Apple’s revamped ‘Siri’ takes on agriculture’s questions

About two years ago, I wrote a column on Apple’s new digital goddess Siri, the company’s digital assistant and go-to person for iPhone users. Folks could ask Siri a range of questions including street directions, the location of nearby restaurants, etc.

Armed then with the new iPhone 4S in hand, I picked Siri’s database mind about the business of agriculture which generated some pretty comical answers. Siri knew little about agriculture.

Apple recently upgraded its operating system including a new version of Siri. With the upgrade loaded in my new iPhone 5S, I took Siri for another spin around the farm. The ride was rather bumpy.

Siri referred to Internet links for most answers. Her favorite was the all-knowing online Wikipedia encyclopedia. Still, I enjoyed a few humorous questions and answers.

When asked, “What is agriculture?” Siri passed the buck to Wiki. I was impressed though that the listing about ag was more than food and fiber. Wiki gave agriculture the credit for biofuels, pharmaceuticals, and other products “used to sustain and enhance human life.”

Deserving of a chuckle was the response to this question, “What are California almonds?” Her response, “I couldn’t find any info on the home runs for California.” Good answer actually. Every almond-ahhhmund grower in California knows that the tree nut is a nutritious home run hit food with consumers worldwide.

When Siri faced many food-related questions, she e-spewed out lists of restaurants closest to my location.

I asked Siri, “What is your job?” Her response, “My name is Siri and I was designed by Apple in California.” She never answered the question. Perhaps Siri has a political future.

When quizzed if food comes from the grocery story, she listed the nearest eight grocery stores.

Siri rebuked the age-old-question, “Which came first - the chicken or the egg?” Siri scoffed at me and belted this response, “It appears civilization has been awfully preoccupied with this question.” Ouch!

When quizzed, “What is a family farmer?” Siri sought legal counsel from the web, Al Gore’s invention. Her response was a family farmer is “Someone who can file Chapter 12 (bankruptcy).” Whaaat? Say again.

I surfed my way to the website which said Chapter 12 is designed for “family farmers” or “family fishermen” with “regular annual income” that enables financially distressed family farmers and fishermen to propose and carry out a plan to repay all or part of their debts.

I asked my favorite digital assistant about what foods are healthy to eat? Siri’s response – “Picazzo’s Organic Station Kitchen just down the road.” O-K-A-Y…my mind raced – could Siri be a closet vegetarian? (nothing wrong with that).

I followed up with these questions – Are you a carnivore? She said, “I’m sorry. I’m afraid I can’t answer that.” When asked the big V question on vegetarian status – Siri said, “No comment.” Hmm…sounded suspicious.

Siri scored some agricultural points when asked a question sometimes posed by the anti-alfalfa crowd – “Does alfalfa production require too much water?” Here response included a link to the University of California alfalfa working group website and an article written by the UC’s Blaine Hansen, Khaled Bali, Steve Orloff, Blake Sanden, and Dan Putnam.

Way to go Siri.

Surprisingly, Siri scored more ag points when quizzed about western water-drought issues. I queried, “Does California have enough water?” Apple’s all-knowing helper said, “California is in a drought and does not have enough water naturally.”

Then, I couldn’t help but ask Siri a real ‘sucker’ of a question about a very controversial topic for Western farmers…“What do you think about the controversy over using California water supplies to preserve the Delta smelt versus producing food and fiber to feed the world?”

She paused…’I love to use Delta smelt for fish bait.’ Just kidding…Siri did not say that. My words, not hers.


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