Technology and farming are two words that probably just don’t go together for many people, but you might be surprised to learn that farmers are utilizing increasingly technological systems on the farm and realizing huge benefits to their productivity, their soil and water health, and their sustainability on the farm.
These are the top three technologies that I believe have redefined farming. Bet you didn’t know that farmers today are spending a lot of their time sitting behind a computer too!
1. Guidance Systems
Most tractors in the field today have guidance systems installed that map the field and direct the tractor over the field in such a way that every inch is covered, yet there are no overlaps. Farmers used to use markers or just their skill level from having farmed for years to figure this stuff out – but now the guidance system makes sure that every inch of their field is perfect.
What this does for a farmer is minimize inputs for his farm. He buys less diesel because without overlap, he minimizes trips over the field. She buys less seed because seeds are planted perfectly straight without overlap with other rows. He buys less fertilizer because the GPS system guides him to exactly where the fertilizer needs to be applied instead of applying it over the entire field.
Guidance systems – often working in tandem with other technologies – have reduced inputs and maximized yield.
2. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
These amazing little drones with a camera attached have made it possible for farmers to see into their fields, even when the crops are so tall that the view is blocked from the edge. They allow for the farmer to crop scout – she can see if an area of the field is too wet, too dry, has additional disease or insect pressure, or is being taken over by weeds. With some awareness of how each section of the field looks, the farmer can then visit those poorly producing areas in person and rectify any problems she might see.
What this does is make every spot in the field a highly producing region and allows the farmer to tailor his treatment of those spots instead of blanket treating the entire field. Awareness of problem areas is a powerful thing.
3. Smart Phones and Tablets
While the rest of the world enjoyed ever increasing internet speeds, rural areas were often left out. I didn’t know what decent internet service was until I got to college! But smart phones have basically allowed farmers to skip over the dial up and DSL internet service eras and move straight to constant access to the internet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
For farmers, this means more information and more timely information about their farms and the legislation that effects their farms, access to webinars and tools to make farming and decision making easier, and easy interaction with specialists at Universities and Associations.
Even little things like weather apps and organized information about their farms on their phones has made a huge difference to the work that farmers do every day.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out this video from Grant Noland where he discusses some of the technology they use on their farm. And the recent Corn Farmers Coalition efforts in Washington, DC focus on technology too!