Precision agriculture involves using the latest tools and methods to attend to the specific needs of small sections of crops. Thanks to innovations in agricultural technology, farmers can make more efficient use of their space and resources, boosting overall crop yields in the process.
The following developments represent just a sampling of the advances currently changing the way farmers produce food for both local and global populations:
Most people assume that farms are exclusively located in rural areas. While that has been true for most of history, thanks to vertical farming, it’s becoming easier to convert urban spaces - such as abandoned warehouses or factories - into miniature indoor farms. This allows farmers to produce quality crops for local urban populations, who would otherwise rely on produce that has been shipped to the city.
As the name suggests, vertical farms maximize their small spaces by planting crops in containers and stacking them on top one another. Currently, the process is better for growing small greens, but as indoor growing methods improve, it may soon be possible to grow robust crops of all sorts in this manner.
If vertical farming continues to develop as an effective approach to agriculture, it may help to offset some of the burden that rural farms carry. Most rural farmers must produce food for large geographic areas. Often, there isn’t enough for everybody. Vertical farms can change this. City-dwellers won’t need to rely on distant farms to transport food long distances. As a result, farms can share more of their food with local populations.
Efficient Pesticide Applicators
Agrochemicals play a key a role in boosting the crop yield of a farm. They ensure that crops receive proper nutrients, are protected against pests, don’t have to compete with neighboring weeds for food, and more. That’s why it’s important or farmers to use them efficiently. The more funds they devote to replenishing their supply of agrochemicals, the less able they are to devote those funds to other components of their farms.
Recent technological developments may help to address this issue. In the United States, the Agricultural Research Service, via their Application Technology Research Unit, recently unveiled a new pesticide applicator that could reduce pesticide usage on farms by 50 percent or more.
Pesticide applicators are frequently imprecise. They can only apply the chemical over a general area of crops, potentially wasting chemicals on crops that don’t need any additional pesticides or insecticides.
This new sprayer accurately identifies the overall size and shape of particular sections of crops. It can apply the correct amounts of agrochemicals in a more precise area. Currently, the tool is designed for trees. Perhaps in the future, similar applicators will offer the same benefits to other types of crops.
Ultrasonic Crop Monitoring
It’s often very difficult for farmers to know what growth stage their crops have reached at any given time. For example, a farm may have several acres of corn. Simply looking at the crops doesn’t offer comprehensive information. Some will have reached their full maturity, while others slightly below the canopy may need additional nutrients, resources, or attention before growing to their maximum potential.
Some researchers believe that ultrasonic technology can offer a solution. Ultrasonic echo signals from corn leaves can identify where the canopy is in a group of crops. This allows farmers to more accurately measure the leaf height of their corn crops. Using this data, they can determine if an area of crops is fully grown.
As the technology improves and spreads to other farms, it could dramatically reduce the amount of time farmers spend on assessing the maturity of their produce. Farms of the future may have what can essentially be thought of as echo-location devices installed throughout them. These monitoring stations will relay information to a farmer about the growth stage of the surrounding crops. If the data indicates that they’ve reached full maturity, a farmer will know it’s time to harvest them. On the other hand, if the data shows that the crops need more time to grow to their maximum potential, the farmer will be able to let them do so before harvesting.
For literally thousands of years, agricultural technology has constantly been improved. With each new tool and method comes greater opportunities for farmers to boost crop yields. If you work in the industry, this means increasing revenue through superior efficiency. For the general population, it means more food for everyone. It’s essential for everyone from potential investors to everyday citizens to remember that better agricultural technology is good for the entire world.
When people visualize a farm, most come up with a similar image: sprawling tracts of land in an isolated, rural area. To be fair, for most of history, this has been a fairly accurate assumption. However, agriculture and agrochemical technologies are always changing. Thanks to new advancements in the science of growing food, it’s now possible to operate a legitimate farm in a major urban area.
This isn’t mere speculation. Startups like Edenworks have already demonstrated the concept’s viability.
