Written by Lindsey Gill, CNN
A new smart map launched by a poultry scientist will help farmers monitor chickpea production to help maximize food.
Staff at the World Pork Organization’s Research and Development Laboratories in Worcester, Massachusetts, are using smart compass function to track chickpea production and distribution in 16 Latin American countries.
The technology, called Smart Compass, is programmable, so it can be expanded and adapted by farmers to their needs, according to Brian Smith, an extension specialist at the pork organization and a farmer himself.
“It’s a tool kit for people involved in the poultry or pork industry,” said Smith, who as well as being an extension specialist has been producing plants and producing chicks for more than 35 years.
“You can start with small squares, get bigger squares, then increase the volume of the cubes you are doing,” he added.
“And, when we get into something like it is important to start here and go there, it will work in relation to what you are trying to do with the pen.”
A pathfinders map, similar to the one used by scientists to track chickpea production. Credit: World Pork Organization
After laying eggs, the chickpea is crushed, distilled and dried for about two to four weeks.
Ideally, a growing chick pea should have its head just above the water table, in the center of the pen, so it can drain out at the proper time and then be scooped out again after another two to four weeks, according to the Pork Organization.
Smith has already found some success, with the bird pea pods keeping a family or three chickens fed during the fieldwork.
Organizations like the American Institute of Animal Science (AIS) in San Antonio, Texas, sponsor research to save land as well as increase production in poultry and pork farming.
“It’s about cost-effective agriculture, using science and technology to make sure we’re generating product at a cost point that is less that the cost of production,” said Smith.
“There are also big returns on food that’s produced based on what we use. A lot of people are not aware of the advances that have been made in the livestock and poultry sector.”
An animal was weighed in before carrying out the tests on chickpea pods. Credit: World Pork Organization
Scientists on the search for the ideal chickpea
The hub of life on earth, the chickpea pods are created in the fall or winter and they can be left outside to feed to spring chicks, according to the research organization.
There is a growing global demand for chickpeas, which are both legumes and grains. Processors, retailers and health food stores increasingly buy up the peas, especially in the United States, because they have lower moisture levels compared to other legumes.
Food and agriculture giant Louis Dreyfus Company is also doing research on chickpeas.
“(Chickpeas) are going to be one of those items that consumer demand is going to drive. You can have this really high protein, low fat protein that is really cheap, simple, clean ingredients,” said Seth Burkhardt, spokesperson for the Dreyfus Co.
“It’s an easy protein source. You don’t have to add water to it. It’s also a really cheap, simple food.”
Most people would probably recognize the chickpea as the less spicy snack found in food like hummus and falafel.
Chickpeas and the European Union
It can also be used in cooking dishes.
The chickpea’s “peak of sustainability” is not far off and its cultivation is a matter of “opportune time and place,” according to Gill Dawson, deputy director of research and development at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the USDA.
Other organizations in the United States are trying to keep up with rising demand, including a project backed by the state of Indiana that aims to grow 5 million pounds of chickpeas per year by 2025.
One of the methods researchers are experimenting with is to use specific sprouts to germinate the chickpeas on the ground. It is hoped that this can also help in the development of a new production system.
The research team is also looking at different ways to sow the peas. It uses natural plant material, instead of the most common products that are kept by crops such as corn, wheat and soybeans.