31 Oct 2018

How New Technology Impacts the Future of Farming

Farm by Timothy Eberly via Unsplash.com under License
Gone are the days when farmers had to rely solely on the whims of the seasons. Technology today can be used to inform farmers of problems before they happen and allow them to make educated choices regarding their crops.

Farmers today already use a host of technology on their farms – and if technological advancements are used to their advantage, they may help farmers to complete tasks that were previously out of reach, or very difficult to achieve. But what direction is technology headed in regards to farming? What are some of the technological advancements we are most likely to see in the near future?


Nature Technology via Maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com under CC0 Public Domain


Precision Agriculture

A phrase often heard in the agricultural world, precision agriculture aims to make farming a controlled, straightforward procedure – letting farmers know what they should be doing and when, and aiming to reduce costs and excess waste. Today, technology plays a huge part in precision agriculture and is used to make farming processes much more streamlined.

Use of Agricultural Robots and Autonomous Vehicles

Widespread automation, or the use of agricultural robots, would allow farmers to gain the same results they are used to with much less physical labor. Using robots to plant crops can help maximize efficiency on farms, and they are already successfully used to this end in farms around the world.

The future of agricultural robots includes the monitoring of crops. There are already robots that can detect which particular leaves require pesticides, and the future is likely to hold exciting breakthroughs in this area.

Farmers can also use autonomous vehicles to complete their duties. Obstacle detection technology helps to guide these vehicles and ensure the safety of farms and the people working on them. Self-driving cars will soon be a reality, but on farms, the technology is already at the stage where autonomous vehicles can be used with relative ease, and the technology will only become more precise in the near future.

Drones by Herney via Pixabay.com under CC0 Creative Commons


Drones and Computer Programs

Technology in farming isn’t limited to vehicles and equipment on the ground! Drones, a type of remotely controlled aircraft that can be used with a camera to monitor situations from the air, are becoming more popular in agricultural settings. They’ve been around since the 1980s, but their effectiveness in agriculture is rapidly improving, and they are now able to perform tasks that were previously out of reach for anything but a satellite.

For crop production, drones can be used for planting, spraying, calculating a vegetation index in order to determine crop density, and conducting irrigation. They can also produce 3D maps for soil analysis and assess the health of crops by scanning them. Like agricultural robots, they are especially useful in monitoring crops. Drones are likely to become a common fixture on modern farms as the technology advances; the main drawback of their current use is data quality.

Computer applications are also handy for creating maps of farms, allowing farmers to easily gain an accurate view of what needs to be done and in which location. The function and interface of these programs currently need further fine-tuning, but considering the current speed of technology advances, we will likely see flawless applications on the market before too long.

Telematics

Telematics, as it pertains to farming, combines telecommunications, GPS and navigation. By using telematics systems, farmers will be able to create and access data about their farms, monitor their vehicles and equipment from afar, and view information about crops and harvests.

Other industries (such as construction and trucking) already rely heavily on telematics, and it’s seeing a rise in use by the agricultural sector as well. Future developments will likely enable farmers to monitor even more areas of their farms.

Genetics by kennethr via Pixabay.com under CC0 Creative Commons

Genetic Engineering


Perhaps the most rapid (and sometimes controversial) advancement in farming is the use of genetically modified organisms, also known as GMOs. As time goes on, GMOs will become more common, as their use can solve problems that sometimes seem unsolvable. For example, drought is becoming commonplace in some areas of the world, and modifying crops to resist drought is consequently becoming increasingly important.

One study examined how using genetic modification might help plants to survive better in drier environments, and found that this was indeed possible – so these plants will survive longer than their counterparts if our future is as drought-filled as expected. This is only one example of the way GMOs can change the future of farming.

GMOs also help to ensure crops have the nutritious features we desire while minimizing the features we don’t need, help to create crops that are resistant to disease, and help to reduce environmental damage.

Overall, the future in farming will be interesting to observe to those both inside and outside the field, and we can expect to see serious changes in the agricultural industry in the near future. The advancement of technology can sometimes seem a disconcerting thing, especially to people who work in fields that feel like they’re being taken over by automation – employment in the US agricultural sector does decrease by about 4% each decade, in part because of new technology.

The concern about technology destroying jobs is by no means a new concept - consider some of the staples in farming life that would be difficult to live without, and chances are they were once seen as revolutionary. But they are often incredibly beneficial: before the introduction of the tractor, farmers had to rely solely on their own bodies or those of animals, but it rapidly became an integral part of farming life and shows no sign of disappearing.

New technologies will likely help farmers to manage their farms better in the future, and their effects on a global scale ought to be positive. In particular, technological advancements will allow farmers to produce greater amounts of food to feed more people, which is especially important as food shortages will likely remain a huge issue.

 Cloe Matheson

About the Author:
Cloe Matheson is a New Zealand-based writer who loves walking barefoot along sandy beaches (when there are no sharp shells!), double scoops of strawberry ice-cream with choc sprinkles, and devouring great books. Cloe’s wide range of interests has made her writing style a perfect match for websites such as Sea Containers. Discover more of her work here.