Edenworks Farms in Brooklyn
Edenworks’ headquarters isn’t an expansive farm out in the middle of nowhere. It’s an 800-square-foot greenhouse adjacent to its office in Brooklyn, New York’s Bushwick neighborhood. The startup shares the building with a metalworking shop below.
Leafy greens thrive in the greenhouse, packed together and stacked vertically. Eventually, Edenworks will harvest these plants and sell them to a nearby Whole Foods grocery store. In the United States, the vast majority of leafy green produce comes from the deserts of California and Arizona. Though these two states have excellent climates for growing fruits and vegetables year-round, water is not abundant, and climate change will only increase water scarcity throughout the region.
In addition, because conventional produce must be shipped long distances, farmers must choose types of plants that have been bred to travel far without becoming damaged. This emphasis on durability means that there’s less focus on growing the varieties that taste the best. A head of lettuce from a traditional farm in California may be able to travel across the country tightly packed in a crate, but it might not be very flavorful.
Companies like Edenworks are striving to change this paradigm by using innovative agricultural techniques to convert large urban spaces, like factories and warehouses, into indoor farms in the middle of the city. Instead of trying to grow durable, travel-friendly produce, their goal is to grow high-quality, great-tasting, nutrient-dense produce for consumers in the area.
This approach doesn’t merely benefit city-dwellers. It’s good for the environment as a whole. The produce no longer needs to be shipped to the city from far-off farms, reducing the carbon footprint of the industry. In addition, Edenworks’ facility uses aquaponics—the plants are grown without soil, in a solution of water and nutrients. These nutrients are provided by waste from tilapia fish kept in tanks on-site. In this way, aquaponics leverages the natural relationship between aquatic animals and plants in the wild.
Aquaponic farming uses less water than traditional farms—in some cases, as much as 90% less. This is due to the fact that the plants are grown in a highly controlled, indoor environment in which evaporation is minimal. Produce grown using aquaponic methods also typically grows faster, allowing farmers to produce more food more quickly.
An Urban Agricultural Revolution
Although the new urban agricultural revolution is still in the early stages, it’s reasonable to assume that it will have a major impact on the agricultural and agrochemical industries on the future.
For example, if this movement gains traction, for essentially the first time in human history, people who live in cities will have easy access to farming jobs without needing to relocate. Because young college graduates often move to cities in the early stages of their careers, this may help to attract more talent to the field of agriculture.
Major universities based in these cities might also expand their agricultural programs.
Universities generally offer academic programs based on major industries in the surrounding areas—doing so ensures that students have opportunities for internships and relevant professional experience during their time in school. In cities, where farms are rarely accessible, universities are less likely to prioritize their agriculture departments. As urban farming becomes more common, their attitudes might shift.
Urban farming could also have a major impact on the agrochemical and precision agriculture markets. In order to more efficiently grow crops in urban environments, farmers must rely on greenhouses, aquaponics, and other methods that differ from those employed on conventional farms. If urban farms do become common, there will be greater demand for products and technologies tailored to their specific needs—such as agrochemicals specifically formulated for commercial greenhouses, or the pumps and tanks that are needed for aquaponic systems. Professionals in the agricultural industries would be smart to pay close attention to the development and growth of the urban agriculture movement. Those who monitor the trend closely will have a better opportunity to address the growing needs of urban farmers early, before the market gets crowded with competition.
As always, the agriculture industry is evolving. For people currently working in the field, it’s an exciting time. For those considering a career in agriculture, it’s perhaps even more exciting, with a whole new set of potential job opportunities waiting to be claimed.
If you do not work in the agrochemical and agriculture industries, you may not be familiar with the benefits that a career in this sector offers. Too often, people make the mistake of assuming that any sort of “farming work” involves strenuous labor and offers few opportunities for engaging mental work.
Nothing could be further from the truth. While laborers do play an essential role in these industries, they’re not the only ones contributing. Thanks to new agricultural technologies, theories, and approaches, farms are constantly becoming more efficient.
