The agriculture industry has been the beneficiary of many technological innovations. These changes are able to help farmers produce more food with less back-breaking labor. These technologies range from robotics to aerial imaging. Marc Zboch describes how new technologies are helping farmers and food producers succeed in today’s competitive environment.
The Benefits of Agricultural Technology
The importance of agricultural technology is broad-based. With today’s newest developments, farmers no longer need to apply pesticides, water, and fertilizers evenly across their fields. They are able to slim down their operations and use only the resources that are absolutely necessary for targeted areas.
The benefits of agricultural technology include higher crop productivity, lesser use of water, pesticides, and fertilizer, and a reduced impact on local ecosystems. High-tech agricultural systems produce less runoff of chemicals that could possibly contaminate groundwater and rivers. Worker safety is increased.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, agricultural technology advances mean that more food can be produced using fewer resources. This in turn helps to keep food prices down.
Here are several examples of ways in which advanced technology is helping the farming industry do more with less.
Around the world, the possibilities of robotics are being explored. Robots can harvest and pick crops. They can help to control weeds. Robots can also mow, seed, prune, spray, and thin excess plants. They can sort and pack produce for its trip to the market.
Some of the advances that help agricultural robots with their jobs include robotic arms and vision systems. A vision system can help a robot determine which crops are ready to be picked and which ones need more time on the plant.
Agricultural robotic arms need to be more flexible than those used in manufacturing and production. Their systems need to be sophisticated and fully up-to-date.
Robotic systems are becoming more popular in nursery and crop seeding, fertilizing, irrigation, and weeding and pruning, in addition to picking and packing produce.
Two of the companies leading the field in agricultural robotics include Heto Agrotechnics and its potting-robot, Harvest Automation and its harvesting robot used in wholesale shrub farms.
Sensors have the potential to revolutionize plant care. With temperature and moisture sensors, farmers are able to monitor their fields from a central location, reducing the amount of human contact needed to nurture a field of plants. Sensors allow for targeted watering, feeding, and pesticide application. Today, a field can be watered only in the dry areas, and plants that do not need pesticides do not receive them. This technology helps to reduce the number of natural resources that are used to produce a crop.
Companies producing crop sensors include Cropx with its moisture and pesticide application sensors, Tule Technologies with its smartphone-based moisture sensor that can measure evaporation, and Flux IoT, which combines a variety of wireless sensors that can help to manage hydroponics and other indoor growing systems.
Aerial imagery can be captured by satellite or by a low-altitude aircraft. The resolution of the image depends on the sophistication of the camera and the flight height of the aircraft. Both airplanes and drones can be used to get this information, as well as satellites.
The primary advantage of aerial imaging is the ability to provide a birds-eye view of a farm. Even a single image provides the farmer with a great deal of rich data about their crops, without having to inspect the crops in person.
Farmers have been using aerial imaging for two decades, but the technology has become more precise and more sophisticated in recent years. Aerial imaging helps farmers recognize the areas where their crops are doing well versus areas where they need extra support.
Historical image archives can be used to detect changes over time. This helps farmers monitor drought conditions, crop growth, and the need for water and other resources to help manage the crops.
Companies producing aerial imaging and GPS equipment for farmers include Ceres Imaging with its high-accuracy, multi-spectral analysis tools and TerrAvion, which produces subscription aerial imagery. These images can be manipulated to produce precise maps of vegetation and show which areas are in need of the most attention from the farmer.
Agriculture is Enhanced by Technology
Agricultural advances not only enable higher crop production with fewer natural resources, but they can also help to cut back on the amount of labor used in the fields. Agricultural labor has become difficult to access thanks to immigration laws, and farmers are always looking for ways to reduce their costs while producing more food.
Marc Zboch believes that agricultural technology like the services described in this article will continue to have a positive impact on the industry as a whole. Companies that are on the forefront of agricultural technology stand to profit from their work, and they can contribute to increasing food supplies and lower costs.