When thinking about life on a farm, many people might automatically think of a big red barn full of cows and horses. Today, however, the picture is quickly changing. The modern, successful farmer is highly-connected, utilizing the latest in crop, animal, and equipment management technology to create efficient, effective operations. So what are some of these new trends and technologies being used?
- Smartphones – Not just a way to make or take a phone call, they can help farmers keep track of their nutrients, manage tasks, and monitor equipment. Best of all, they allow the farmer to access these features from anywhere on their farm, or even out on the road. They are becoming as invaluable to agriculture as a shovel.
- Big Data – It’s a great catchphrase, but it is also very important to agriculture in that it can bring together data from around the world, or just on the local level, for analysis and action. This helps to eliminate trial and error, and provide better, more predictable results for operations of all sizes.
- Precision – From drones that can survey crops, to sensors, to robotics, precision agriculture is becoming more and more prevalent. Utilizing these tools to decide the application of inputs as well as the amount and location of inputs helps create sustainable, successful agriculture.
- Agriculture as Everyday Life – In what has been a surprising turn, agriculture has rebounded to become an increasing part of everyday life, and something that is at the forefront of the minds of the consumer. Consumers care about where and how their food is produced, desire local products, require transparency and information, and are aware of the need for environmental responsibility and conservation in agriculture. This trend towards the consumer caring more than before will continue to snowball.
- Agritourism – Not only do consumers care, they want to get involved. This means homestays at farms, bed and breakfasts, farm breweries, hands-on attractions, and so much more. It is a sector that continues to increase as time passes, and offers potential for increased revenues.
Clearly, the agricultural sector is undergoing a major shift in perception and processes. As new technologies continue to be launched, it will be interesting to see how farmers will incorporate new emerging trends.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International has issued a report saying that if commercial use of drones is sanctioned by the Federal Aviation Administration, 80% of demand for these aircraft will be within agriculture.
Drones have been a hot point of debate for quite some time now. While they are not currently allowed for long distance scouting expeditions due to safety concerns, farmers and ranch owners have always found innovative uses for them.
Take for instance the ability of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to scare away pests like pigeons and crows. It is a modern day take of the scare-crow and proves to be more effective. But given the vast potential of these vehicles, leveraging them to act as crop sentinels is barely scratching the surface.
Both Europe and Japan are more open to the idea of unmanned aerial vehicles, and while prices vary, they are largely becoming more affordable.
What Can a Drone Accomplish?
The question is: What can it not? Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union has very high expectations from drones once farmers receive the green signal to put them to commercial use.
- Surveying and taking stock of crop produce and health – Drones can be equipped with high resolution cameras and infra-red attachments to scout farmlands and crop sections any time of the day or night. Even though agricultural businesses rely on satellite data to get estimates of crop production, the drones will take this to the next level with detailed photographs and data sheets which can allow farmers to make more accurate estimations of the net crop produce of a cycle, variability in crop production (areas that are thriving, areas that are not yielding as per expectations) and the overall health of the crops (spotting weed infestation, determining whether crop patches are receiving the same volume of water and so on).
In short, productivity can be maximized and terrain related problem areas identified and eliminated much faster. This will reduce expenses ultimately ensuring consumers have to pay less.
- Administering chemicals – In the future, as soon as a drone spots a weed infestation and relays the data back to the farmer, he or she can use a smartphone application to direct the drone to sprinkle herbicide on the infected patches. This will provide a much faster resolution of the problem, potentially saving thousands of dollars over an annual production cycle.
- Care of livestock – Another possible use for drones is taking care of livestock and cattle. Drones can spot wayward cows and other ranch animals. When UAVs become popular, farmers may opt for tracking collars so drones will be able to pick the signals autonomously. The UAVs can also spot temperature differences amongst livestock so that sick animals can be targeted for treatment.
- Complimenting other activities – Drones are so versatile that once they enter the commercial domain, farmers can come up with dozens of ways to automate standard farm activities. Another example is checking the population of fish in farm owned streams by spotting and estimating the size of shoals. An accurate and updated log of this information will ensure that illegal fishing is identified and stopped before it can significantly reduce the profit and tamper with the ecological balance of the area.
Once drones become a mainstay of agriculture, significant improvements can be expected in the volume of production and cost of maintaining farmlands. However, ranch owners and other users will have to ensure that their UAVs do not violate the privacy of their neighbors and stay well within designated borders. Bunting Bearings LLC is proud to supply the highest quality machined parts manufactured in the US to support and accelerate the production of commercial use drones.