort money. Over the last few years, the cybercriminal network has grown exponentially as it’s become a lot easier to commit crimes thanks to technology advances. You don’t have to be particularly tech-savvy – you just need the ability to find the right tools. Security experts from MIT recently compiled their list of significant cyber threats to look out for in the year ahead. (Source: MIT Technology Review)

Data Breaches: This type of cyberattack is nothing new. In fact, 2017 saw some of the biggest hacks in history, including the massive Equifax breach which led to the theft of Social Security numbers, birth dates, and other data on almost half the U.S. population. Marc Goodman, a security expert and the author of Future Crimes, believes that other companies that hold significant amounts of sensitive information will be a big target this year. He says data brokers who hold information about things such as people’s personal Web browsing habits will be especially popular targets, as the industry as a whole is unregulated.

Ransomware In The Cloud: This is another cybercrime that’s been around for a few years, but again saw a rise in the sheer number as well as sophistication last year. Some big targets included Britain’s National Health Service, San Francisco’s light-rail network, and big companies such as FedEx. These attacks are a form of malware that breaches defenses and locks down computer files using strong encryption. Hackers then demand money in exchange for digital keys to unlock the data. Cloud computing businesses are expected to be a new big target in 2018 as they house mountains of information for companies. Some also run consumer services such as e-mail and photo libraries.

Weaponization Of AI: Security experts are warning that this year will see the emergence of an artificial intelligence (AI) driven arms race. Security firms and researchers have been using machine-learning models, neural networks, and other AI technologies for a while to better anticipate attacks and to spot ones already underway. It’s highly likely that hackers are adopting the same technology to strike back. Machine-learning models can now match humans at the art of crafting convincing fake messages, and they can churn out far more of them without tiring. They’re also likely to use AI to help design malware that’s even better at fooling security programs that try to spot rogue code before it is deployed.

Cyber-Physical Attacks: Hacks on critical infrastructure targets like electrical grids and transportation systems are seen taking place in 2018. Some will be designed to cause immediate disruption while others will involve ransomware that hijacks vital systems. During the year, researchers and hackers alike will uncover more holes in the defenses of older planes, trains, ships, and other modes of transport that could leave them vulnerable.

Mining Cryptocurrencies: Hackers, including some allegedly from North Korea, have been targeting holders of Bitcoin and other digital currencies. But the theft of cryptocurrency isn’t the biggest threat to worry about in 2018; instead, it’s the theft of computer processing power. Mining cryptocurrencies requires vast amounts of computing capacity, which is encouraging hackers to compromise millions of computers in order to use them for such work. Recent cases have ranged from the hacking of public Wi-Fi in a Starbucks in Argentina to a significant attack on computers at a Russian oil pipeline company.

Hacking Elections: This issue has dominated news headlines since the 2016 elections. Experts say evidence shows that Russian hackers targeted voting systems in numerous American states ahead of the 2016 presidential election. With midterm elections looming in the U.S. in November, officials have been working hard to plug vulnerabilities. But determined attackers still have plenty of potential targets, from electronic voter rolls to voting machines and the software that’s used to collate and audit results.

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