For that process to continue, it’s important that passionate and hard-working people step up and bring their skills to the table, helping to further develop those technologies, theories, and approaches. In this industry, individuals with a wide range of talents and interests often find that the work offers unexpected rewards.
These rewards include the following:
If you work in the agriculture or agrochemical industries, you may frequently work on projects that involve finding or inventing new ways to boost the effectiveness of a chemical, improve the health of a crop, or more efficiently monitor the health of various plants on a farm. The overall goal has always been to increase crop yield, and coming up with new methods of achieving this goal involves substantial mental work.
For some people, this might not sound appealing, but for those who love to solve problems, it’s invigorating. Because approaches to farming are constantly changing, you never encounter prolonged periods of boredom or stagnation. Agriculture specialists agree that there are always ways to improve current methods. Thus, you’ll always have another interesting problem to solve. Having a mentally stimulating career helps promote a sense of fulfillment in life.
As stimulating as a job may be, it won’t be completely fulfilling if you don’t believe in or care about the type of work you’re doing. A sense of meaning is an essential trait in any rewarding career. You want to know that the work you are doing is making some kind of difference in the world.
Fortunately, that’s easy with a career in the agriculture and agrochemical industries. The more food a farmer can grow, the more food there is to share with the global population.
You’re not just helping to eliminate hunger. You’re helping humankind thrive. Before early humans adopted a more agrarian lifestyle, they were hunter-gatherers, exhausting the food sources in one area before moving on to the next. This type of living, which required constant travel and vigilance, left little time for humans to focus on other endeavors, like science, art, and culture.
With the advent of agriculture, humans could finally supply the tribe with a reliable, steady source of food. That meant they had the chance to develop as a true civilization.
That trend continues to this day. When people are well-fed, they can begin to offer their talents to the rest of the species. In the agriculture industry, you’re helping to make that happen.
Few breakthroughs in farming or agrochemicals occur thanks to the efforts of a solitary individual. Developing new farming technologies and processes is a team effort. This is a very appealing type of work for many people.
First of all, it’s rewarding for many to work in an environment that allows for some degree of socializing. However, at some jobs, that socializing takes the form of casual conversations that are unrelated to the actual goals of the company or organization.
That’s not the case in this line of work. If everyone is passionate about, for example, designing a new method of applying fertilizer that reduces waste while also boosting overall growth, their conversations won’t go off that topic. Instead, they’ll spend much of their time enthusiastically talking about the problem and their ideas for potential solutions.
Collaborating with people who are just as excited as you are about the work is an invigorating experience, especially if it means you get to share a sense of accomplishment when you achieve your goals. When those goals are worthwhile - and in the case of agriculture, they almost always are - the experience is even more fulfilling.
Agriculture itself arose as a solution to the problem of keeping people fed. While modern farming is very different from the kind of farming early humans practiced, it still involves working with other talented, dedicated people to solve that same problem. It’s an exciting line of work to be involved in, one which is just as appealing to a budding scientist as it is to a business major.
Regardless of whether or not you think politicians have exerted too much influence over the food served to children at public schools, there’s no denying that young people need proper nutrition. Our bodies develop very rapidly during childhood. Getting the right nutrients is essential to our health, especially early in life.
As such, it’s important that public schools offer nutritious options for lunch, with plenty of fruits and vegetables on the menu. Districts that strive to provide students with locally-grown meals need to be sure they can rely on farms to supply them (or the companies they hire) with abundant, high-quality crops.
Farmers and those who work in the agrochemical industry should keep this mind when developing methods of boosting crop yields. After all, for a school lunch program to benefit students, farms need to meet the following criteria:
Farms Must Make Food Affordable
School districts frequently struggle to find room in their budgets for classroom materials and facilities, let alone healthy meal options. If they’re going to consistently serve fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious items, they’ll need to find a vendor that offers these foods at an affordable price.
Farmers can help by taking steps to boost efficiency. Recent tech innovations indicate that professionals in the agriculture industry are seeking ways to automate some of the more basic farming tasks. By using aerial drones and unmanned farm equipment in their processes, farmers can streamline their approach to growing crops, thereby reducing financial waste. This may lower prices.
