Agriculture will always be a crucial industry, but it will look entirely different in the future. People have been farming for all of recorded human history, so the profession has seen some significant changes over time. With today’s rapid advances in technology, we might be on the brink of another agricultural revolution. Smart farming is taking over agriculture, and will soon revolutionize the industry.
What Is Smart Farming?
Smart farming is the practice of collecting and using data to optimize operations. While traditionally, farmers had to observe their crops and make adjustments based on what they could see, smart farming provides them with precise readings from various devices. This offers greater accuracy and more robust information.
The insights provided by this information help farmers in a process called precision agriculture, using advanced technology to farm more efficiently. The collected data can inform the actions of their employees and robotic systems to make the most out of their work.
As data-collecting technologies become more varied and available, this process will overtake traditional farming as the norm. Here are seven ways smart farming is revolutionizing the way farms operate.
1. Harvest Automation
Automated harvesting systems can help decrease work injuries on farms. Farmers can cut down on them and shorten recovery times by reducing their employees’ workloads, but this can make them fall behind in a traditional farming setup. Harvest robots can help by working alongside people.
By measuring data like crop quality, these bots can gather and organize produce with the same, if not greater, accuracy than a human worker. Farmers can also use information collected by these machines to determine the most effective way to harvest their fields. This data can also inform them of the conditions of their crops so they can make necessary adjustments to maximize their yields.
2. Satellite Imagery
With the help of satellites, farmers can monitor their land in ways they never could before. If a bird’s-eye view helps understand an area, a view from space could be indispensable. The chief advantage in satellite imagery is not necessarily in the scope of its vision, but the kinds of things it can point out.
Satellites can observe factors like photosynthesis and soil’s nitrogen content, which can give farmers crucial information they wouldn’t notice otherwise. Images from these systems can highlight areas of a farm that need attention. Farmers can then address these concerns before they become a more significant and noticeable problem.
3. Smart Irrigation
One of the most prevalent sustainability issues with agriculture is the scarcity of clean water, and smart farming can help tackle this problem. Farms often waste precious water through inefficient irrigation systems. Traditional watering techniques tend to deliver more water than crops need or lose it to evaporation, leading to more consumption.
Smart irrigation systems can monitor soil and plant conditions to determine when or if they need water. They can then use techniques like drip irrigation to ensure the process only uses what’s needed.
Sensors within the irrigation equipment can inform farmers of how much water they’re using or how well the soil is retaining it. The farmers can then adjust their approach as needed.
What Will Scientists Discover Next?
Science news delivered weekly!
4. Tractor Sharing
Not all smart farming applications are about automation. Hello Tractor, a service similar to ride-sharing apps, connects farmers to allow them to share resources, specifically tractors. Farmers who don’t own one can use the service to get into contact with someone they can rent from.
Hello Tractor takes advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT), the network of internet-connected devices, with sensors that send real-time data to tractor owners. This information allows people to see how farmers are using their property and can inform them when they may need maintenance.
Services like Hello Tractor not only make farming a more cost-effective option for some people, but also protects the equipment owners’ interests.
One of the many ways farmers can collect valuable data is with the help of drones. Surveying a farm on foot or even on a vehicle can be time-consuming and exhausting. Drones can fly over and examine farmland in a much shorter period, all without the farmer having to move an inch.
Drones can offer real-time video feedback so farmers can monitor their land from the comfort of their homes. Some drones can operate entirely on their own, allowing farmers to work while they gather data autonomously. These flying robots can watch for everything from crop quality to livestock behavior, cutting down on time and effort needed to manage a farm.
6. Livestock Technology
Managing livestock in person can be monotonous and take time workers could spend attending to other matters. Smart technology is alleviating these concerns. Just as people can use wearable technology like Fitbits to keep track of their health and activity, wearable sensors on livestock can inform farmers of these same matters.
These sensors can show farmers their livestock’s real-time location without them having to be present. They can also alert workers if they detect a possible health problem in an animal.
7. IoT Sensors
When people talk about the Internet of Things, they’re usually referring to items like smart home products, but IoT technology can have agricultural applications as well. Sensors spread throughout a farm could deliver data like soil quality directly to a farmer’s phone or computer.
IoT sensors can be connected to other systems to increase efficiency. If a sensor attached to lights within an indoor farm alerts someone that plants aren’t getting enough light, they could then turn lights on remotely. The Internet of Things allows farmers to be everywhere at once.
The Future of Farming
The smart farming revolution is a relatively recent development, but it’s quickly gaining ground. Data-gathering devices will become cheaper and more efficient as technology improves. Before long, all farming may be smart.