JCPenney Corporation Announces Closure Of Wisconsin Distribution Center, Cranberry Counting Methods Change, How To Handle Ageism

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The prior method to estimating cranberry cropped yields involved counting every berry that could be found on a square foot patch– by hand. New technology from UW-Madison brings improved accuracy and eliminates the tedious parts. We hear more about the new technology, examine the state of the retail industry following the announced closure of a JCPenney distribution center in Wauwatosa and talk about fighting ageism in our every day world.

Featured in this Show

  • Checking In On The State Of The Retail Industry

    This week, JCPenney Corporation announced the closure of its distribution center in Wauwatosa, which will result in the loss of 670 jobs. Meanwhile, the parent company of Younkers and Boston Store, Bon-Ton Stores, recently shared that it would close 42 businesses due to restructuring. Nine of those are in Wisconsin. We check in on the state of the retail crisis – and its effect on Wisconsin communities – with a marketing professor.

  • New Technology Aims To Help Cranberry Growers Count Their Fruit

    A team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers are working on a way to save cranberry growers time, and a lot of back pain.

    Ben Tilberg is an agricultural scientist for Ocean Spray Cranberries. After a summer of counting cranberries, he figured there had to be a better way.

    Growers have been counting their crop in pretty much the same way for generations. Most will count the berries in 1-foot-by-1-foot squares and then extrapolate that to estimate how many berries are in the total plot.

    “Growers and researchers still use this very archaic method today,” Tilberg said. “Collecting that 1-foot-by-1-foot square is still very laborious and not very accurate.”

    Tilberg said some growers even estimate their crop by eye. That can get tricky though, because the fruit lies under about a 2- or 3-inch canopy of leaves.

    So Tilberg set out to find a better way.

    The researcher based in Babcock, Wisconsin sent an email to two UW-Madison professors, Susan Hagness and John Booske, in the electrical and computer engineering departments to ask about the possibility of using microwave radar to peer beneath the canopy and count the berries underneath.

    Those professors and a team of others have now developed a prototype that does just that. Much like radar methods used for medicine and weather forecasting, the device can estimate the amount of fruit under the vines using microwave radar.

    The device shoots those waves toward the crop, and measures the waves that are sent back. Since the berries and the leaves and vines on top have different water contents, it can distinguish how much vine and how much fruit is in an area.

    Tilberg said it looks like a relatively small aluminum box that sits on top of the vines. It’s suspended above a square-foot area of the crop, the same sample size growers traditionally use to count their berries. But it eliminates the need to count the berries by hand.

    The invention comes at a critical time for the state’s cranberry industry. Despite higher yields than ever, growers have been having trouble making a profit off their fruit in recent years. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cranberry growers produced 26 percent more cranberries in 2015 than in 2016. But sales of cranberry juice have been flat or declining over the past few years, so growers are producing more fruit than the market can handle.

    While this device won’t necessarily help growers with that problem, it might take a load off their backs in coming years.

    “It was really just a beautiful happening of researchers coming together and working across fields and coming up with a solution that can really help cranberry farmers — hopefully in the next few years — spatially map their beds,” Tilberg said.

    They were able to test the prototype last season with funding from the Wisconsin Cranberry Board and Ocean Spray.

  • Wisconsin Team Develops New Cranberry-Counting Technology

    Wisconsin’s cranberry growers could soon have an easier time estimating their annual yields, thanks to technology developed at UW-Madison. By sending microwaves through a portion of the bog, the device gives farmers a digital read on how many berries are growing in the vines. The scientist who spearheaded the project is with us to share the details.

  • Ageism, And What We Can Do About It

    The word “ageism” was first coined in 1969… but some say prejudice against older Americans is as common as ever. Those over age 64 are often treated as a burden…. As “dependent” citizens. Our guest says negative behaviors and hate speech against the elderly is not just commonplace… it’s tolerated.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • J. Carlisle Larsen Host
  • Breann Schossow Producer
  • Dean Knetter Producer
  • Gretchen Brown Producer
  • Felicia Miller Guest
  • Benjamin Tilberg Guest
  • Margaret Morganroth Gullette Guest

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