If farmers are interested in supplying school districts with crops, they should constantly be looking for ways to save money and improve crop yields. As eager as they may be to help schools provide healthy meal options, they need to keep in mind that districts rarely have disposable funds. When securing a food vendor, schools must actively look for companies and farms that offer the lowest prices for quality food. Farmers who can’t offer low-cost options won’t be able to make inroads into this market.
Farms Must Ensure That Crops Are Reliably Available
Most public school lunch menus remain standard throughout the year. Quite simply, cafeteria staff may not have the time, knowledge, or resources necessary to craft a new menu for each week. Instead, they need easy-to-prepare meals that can be mastered in a short period of time, then served on a regular basis.
Schools looking to expand their selection of healthy options can’t effectively work with farms or companies that deliver an inconsistent supply of fruits and vegetables. This brings us to the next essential quality farmers must develop: the ability to grow abundant crops reliably.
Anyone who works in agriculture knows that there are a great many factors that a farmer can’t control. These factors may include, but are not limited to, weather patterns, climate, and wildlife behavior. All of these have an undeniable effect on the amount of food a given farmer can grow.
However, there are many steps farmers can take to achieve a greater degree of control over crop yield. Along with implementing new technologies, these steps include making sure that the necessary agrochemicals have been appropriately applied to all crops. While growers can’t decide whether or not a drought will occur, farmers can protect their crops from pests, disease, and competing plants. By taking a proactive approach to this aspect of farming, growers will be much more likely to produce a consistent amount of food.
Often overlooked by students as a potential field of study, the agriculture and agrochemicals industry is in fact always in need of bright, young minds to develop new farming technologies and methodologies to keep pace with the world’s growing population.
Agriculture requires regular innovation. The more food a farmer can grow, the more food there is to be shared among the global population. And the pace of that innovation depends on the quality of the talent in the industry.
On the one hand, stories about young Americans like Sawyer Phillips—a high school senior who plans on studying agriculture in college—indicate that there is still a reasonable degree of interest in farming among at least some youths. That said, Phillips grew up on a family farm. He has firsthand knowledge about the realities of the industry.
Not all students are so fortunate. Although their particular strengths and passions may make them ideal candidates for a degree in agriculture, they’ve likely been deprived of the opportunity to learn about this field. Thus, they may never pursue the careers they’re most suited to. Everyone is worse off for it.
It’s important for anyone currently working in the industry to remember this. It’s also important to look for ways to educate those who might otherwise not have the chance to about the many different types of jobs available to them in the fields of agriculture or agrochemicals.
For example, educators at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln recently organized an expo designed to teach younger students about the connection between science and agriculture. Rather than lecturing to them about the important role scientists play in the industry, the instructors designed the expo to be an interactive experience, likely because today’s youth are exposed to more exciting forms of stimuli than ever before. Due to the constant access to TV, video games, and smartphones, lessons are more apt to succeed when they’re delivered in a hands-on manner. That was likely the thinking behind this expo, and it’s the kind of thinking that will help those interested in teaching children about farming.
Luckily, this shift towards new, stimulating approaches to pedagogy is perfect for teaching agriculture. Whether you’re out in the field testing a new agrochemical, working at a lab to develop stronger fertilizer, or engineering a more efficient tractor, by its very nature the work demands a direct approach.
In regions where universities offer prominent agriculture degree programs, educators and other members of the industry should consider organizing expos similar to the one held by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. For event planners, it’s important to remember that the more interactive the expo is, the easier it will be to demonstrate to students just how interesting farming can be.
For those who don’t have the time or resources to organize a full event, there are still other ways for schools to reach out to young people. While some schools may not have any faculty members well-versed enough in agriculture to design and implement lessons on the subject, members of the industry can help by contacting local schools in their area. They can explain who they are, outline the benefits children enjoy when they learn about agriculture, and offer to help create curricula or organize a program designed to give students a more thorough understanding of farming.
