Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest When a sports fan heads to the stadium to cheer on their favorite team, it is safe to say that one of the last things on their minds is agriculture. But, thanks to some help from an Ohio farm boy turned NFL football player, the ways those in the stands think about farming and how it correlates with many aspects of the sporting event they are attending are changing.Behind that concept is Ohioan Mark Inkrott, who grew up in Glandorf with a long agricultural family history behind him. His grandfather converted a flour mill to a grain elevator that has been in the family since 1942. In fact, Inkrott’s father still delivers feed to farmers throughout Putnam County.“When I was a kid, whenever I wasn’t in school I was in my dad’s bulk truck,” Inkrott said. “That’s when I got to know all of the farmers and found out what they did and started to understand everything that goes into food production.”Although Inkrott has never forgotten those lessons from his rural neighbors, his life’s journey took him far away from home. He followed a career in football, which began at the college level at the University of Findlay and then professionally with the Carolina Panthers and the New York Giants. He even spent time on the gridiron in Europe.After hanging up the cleats, Inkrott came back to Ohio to attend graduate school and then found himself back in the industry where he started.“When I think back to when I was younger and thinking about what was ahead, I didn’t think agriculture would be where I ended up in my career,” Inkrott said. “It’s funny how you end up where you’re supposed to be and be working with farmers again has been very rewarding in the sense that they are value-based people who know what hard work is.”After working in the dairy industry for a while, Inkrott came up with a concept to fill what he saw as a need for agriculture. So he and a business partner, a fellow Glandorf native, founded UpField Group, a sports marketing and consulting firm specializing in agriculture and farm to stadium programs. The team also consists of a farm policy specialist and a rancher’s daughter. Together they bring a unique skill set to their agricultural endeavor and have teamed up with associations ranging from the NFL Alumni to Mossy Creek Outfitters and Dairy Management Incorporated.“At one point in my life I just assumed that everyone across the country knew where food comes from but that certainly isn’t the case,” Inkrott said. “After my football career it occurred to me that sports have a powerful platform to be influential and to tell great stories about agriculture and food production.”UpField Group founder Mark Inkrott and professional wide receiver Larry FitzgeraldUpField Group specifically saw the most potential in the stadiums, which already are used to deliver messages from the teams on the field and from the sponsors that are plastered all around the venue.“Sports transcend throughout the community and it brings people together,” Inkrott said. “No matter what your political stance is, or your background or beliefs, when you go to a ballgame we can all agree on the team we are rooting for.”Inkrott said that when he did play football in cities like Charlotte and New York, he noticed things that very few people around him might have picked up on.“The first time I went to an NFL game, I was playing in it and even then I recognized the agriculture component to a ballgame,” Inkrott said. “As fans were enjoying a cold beer I knew that there were hops and barley farmers somewhere that made that possible. The same goes for hot dogs, popcorn and lemonade and the examples go on and on.”The vision of UpField Group is to make those connections to food and sports easier to see for everyone involved, closing the many gaps that are in between farmers and consumers.“Consumers, in general, are confused about their food and more labels and misleading marketing aren’t helping,” Inkrott said. “Transparency about how food is made is trendy and so is buying local, especially in urban markets and that is where UpField Group can come in and share the messages that people need to hear about farming and its misconceptions. Sports is a great platform for that.”And UpField Group believes that message should come from no one else but the farmer, so they have developed a strategic alliance with ag accounting firm K Coe Isom to help give consumers a 360-degree view of the farm through their many farmer clients.“The information we glean through this partnership is allowing us to create fact-based marketing and go find new opportunities in new markets,” Inkrott said. “We can meet with companies like a brewery, for example, and introduce them to a farmer and the corn crop they raise, their sustainability record and value of their message and offer that brewery a great ambassador and face for where their product comes from.“Then, we can do an event at that brewery with the farmer and he can talk about what happens on his farm, giving the consumer confidence and trust and a great image of where the product comes from.”On a bigger scale, UpField Group sees potential in making the farmer-to-consumer connection inside sporting arenas by placing producers on the Jumbotron to share what they farm to make the spectator’s experience that much more enjoyable.“Consumers are smarter than ever and they have access to more information than ever before so there’s no trick marketing and no gimmicks in what we are doing here,” Inkrott said. “Since the core values of a farmer are honesty and hard work, helping them tell their story will be the best way to regain the trust of the American consumer.”
