Emerging national trends are forcing farmers to rethink processes and increasingly look to technology for solutions:
- Rising populations that drive increases in demand.
- Rising income levels that drive demand through increased access to resources.
- Drastic climate changes that affect anticipated crop levels (decrease in supply).
- Extreme usage of vital natural resources that impact tomorrow’s crop capabilities (further decrease in supply).
- Lack of interest in the farming profession by the youth to carry on family traditions and maintain national food supply levels.
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) recently put a focus on the role of agricultural technologies to meet these challenges in their report, Food Security in a World Headed Toward Natural Resource Scarcity: The Role of Agricultural Technologies.
Today’s farms are not the farms of yesteryear. With increased access to technology, the hope is that further advancements can close output gaps and aid farmers in the precise delegation of resources.
The IFPRI believes that a turn toward technology could be the solution to “increase global crop yields as much as 67% and cut food prices nearly in half by 2050.” How so? Below, we explore a few ways technological advancements are adapting from their day job and taking stock on the field.
1. Precise Processes: Precision Agriculture Takes Charge
Heat detection in cows to predict and manage milk production and fertility levels, robotic milking, tools to facilitate exact placement of needed fertilizer, and GPS tracking to navigate fields with ease—all part of a typical day on the modern farm.
Technologies to increase precision and efficiency are on the rise, and form unique solutions to meet demands.
2. Big Data Access: Big Win or Big Concern
Technologies put in place to create smoother processes also emerge with capabilities to track, store and execute based on data points. Today’s farms have access to information on the farm’s performance, which continues to update at rapid rates.
While technology is often seen as a positive advancement, some farmers express concern related to privacy. This is especially true surrounding an announcement that crop giant Monsanto and equipment king John Deere plan to launch competing data mining services that will provide big agribusiness with the latest from their farms—collected “minute by minute as they plant and harvest their crops.”
As information on crop yields, employee performance, and livestock wellness are tracked and used to improve upon existing processes, ranchers and farmers express their concerns related to data privacy:
- How much data could become a required share?
- Who owns this collected data?
- Can my data be sold against my benefit?
3. Insight to Information Through Wearables: Google Glass on the Farm
Data trends continue with the information Google Glass technology can provide directly to farmers—peaking interest in application and opportunities for the farm.
In a previous post, we covered a few ways Google Glass technology can improve the daily lives of farmers:
- Quick access to maps and directions.
- Video recording functionality to document processes.
- Live-streaming capabilities to troubleshoot and problem solve on the go.
- Google Now integration to schedule, track weather patterns, and gather location insights.
It is expected that by the middle of 2014, these specs will roll-out to many farmers in the Midwest, and assist in machinery documentation, data collection and hands-free communication that is ready for outdoor labor—available in both clear and sun-proof lens options.
4. More Output With Less Human Labor: Enter the Drones
Interest in drone usage to facilitate everything from military activity to shipment of delivery boxes and packages has made headlines—leaving many to wonder what robots could take the place of next.
Motherboard’s Jason Koebler (@jason_koebler) believes it is agricultural labor, adding that drones will master this skill before all else.
While drones suitable to perform farm work vary widely in terms of both cost and size, any sort of unmanned aerial vehicle, controlled at the touch of a button, could save farmers valuable time and money. Additional assistance in emergency situations, such as access to injured livestock, or quick alert to health problems in plants could make these tools truly invaluable assets.
How have advancements in technology changed the way your farm operates? What will the future’s farms look like? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Image Source: Alternative Heat under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.