Advanced technology helps farmers work more efficiently, saves time and money, and can ultimately help them address modern day challenges ranging from changing weather patterns to rapid world population growth.
While money might not grow on trees, virtually everything else is grown from seed — from the food you eat to other everyday things like cleaning supplies, glue, pet shampoo, crayons, and even your toilet seat. Almost everything you touch comes from materials grown on a farm.
With the population projected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050, farmers will need to double their production to keep up with demand and sustain our world. From Machine Learning (ML) to the Internet of Things (IoT), Computer Vision (CV) and GPS technology, farmers must adopt new technologies to keep up with an ever-expanding world, skill shortages and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns.
Driving savings and efficiency on the farm with IoT, ML and CV
When an agricultural machine such as a tractor, sprayer or combine harvester drives through 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 B. Production yields tell a farmer how much he is getting from different parts of his field. Without IoT technology, this information retrieval would not be possible at the speed at which it is taking place today. IoT technology helps process and analyze a lot of information in a short amount of 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 taking action based on what the data tells them.
The use of ML and CV can also lead to savings and more sustainable agriculture, especially in relation to the use of herbicides. Farmers use robotic sprayers to spread herbicides to care for crops; In some cases, however, herbicides can be applied to an entire field. By covering everything rather than using a more direct application, farmers are wasting herbicide and applying it to other areas — like crops and soil — where it’s not needed. Enter ML and CV: This technology helps the sprayer “see” the difference between plants and weeds using deep learning and ML models that allow him to assess his surroundings and only spray the weeds. Targeted weed control allows crops to thrive, increases overall performance and saves farmers time, labor and money. With fewer herbicides hitting unwanted areas of the land, farmers are increasing the sustainability of their operations and helping to keep our planet healthier for future generations.
See also: Automation helps farmers improve sustainability
Measure twice, drive once: map fields with GPS and enable precise location
If you’ve ever tried driving without GPS or a smartphone mapping application, you know how much slower and more confusing it can be to find your way around an area. Similarly, tractors need GPS technology combined with predefined maps created by the farmer to understand a field’s parameters and know where to drive and where not to drive. The farmer sets the pre-established route and then uses GPS technology to guide the machine automatically, knowing at all times where it is and which path to follow. Although the farmer maps the route, without the GPS the machine would not understand where it is.
The need to pinpoint precise locations tip be an understatement. Farmers work on huge plots under extremely time-sensitive and variable conditions. To put this in perspective, the average grower’s optimal planting window is only ten days, so variables such as a stretch of rainy days can delay planting and result in a 1% reduction in yield per day. In agriculture, no mistake is small, and it is extremely expensive to have a machine drive over the same piece of land twice.
A study conducted by the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that the average net benefit (or contribution to profit) from using precision farming technologies was nearly $90 per acre. It’s not uncommon for a farm to be on the order of 5,000 acres, roughly the size of 4,000 football fields, where average net profits are $360,000. Therefore, the use of precise GPS technology is crucial for the future of agriculture.
See also: The way to an efficient, profitable and safe autonomous agriculture
Saving time for farmers with autonomous tractors
Automated driving and GPS technology have been in the field for decades, and this technology is now opening the door to a new era: autonomy.
Full autonomy means that a farmer no longer has to sit in the cab of his machine and can instead focus on other parts of the business and his private life. Without being tied to the machine’s cab, farmers can spend more time with friends and family and improve their overall quality of life without impacting their business. Tillage, where some farmers prepare the land before planting, is a great use case for autonomy due to 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, collecting mature crops from the field, this is a natural starting point for making this technology a reality on the farm.
This technology requires precise perception in order for the machine to be fully aware of its surroundings and make decisions in the moment. Suppose a fully autonomous tractor is driving and is interrupted by a foreign object, such as a branch that fell in the field during a storm. The machine warns the farmer, who then decides whether the tractor should drive around the object or if the farmer should remove the object himself so the machine can continue.
By handling repetitive processes like these, autonomy allows farmers to focus on more value-added tasks to their business, increasing efficiency and ultimately giving them more time to spend with loved ones or hobbies, increasing their quality of life.
Farming technology: A modern solution for a modern world
Although farmers cannot control how quickly populations grow or weather patterns change, there are many variables related to farming that they can control if technology proves helpful. With advanced technology, farmers can work more efficiently, save time and money, and ultimately minimize risk by controlling what they can do on the farm. Modern challenges require modern solutions, and technology is helping to address these problems on a global scale.