Emerging technology to help farmers feed, clothe and support a growing population
Cutting-edge technology helps farmers work more efficiently, saves time and money, and can ultimately help them meet modern challenges ranging from changing weather conditions to the growing rate of the world’s population.
Although money can’t grow on trees, virtually everything else is grown from seed, from the food you eat to other common items in your daily life, such as cleaners, adhesives, shampoo for pets, pencils and even your toilet seat. . Almost everything you touch comes from materials grown on a farm.
With the the population is expected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050, farmers will need to double their production to meet demand and support our world. From machine learning (ML) to the Internet of Things (IoT), computer vision (CV) and GPS technology, farmers must embrace emerging technologies to keep pace with a changing world. growth, skill shortages and increasingly unpredictable weather conditions.
Driving on-farm savings and efficiency using IoT, ML and CV
When an agricultural machine like a tractor, sprayer or combine harvester traverses a field, it collects millions of data points along the way. Some of them, like sensor readings, help the machine determine where it is and where it needs to go. Other data, such as production yields, tell a farmer how much he is getting from different parts of his field. Without IoT technology, this information gathering would not be possible at the speed at which it occurs today. IoT technology makes it possible to process and analyze a ton of information in a short time, so farmers don’t have to worry about manually figuring out what it means. They spend less time deciphering the data and more time acting on what the data tells them.
Using ML and CV can also lead to cost savings and more sustainable agriculture, especially when it comes to herbicide use. Farmers use robotic sprayers to distribute herbicides to feed crops; however, in some cases, herbicides can be applied to an entire field. By covering everything instead of using a more direct application, farmers waste the herbicide and put it on other areas – like plants and soil – where it is not needed. Enter ML and CV: This technology helps the sprayer “see” the difference between plants and weeds using deep learning and ML models, which allow them to assess their surroundings and spray only weeds. Targeting weeds specifically allows crops to thrive, increasing overall production and saving farmers time, labor and money. Plus, with fewer herbicides hitting unwanted areas of the earth, farmers increase the sustainability of their operations, helping to keep our planet healthier for future generations.
Measure twice, drive once: use GPS to map fields and enable precise location
If you’ve ever tried driving without GPS or a smartphone mapping app, you understand how slower and confusing it can be to navigate an area. Likewise, tractors need GPS technology combined with predetermined maps made by the farmer to understand the parameters of a field and know where to drive and where not to drive. The farmer sets the pre-determined route, then uses GPS technology to automatically guide the machine, knowing where it is at all times and which path to follow. Although the farmer plots the route, without the GPS the machine would not understand where he is.
The need to pinpoint precise locations can not be underestimated. Farmers work on huge plots of land under extremely time-sensitive and variable conditions. To put this into perspective, farmers’ optimal planting window is on average only ten days, so variables such as a series of rainy days could delay planting and result in a reduction of 1% per day. performance. No mistake is small in farming, and it is extremely expensive to run a machine twice on the same piece of land.
A study conducted by the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that the the average net profit (or contribution to profit) was perceived to be nearly $90 per acre when using precision farming technologies. It is not uncommon for a farm to be in the 5,000 acre range, roughly the size of 4,000 football fields, where the average net benefit is $360,000. This is why the use of accurate GPS technology is crucial for the future of agriculture.
Saving farmers time with autonomous tractors
Automated driving and GPS technology have been around for decades, and this technology is now opening the door to a new era: autonomy.
Full autonomy means that a farmer no longer needs to sit in the cab of his machine and can instead focus his attention on other parts of the business and his personal life. Without being tied to the machine cab, farmers can spend more time with friends and family, improving their overall quality of life without hurting their business. Tillage, in which some farmers prepare the land before planting, is a great use case for autonomy, given its repetitive nature. Since this task requires little human intervention and is often done when the farm is busy with other activities such as harvesting, where mature crops are harvested from the field, it is a natural starting point to do of this technology a reality on the farm.
This technology requires precise perception so that the machine is fully aware of its surroundings and can make decisions in the moment. Suppose a fully autonomous tractor is running and is interrupted by a foreign object, such as a fallen tree branch in the field during a storm. The machine alerts the farmer, who then decides if the tractor should go around the object or if the farmer should remove the object himself so that the machine can move forward.
By letting autonomy handle repetitive processes like these, farmers can focus on higher value-added tasks for their business, increasing efficiency and ultimately giving them more time to spend with loved ones or leisure, thereby improving their quality of life.
Agricultural technology: a modern solution for a modern world
Although farmers cannot control the rate of population growth or changing weather patterns, there are many agriculture-related variables they can control where technology helps. With advanced technology, farmers can work more efficiently, save time and money, and ultimately minimize risk by controlling what they can on the farm. Modern challenges demand modern solutions, and technology is helping solve these problems on a global scale.