Perhaps the school, with help from someone in the industry, can host an agriculture-themed science fair. With the right resources, they might create a club for students interested in learning more about farming outside of school.
There are many ways in which educators, farmers, and everyone else involved in agriculture can help young people better understand the types of opportunities available to them in this field. Those who work in the industry already know how important it is to keep attracting young, dedicated people. By collaborating with like-minded individuals, they’ll be doing their part to ensure that farms continue to thrive well into the future.
Regular readers of this blog know that it often touches on several recurring topics. One of them is the need for smart young people to join the agriculture and agrochemical industries. Some people assume that these fields are shrinking, but actually, experts expect to see a surge of new jobs in the coming years. For those who recently graduated college or will be graduating soon and are unsure of what their next step should be, it’s a good idea to explore a career in agriculture.
According to a 2015 announcement from former United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, close to 60,000 new jobs are expected to open up each year in the agriculture and related industries in the United States alone. A report from Purdue University and the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture indicates that more than half of those jobs are filled by college graduates with specialized skills and training. A commonly held myth about farming is that most people in the industry lack any formal training or higher education, but nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout the field of agriculture, there are literally thousands of roles available to college graduates.
Perhaps even more interestingly, statistics indicate that only slightly more than half of those roles are filled by graduates who studied a subject closely related to agriculture while pursuing their degree. While a background in the field may be useful to have, it’s still entirely possible to thrive in this line of work without having learned much about it in school. If you’re able to learn fast and tackle new challenges, you can find a way to make yourself valuable.
One of the reasons people who haven’t studied agriculture still find rewarding jobs in the industry is simple: there are many different roles to fill, requiring a pool of job candidates representing a wide variety of talents and areas of expertise.
For example, you may not have had much interest in the science of farming during your time as a student, but you may have been drawn to innovations in mobile technology. People with these types of interests have found recent success in the field of agriculture and agrochemicals.
Farmers are always looking for ways to maximize their crop yield. This isn’t simply because doing so allows them to make more money. The fact is, the more food they can grow, the more food there is to share with the global population. When they boost their crop yield, the entire community benefits.
In their efforts to grow more food, farmers have turned to a number of technological innovations to facilitate more precise methods of cultivating and protecting their crops. Many now use aerial drones to get a bird’s-eye view of their fields (and, perhaps one day, to distribute agrochemicals), unmanned tractors and similar farming equipment to complete work more efficiently, and even remote monitoring stations to keep a close eye on how healthy their crops are.
Although the application of these tools has occurred only fairly recently, evidence suggests that the trend won’t be slowing down anytime soon. As such, farmers will need technologically minded people to design more effective machines and programs and come up with the best possible ways to apply them.
This is just one example of the kind of role you could find in the agriculture industry, even if you didn’t study a subject directly related to it. The point is, no matter where your interests and talents lie, you’ll still have the opportunity to forge a career in agriculture.
Students are often idealistic people. They may seek a career that rewards them financially, allows them to put their skills to good use, and makes the world a better place.
While humankind has come a long way since the first hunter-gatherer tribes began to adopt a more agrarian lifestyle, we still rely on farms to supply us with our food. By working in agriculture, a young person can have the chance to contribute to the global community, using their expertise to help in the fight against hunger. The stimulating, interesting work is just an added bonus.
If you’re looking for an industry that will give you a sense of purpose but requires drive and intelligence as well, look into the kind of work you could do in the agrochemical or agriculture industries. With a creative application of your education or talents, you could find a perfect fit.
A common theme in this blog is the idea that people outside the agriculture and agrochemical industries don’t truly appreciate how important these fields are. There are variety of valid reasons this is the case.
First, the media rarely covers the industry in detail. Second, public schools don’t teach students much about agriculture outside of a historical perspective. Finally, popular culture often depicts farming as old-fashioned work. As a result, people who don’t directly participate in these industries either don’t think much about them at all, or they don’t realize the major role agriculture plays in the lives of everyone on the planet.
