Producing More with Less, Driving the Future of Agriculture
Updated: Aug 18, 2022
Adapted from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers
There are many obstacles and opportunities in today’s state of agriculture, such as increasing overall sustainability, overcoming labor shortages, rising input prices, and changing weather patterns.
Garret Goins, manager PS&C for Crop Care Products at John Deere, says, "the challenges facing our customers are growing in complexity, and society is asking more."
For instance, farmers are dealing with resource shortages, forcing them to quickly adapt and understand how to produce more with fewer people, materials, and supplies. Thus, technology plays a vital role in helping farmers navigate these resource challenges.
Scott Shearer, Ph.D., PE, professor, and Chair of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering at The Ohio State University, states, "we've evolved from precision agriculture to digital agriculture."
Observing, measuring, and responding to in-field variability are key attributes of precision ag farming tools. "Digital agriculture is broader," says Shearer. "[Covering] everything from when the seed goes in the ground until there are end products on the consumer's table. Everything is connected to the internet."
With the implementation of artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) to interpret data, farmers can make decisions to improve the efficiency of their farm operations.
"Expanding wireless broadband internet and 5G service to the last mile will be a key to some of these technologies becoming a reality across rural America," says Shearer.
Along with improved year-round and day-round productivity, newer technology continues to bring value to the industry. Shearer feels autonomy will also allow for smaller machines, resulting in less soil compaction.
Compaction from large machines is increasing runoff from agriculture and compromising soil health," explains Shearer.
Seth Crawford, AGCO's SVP and GM of Precision Ag and Digital, believes "truly autonomous farming will be possible in the very near future."
"Our products already automate many difficult processes for operators, and that's the first step toward full autonomy," states Crawford.
Autonomy goes beyond automating tractors. Crawford adds, "You first have to make sure the entire job gets done right. It's making sure that every pass, whether it's tilling, planting, seeding, and harvest, can be done to perfection with full autonomy,”
In a study conducted by The Association of Equipment Manufacturers, findings show that precision ag helps improve the efficiency of fertilizer placement by 7% – with the potential of improving efficiency by 14%. According to Crawford, the adoption of variable rate technology and section control technology is rising.
Similarly, according to an Oklahoma Farm Report, "variable-rate technology allows fertilizer, chemicals, and other farm inputs to be applied at varying rates across a field without manually changing rate settings on equipment or having to make multiple passes over an area." They explain that, "section control technology helps with efficiency by automatically turning off planter sections or individual rows in areas that have been previously planted or areas designated as no-plant zones."
Ultimately, the key will be adapting and applying new technologies, like artificial intelligence and other analyses to data to improve shared insights between participants across the ag ecosystem.
It’s no secret that agriculture has become a high-tech industry. Farmers will need to acquire new skills or hire experts in various fields to help them produce more with less to keep driving the future of agriculture.
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