6 Technologies Helping Farmers Optimize Their Techniques
Agriculture is an industry that has always been looking for ways to optimize its techniques, improve outcomes, and ultimately increase the yield of a given crop or herd of livestock. New technologies have emerged and been adapted over the years, shifting away from the more traditional animal-drawn equipment and making the shift to powered tools.
Now, the industry is in the midst of another shift, this time toward networked technologies. Here are six examples of technologies that are helping farmers optimize their techniques.
Nearly everyone uses GPS technology these days for everything from users navigating a new city to companies like Google and Facebook using it to create targeted ads based on where their users travel. This global positioning system is also becoming a valuable tool for agriculture. Applications for GPS-based farm tech include but are not limited to:
- Farm planning
- Field mapping
- Soil sampling
- Tractor guidance
- Crop scouting
- Variable-rate applications
- Yield mapping
This is only the beginning of GPS technology in agriculture. The potential applications, especially where the rest of the technologies on this list are involved, are limitless.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a broad term for a growing number of networked devices that are programmed to work together to accomplish various tasks.
In agriculture, these devices — in the form of sensors — can be used to monitor nearly every variable that could impact the health of a crop, from light levels and ambient humidity to the exterior temperature and even the moisture in the soil. When attached to a plant, these devices can monitor crop health and help farmers determine the optimal time to harvest.
Autonomous Farm Equipment and Vehicles
Self-driving cars are great, but autonomous vehicles in an agricultural setting could accomplish so much more. Autonomous vehicles, from tractors to telescopic handlers and more specialized pieces of equipment like threshers can all be programmed to complete their tasks automatically, without the need for any human intervention. Each asset has its own maintenance requirements as well, but connected technologies can automatically flag equipment in need of a tune-up.
Drones can be programmed to monitor crops for pests or signs of disease and then report back to the farmer automatically. It takes so much work to keep a farm running that having some autonomous tools can help shoulder some of the workloads.
Automated Hardware and Software
Automation is working to transform nearly every industry, taking over mundane or repetitive tasks and freeing up skilled workers to put their talents elsewhere. With an expected population of nearly 10 billion by 2050, global agriculture will need to increase its production by at least 70% to keep everyone fed.
Farm automation and other sustainable farming tactics will help to shift the industry in such a way that it can keep the world fed without damaging the environment to accomplish that task.
Advanced Soil Sampling
Without rich and nutritious soil, crops will wither and die in the field long before they ever start producing. Crop rotation techniques can help maintain nutrition, but they only provide the barest outline of what might be right or wrong with a stretch of land.
Soil sampling and comprehensive testing techniques keep farmers appraised of the precise amount of nutrients in their soil, making it easier to make informed adjustments rather than just throwing things at the metaphorical wall to see what sticks or overusing the available resources.
Telematics is an emerging technology that works by collecting data directly from equipment operating in the field. It can be applied to traditional or autonomous equipment, transmitting the information back to the farmer in real-time so they can make adjustments without having to wait for a piece of equipment to make it back to the barn at the end of the day.
This remote collection enables farmers and operators to be more proactive in their decisions rather than just reacting to problems or changes as they occur.
Monitoring the Future of Agriculture
The agricultural industry is in the midst of a massive shift toward the Internet of Things, automation, and other technologies that will play an enormous role in ensuring farmers can keep up with the growing demands of a global population.
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