However, it would behoove people to consider the significance of agriculture. Farms benefit the population of a given area. Quite simply, farms provide a reliable source of food that profoundly affects society in a variety of ways. In fact, agriculture is the reason civilization was able to develop to begin with.
The Significance of the Transition to an Agrarian Society
Prior to the emergence of agrarian societies, human beings were primarily hunter-gatherers. That meant moving to an area, exhausting the supply of food, then moving on somewhere else. This way of living didn’t allow for a structured civilization to evolve. Moving from one place to another made it difficult to focus resources on arts, medicine, science, technology, etc. It also prevented civilizations from passing down the kinds of cultural traditions which allow for a society to form strong bonds.
Thanks to the development of organized farming, that changed. When humans began to grow food, it was easier for them to settle down in one place. This gave them the opportunity to work towards other important endeavors, laying the foundation for the human civilization we enjoy today.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the food supplied by farmers doesn’t merely benefit those who live in the immediate area. In the early days of human societies, that may have been the case. However, now that we have efficient forms of transportation capable of moving large quantities of food, that food has global significance.
A Reliable Food Supply Promotes Political Stability
Many of the conflicts that have taken place throughout human history stem from, among a variety of other relevant factors, competition for resources. In the distant past, this took the form of rival societies fighting with one another for food and shelter.
Unfortunately, in more recent history, not much has changed. Conflicts still stem from an imbalance of resources. When people’s essential needs are taken care of, they are more secure and fulfilled. On the other hand, when nations and populations experience an insufficient or unreliable supply of food, the result can be social, economic, and political instability. It’s simply the principle of self-preservation in action.
This means that the agricultural industry is in the position to help promote world peace. The more food that farms can produce, the more food can be shared with the people of the world. As resources become more widely available to everyone on the planet, there will be less need for conflict.
True, farms can’t entirely rid the world of war - competition for resources plays a major role, but it isn’t the only cause of conflict. However, the agriculture industry can help to significantly decrease the amount of global violence that occurs in the long run.
The Role of Agrochemicals
That’s why it’s also necessary to understand the role agrochemicals play in ensuring political and social stability around the globe. Agrochemicals work to ensure that farmers can maximize their crop yield. They fertilize the soil for robust growth, prevent pests from destroying crops, and eliminate weeds that might otherwise deprive crops of their full nutrition.
The more effective agrochemicals are, and the more widely-used they are, the easier it is for farms to grow more food as well as ensure that the food grown is of high nutritional quality. As has been demonstrated in this blog entry, the more food farmers can grow, the more people they can feed. The more people have food security, the less global conflict there will be.
Again, none of this is to suggest that farms hold the key to world peace. That said, too many people undervalue the role of farms. Remember, they served as the first building blocks of human civilization. Even today, with our advanced technologies and medicines, society would crumble if farms suddenly disappeared. No matter how far a society advances, people still need food.
As has been shown in the past, when sufficient amounts of high-quality food are widely available, people are much more likely to be cooperative, devoting their energies to productive tasks instead of destructive ones. Make no mistake about it, agriculture and agrochemicals have global significance.
Anyone with an interest in the business world knows that fresh, young startups are constantly revolutionizing established industries that haven’t kept up with the times. Agriculture may be the oldest industry of all, and tech companies could stand to benefit if they target the niche early on.
Although it’s unlikely that there will ever be a farming app that’s as popular as Instagram or Facebook, farmers are going to need new software solutions in the coming years. Software developers looking for an untapped market should take note.
The Current State of Agricultural Technology
As has been covered on this blog before, new technologies like drones and unmanned equipment are becoming more commonplace on farms. For example, a farmer could use an aerial drone to monitor crops more efficiently, or to distribute agrochemicals rapidly. Unmanned vehicles will perform the work that typically required a human operator. Additionally, remote monitoring stations may even supply farmers with a constant stream of data about the health of a given sections of crops.