Many smart grid details are still being worked outThe Supreme Court ruling enables the creation of new services, such as selling home battery power back to the grid. But the business models for many innovative smart grid technologies are still being worked out, and it still isn’t clear what a sustainable business model looks like. Prices in electricity markets, for example, have been in a slump for years thanks to cheap natural gas, which makes it more difficult to earn money selling electricity services.The ruling also does not mean the end of all tensions between state and federal regulations. States may still be able to prohibit or limit participation in demand response markets.Community solar, for example, may be able to sell into power markets in theory, but in practice much still depends on the rules governing how solar power is metered when connected to the grid. Those rules, still firmly in the hands of the states, have become more restrictive in some places in recent years.So by ruling for FERC, the Supreme Court did not kill the smart grid, as some people had feared. But it will take more than a single sweeping ruling to completely save it. Getting paid to save energyThe FERC rule allows homes and businesses to get paid for energy conservation when demand on the power grid is very high, a practice known in the electricity business as demand response. Demand response has been around for years even before the case was heard by the Supreme Court, and has been credited with keeping power costs down and even with avoiding blackouts. Microgrids and community solarWhile demand response has been controversial, it has (alongside the rest of the smart grid) undoubtedly paved the way for a burst of innovative technologies, practices and business models, the likes of which the electricity sector has not seen in many decades.Electric vehicles, the wi-fi connected thermostat, Tesla’s distributed battery system, and the automated response of household appliances in reaction to conditions on the grid are among the potentially game-changing solutions to the grid’s many challenges — and all have the potential to do the job better and more cheaply than large power plants or batteries.My home state of Pennsylvania is but one example. A number of companies that coordinate demand response have sprung up in southeastern Pennsylvania and neighboring New Jersey.For instance, the Philadelphia subway system is now capturing energy from braking and storing it in batteries for reuse or resale on the wholesale energy markets. The city’s electric utility, PECO, is looking into developing micro-grids for local power supply and distribution. (Full disclosure: I have been involved in a number of projects related to demand response, smart grids, and micro-grids through my university employer, Penn State, and the Microgrid Systems Laboratory.)So it would now seem to be all systems go for demand response, electric vehicles, rooftop solar, and Tesla’s home battery system. But the irony of the ruling is that it may actually have muddied the waters, even when the sweeping language in the ruling suggests the opposite. RELATED ARTICLES Will the Supreme Court Kill the Smart Grid?The New ‘Smart’ GridTesla Will Sell Home BatteriesThe Smart Meter: Friend or Foe?Older Americans and the Smart GridGet Ready for Smart AppliancesOntario to Yank Some Smart MetersIn Nevada, Calls for a Smart Meter ProbeWhen Customers Challenge the Wisdom of Smart MetersFinding the Smartest Use for Smart MetersSmart Meter SmackdownThe Smart Meter’s Contentious Opponents Awkward analogies in an effort to explainDuring oral arguments in October last year, the attorneys arguing on behalf of the FERC sometimes struggled to explain the workings of the power grid and the markets that have been created in the wake of electricity deregulation in the 1990s.A host of awkward analogies, from sports cars to hamburger stands, were used on all sides. At the end of arguments, it seemed that the FERC had won some points and opponents of demand response some others, but ultimately, that confusion had prevailed.Some months ago, I argued that this case has hugely broad implications for the electricity business, particularly for innovation, that go far beyond demand response. Indeed, the majority opinion, authored by Justice Kagan, seemed at times very sweeping.During arguments, power generators complained that FERC simply did not have the jurisdiction to set up a market for demand response. The Federal Power Act suggests that the portion of the grid that distributes power to homes and businesses, rather than high-voltage transmission lines that transport power long distances, is the jurisdiction of the states. On this point, the message from the court was pretty clear: FERC has the authority to make the rules for deregulated electricity markets, and it can be as permissive