Eric and Craig Hughes grew up surrounded by corn and soybeans in rural America during the 80s. At that time, these crops were still wrapped in nostalgia of the American family farm.
Children played hide-and-go-seek in the same fields where teenagers worked summer jobs—and where generational farmers aimed to make a living. The entire community was tied to the fields in one way or another.
One ubiquitous machine in the landscape allows most of these fields to thrive:
Center Pivot Irrigation.
When viewed from an airliner several miles up, center pivot irrigation looks more like a composition of land art than the result of an agrarian process. Green field after green field are neatly placed in rectangular grids—all controlled by wheeled machines that are essentially 3-D printers for plants.
Much has changed in the last 30 years.
The bottomless underground aquifers tapped by pivot irrigation are not bottomless after all. Chemicals that leach from farms impact ecosystems hundreds of miles away. Massive government farm subsidies fuel trade conflicts and create economic and environmental problems.
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