All these innovations are quickly being embraced by many in the industry, because they’re geared towards spreading the principles of precision agriculture. This is one of the most quickly-growing trends in the agriculture industry. It essentially involves farmers using a range of tools and methods to more specifically assess and target the needs of their crops.
In the past, a farmer might have noticed that a section of crops appeared healthy, and as a result, he or she might decide not to apply additional agrochemicals or nutrients. However, within that section, there could be some crops that do need those resources. Without the nutrients they needed, those crops could fail to grow, limiting the crop yield of the farm as a result.
Now, it’s generally accepted that farmers will soon be able to use monitoring stations to get a more thorough picture of which crops needs more attention and which don’t. This allows farmers to not only boost crop yield, but also to conserve resources like agrochemicals. Rather than applying agrochemicals throughout their crops randomly, farmers can apply them to the crops that need those chemicals, while skipping those that are already healthy.
Room for Technological Development
However, there are three needs which must be fulfilled before these types of solutions can become more widespread. First, the actual drones, vehicles, and devices must be available. That doesn’t appear to be a problem: companies are quickly responding to demand within the industry.
Second, because most of these tools rely on mobile technology to relay information to farmers, digital infrastructure will have to be built up to facilitate this. Currently, the infrastructure necessary for quick and reliable mobile communications is often sparse around farms.
Providers tend to build their antenna towers and facilities in areas of high population density. As farmers continue to pursue these types of precision solutions, mobile companies will have to help by constructing the needed infrastructure.
Third and finally, farmers will need intuitive and accurate software they can use to gather the information they need from their tools. Imagine a farmer using remote monitoring stations to keep an eye on the health of their crops. In the future, they may access this data via a mobile app on a tablet device. To get the best results, they’ll want easy-to-use software that provides them with a clear breakdown.
Additional Applications for Agricultural Technology
Collecting data isn’t the only use farmers will have for new software technologies. As precision agriculture techniques help to further conserve agrochemicals and resources, farmers may find it worthwhile to keep a detailed digital inventory of these items.
Doing so will help them to save even more money and grow even more crops. People already rely on mobile apps to manage their own finances, keep track of daily tasks, and handle their banking needs.
Agricultural apps will simply be a more specialized service. Imagine an app designed specifically for farmers, making it easy for them to take inventory, schedule necessary tasks, evaluate the health and quality of their crops, and respond to the needs of crops which may not be receiving sufficient nutrition. It’s possible that such an app is right around the corner.
Before the agriculture industry can truly embrace the possibilities that drones and related technologies have to offer, this final piece of the puzzle needs to be available. Software developers are in the position right now to address a major demand before the competition does.
Better Agriculture Technology Can Improve Everyone’s Lives
Again, these apps and services will probably only affect farmers in a direct way. Indirectly, however, they can have a huge impact on people all over the world. With tools like these, farmers can grow more crops, providing more food to the people of the world. Even if you never find use for a mobile farming app, you’ll still benefit when software firms truly begin focusing on this niche.
As has been covered frequently in this blog, agriculture is one of the oldest industries known to humankind - some might even say it’s the oldest, full stop. However, that doesn’t mean that the work of farming today resembles that of thousands of years ago. In fact, it doesn’t even resemble farming from 50 years ago.
Just like any other field, agriculture is constantly adapting to new technological changes and embracing new innovations. For those who work in the industry, implementing new methods of boosting crop yields have resulted in increased profits.
Additionally, in many instances, precision agriculture has also allowed farmers to simplify processes that once may have proven tedious or time-consuming. By taking advantage of emerging technologies and staying on top of new farming methods, they’ve streamlined their tasks and become more efficient.
That said, you don’t need to work in the industry to benefit. When farms produce more food, the global population as a whole is better off.
What is precision agriculture?
To better understand why precision agriculture is so important, it pays to spend a little bit of time getting familiar with the concept. Precision agriculture refers to a broad constellation of farming tools, techniques, and methods used to manage production within individual fields of crops. A single blog post can’t begin to cover every subtopic that falls under the larger heading of precision agriculture.