or restrictive as it sees fit in determining who gets to participate in those markets.As a result, the ruling seems to put the federal government in the driver’s seat over modernizing the power grid, at least in the 70 percent of the U.S. where deregulated regional electricity markets are now the norm and have been for nearly two decades.Get paid to reduce electricity demand? Use on-site generators to supplement the grid during hot summer days? Allow community solar and energy storage to earn the same market price as natural gas or nuclear power generators? The Supreme Court has now opened the door to all of this. A smarter grid, here we come! Seth Blumsack is an associate professor at Pennsylvania State University. This post originally appeared at The Conversation. In a surprising 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court upheld a controversial energy conservation rule from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency that regulates interstate electricity sales.The rule was one of those arcane pieces of federal policy so complex that even attorneys arguing for and against had difficulty explaining it. Yet this particular decision by the court is one of the most important in the energy world for many years — not because it upheld a particular FERC rule but because the decision seems to tip the balance of power on electricity policy toward the federal government and away from the states.The breadth of this decision paves the way for a host of new technologies and business models that seem poised to disrupt the usually staid business of electric utilities and usher in a more technologically advanced power grid. At the same time, the ruling sidestepped a number of thorny questions at the heart of state versus federal control over the power grid. For example, on hot summer afternoons when the air conditioner load soars, consumers and businesses can sign up for utility programs to turn up thermostats for short periods and, in return, receive a rebate. By arranging to consume less power during those critical times, grid operators can avoid purchasing costly power from very polluting generators.Critics of the practice have complained that payments in the demand response market have been so lucrative as to amount to a major subsidy for electricity users, one that has eroded the profits of power plants to the point where (ironically) the reliability of the grid may eventually be threatened. The decision issued last month, and the margin by which FERC’s demand response rules were upheld, came therefore as something of a surprise.
The Filipinos can still cap off the campaign on a positive note as they brace for El Salvador in the tournament closer.The Scores:SLOVENIA 21 – Ovnik 7, Finzgar 7, Srebovt 4, Kavgic 3.PHILIPPINES 14 – Ravena 7, Paras 4, Teng 2, Quiñahan 1.ADVERTISEMENT Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss PLAY LIST 02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games WATCH: Firefighters rescue baby seal found in parking garage Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Lacson: SEA Games fund put in foundation like ‘Napoles case’ Kiefer Ravena skies for a layup in the Philippines’ game against Slovenia. Photo by Fiba.comThe Philippines bowed out of contention in the 2017 Fiba 3×3 World Cup with a 14-21 defeat to second-seed Slovenia Tuesday (Wednesday Manila time) at Parc des Chantiers de I’lle in Nantes, France.Overwhelmed from the get-go by the powerhouse Slovenians, the Filipinos struggled to find their rhythm and found themselves down early, 5-0, before stumbling to a 14-4 deficit courtesy of Simon Finzgar’s hot shooting.ADVERTISEMENT LATEST STORIES World’s 50 Best Restaurants launches new drinking and dining guide Parks ready to serve PH as Reyes welcomes him in Gilas pool Jordan delivers on promise: 2 Cobra choppers now in PH Heart Evangelista admits she’s pregnant… with chicken Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Kiefer Ravena rallied the troops and got the Philippines within four, 15-11, but Gasper Ovnik was quick to douse that run before Adin Kavgic iced the game from the free throw line with 1:20 left on the clock.Ovnik and Finzgar fired seven points apiece, Anze Srebovt added four markers, and Kavgic had three for Slovenia, which topped Pool B with a 4-0 slate to advance to the tournament quarterfinals.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSSEA Games: Biñan football stadium stands out in preparedness, completionSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutRavena led the Philippines (1-2) with seven points, while Kobe Paras chipped in four markers from a pair of two-pointers.Jeron Teng chimed in two points, while JR Quiñahan got one in the losing effort. Heart Evangelista admits she’s pregnant… with chicken What ‘missteps’? View comments MOST READ 1 dead in Cavite blast, fire