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Bill Gates
Bill Gates on a ranch in Australia. (Gates Notes Image)

Complete with cowboy hat, Bill Gates traveled a long way from the bustle of Seattle to witness the innovative techniques being used to raise cattle in the outback of Australia.

In a new post on the Gates Notes blog, the Microsoft co-founder writes about a visit to a ranch owned by the Australian Agricultural Company, where cutting edge genomics are being used to breed wagyu beef cows, a prized breed among consumers of high-end meat products.

Gates said that he was most interested in learning how the technology being used by AACo could transfer to lower-income cattle farmers working in similar climates — namely in Africa where the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is already focused on improving other quality-of-life aspects.

Gates witnessed Australian ranchers artificially inseminate a cow and he saw them use smart watches to learn when their cattle needed more water. It was a far cry from the billionaire’s main agricultural experience growing up in Seattle, seeing the farmers who sold freshly picked fruits and vegetables at Pike Place Market.

The trip, and the blog post, also served as a chance for Gates to reflect on whether we as humans should rely on animal products for food at all.

“Although it might be possible to get people in richer countries to eat less, we can’t expect people in low income countries to follow suit,” Gates wrote. “When I went vegetarian for a year in my late 20s, all I had to do to get my daily serving of protein was buy a can of beans or a container of tofu at the grocery store. It’s not so easy for families in poor communities to get the nutrition they need.”

In the end, he said the best answer may be to mitigate the impact on the environment by increasing production from cows already being used to produce meat and milk in parts of Africa. Gates is excited about the possibilities that his foundation can act on thanks to the digital agriculture he witnessed in Australia.

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