Few industries these days can escape advanced digital technology. From drones to robots and artificial intelligence (AI), industries are experiencing revolutions. Even farming and agriculture have access to technology few could have dreamed of a generation ago. Agricultural technology, or agtech, has kept pace with technology in other sectors. Even internet and wifi capabilities are now integrated into farming machines—known as the Internet of Things (IoT)—and can aid in logistics and even farming itself.
Advancing Agriculture Through Technology
The propagation of technology in the agricultural industry is increasing. One firm predicts the annual sale of agricultural robots will grow from 32,000 in 2016 to almost 600,000 in 2024. As more firms and corporations settle their focus on agricultural, the agtech industry is expected to balloon to a staggering 74 billion dollar annual industry within the next decade.
Not only do these technologies reduce costs, they also collect a wealth of data farmers can use to maximize their time and resources. Drone technology, for example, is quickly becoming a staple of the agriculture industry. Combined with various kinds of IoT technology and strategically placed sensors, drones can offer a birds-eye-view of crops and farmland.
As they fly over the area, they collect information about weather, crops, equipment, and how water is used. They can even collect data about soil, livestock, and even fertilizer. Using advanced analytics, the convergence of these technologies can aid farmers in thinking or rethinking how they allocate their resources. Such analytics might also aid farmers in making decisions about how to increase yields, improve planning, and stay competitive in an increasingly global marketplace.
Hardware and Infield
The kinds of agricultural technology hardware developed and launched for farmers of all sizes might remind us of something out of a science fiction film. Most sci-fi films show military agencies employing everything from satellites to robots to collect data and assess threats. Analyzing this data gives them a better understanding of the possibilities at their disposal to contain or neutralize their threats.
Already in this century, such technology has moved out of the science fiction realm and into the real world. Many industries now employ it, and the agricultural industry is no exception.
As we mentioned above, satellites and drones, sensors and robots are transforming farms. The objective of much of this technology is to analyze and understand the infield, helping us clear, maintain, and understand the grounds we’re farming. Such data, the extent of which was previously unobtainable, allows for unprecedented planning.
Using satellites and drones to collect information about our fields allows for precision farming. This information offers insight into crops and crop yields within and between fields, allowing for unprecedented planning and management.
In addition to metrics collected in the sky—or even from space—we now have agricultural robots, or agribots, to assist us. Some robots can identify and spray invasive plants. Others that can pick apples or collect other kinds of crops are either in development or are already developed. These kinds of agrobotics are certain to revolutionize efficiency for farms both large and small.
Software and Applications
Software is important to any technology. Without it, we’d have drones and robots that don’t do anything—fancy paperweights, in other words. Along with agtech, we now have a variety of software at our disposal to help plan our seasons more efficiently.
As we mentioned above, sensors are more commonplace now than ever before. If we install them throughout our fields, they provide information about the topography of our fields, picking up on nuisances or subtleties that we may have never noticed, or overlooked.
Tractor manufacturers such as John Deere have produced tractors equipped with digital technology. Now, in addition to serving their traditional functions, these tractors can collect information about crop yields and help us better understand our fields, and our planting and collecting techniques.
Software based Applications
On the strictly software side, dozens of companies offer programs to help us plan for our farms and manage them better and more efficiently. Some software enables us to monitor our farms in real time, some help us organize our information in simple programs without using handwritten notes or spreadsheets, some provide us weather and data about our fields, and some accounting software are exclusively designed for the agricultural industry.
Apart from computers you find phone or tablet apps, too. When used in conjunction with drones or sensors, for example, you can monitor your fields in real time from your phone. Further,the convergence of these various technologies and software is clearly revolutionary as we transform traditional farms into smart farms.
Some software doesn’t just help us increase our abilities as farmers, they can also make us better business people. Specialized software can help us understand or even exploit supply chains, quality checks and management, and marketing and trading information. Those last two are important: they can help us increase our revenue by understanding recent price trends and long term forecasts.
Collaboration software can also allow farmers, consultants, specialists, and operation managers to work together to streamline our businesses. Some software enable collaboration between farmers and sellers, helping to better understand the needs of global or local markets.
Advantages from the Technology
The applications, as noted above, are abundant. Technology can now allow us to understand the complete topography of our fields, weather conditions, crop yields and more. It can help us understand this data by analyzing it and offering recommendations for better management by helping us plan to get the most out of our fields and crops. These services are unlike anything farmers in the past could have accessed, and they’re game changer. To conclude,using any combination of this technology can help us increase efficiency and reduce costs. This truly is the age of smart farms—and they’re only getting smarter.