On the other hand, having a deeper familiarity with what this approach to farming entails can allow everyone - from casual readers to industry veterans - to more fully appreciate how the industries of agriculture and agrochemicals are always developing.
Quite simply, precision agriculture involves farmers’ ability to hone in more closely on the specific needs of small sections of crops. In the past, it was difficult to monitor particular plants that closely.
The approach of trying to determine which crops were thriving and which were not on a case-by-case basis did not lend itself to efficiency. Unfortunately, this often meant that crop yields were not optimized. Additionally, resources like fertilizer, herbicides, and other agrochemicals were sometimes wasted.
What would happen without precision agriculture?
As an example, imagine that in one small section of a farm, there is an even smaller section of crops that do not appear to be receiving sufficient nutrition. Without precision farming techniques, there were generally two potential outcomes in a situation like this one.
In the first scenario, a farmer might discover that some crops in this section were not receiving all the nutrients they needed. He or she would then correct the problem by applying fertilizer or any other necessary resources throughout the entire section of the field.
While this may have been effective when it came to helping the unhealthy plants thrive, it was also wasteful. Many of the other plants in that section of the field didn’t need additional nutrients, so fertilizer and other resources are wasted on crops that already have all the nutrients they require.
The other potential outcome wasn’t any better. If those unhealthy crops were a small part of a larger section, surrounded primarily by healthier crops, the farmer might overlook them. This would deny those crops the additional resources they required to grow as fully as possible. Such a practice may have prevented waste, but it also meant that those crops wouldn’t grow. Additionally, the amount of food the farm produced wasn’t as substantial as it could have been.
How does precision agriculture address these issues?
Precision agriculture represents an attempt to solve this problem. A large component of precision agriculture involves using technologies like aerial drones to create detailed maps of a field. These maps divide crops into much smaller sections than they previously would have been. This allows a farmer to account for a greater number of potential variables that could impact the health of a given set of crops.
Suppose a farmer recognizes that the crops in one area seem to be less healthy than those that surround them. By using precision agriculture, he or she can more effectively provide those crops with the resources they need. Furthermore, farmers can do so without wasting resources on crops that don’t need them.
Precision agriculture also allows a farmer to identify small areas where crops seem healthier than normal. By taking stock of the numerous variables and factors that might account for this, farmers can more easily determine what steps they should take to ensure all their crops are just as healthy.
This doesn’t just help farms make more money. First and foremost, it helps them to grow more food for the people of the world. That’s why precision agriculture is important, whether you work in the industry or not. As this approach to farming continues to develop, the fight against hunger could get much easier.
Although this blog touches on subjects ranging from politics to ancient history, its primary focus is agrochemicals and their uses in farming. However, that’s a fairly broad topic.
To have a richer understanding of (and appreciation for) agrochemicals and their uses, it helps to learn some specifics. By knowing the difference between various subsets of agrochemicals, you’ll get much more out of what you read here.
What are agrochemicals?
Quite simply, an agrochemical is a chemical-based product used in farming, typically to boost crop yield. These products have been used in a variety of forms for a very long time.
That said, modern innovations have made for much more effective agrochemicals than those of years past. Innovations continue to this day, helping farms supply more food to the global population.
The following are the key types of products that fall into this category:
Animals and insects pose a major risk to crops. If they’re drawn to a food source, they could seriously deplete the supply of that particular plant. Pesticides, as the name suggests protect crops by killing, incapacitating, or warding off these invasive species.
It’s important to note that the benefits of pesticides aren't limited to boosting crop yield, though. Many of the pests that are drawn to farm plants carry illnesses with them.
Before pesticides were in widespread use, people were at risk of contracting these illnesses if they ate plants that had been in contact with disease-causing pests. Thanks to increased pesticide use in farms throughout the globe, this is much less of a threat now.
Insecticides are a tape of pesticide and serve essentially the same purpose. The primary difference between the two is easy to guess. While pesticide is an umbrella category for any chemical substance designed to protect against different types of pests, insecticides target insects specifically. That doesn’t mean they aren’t useful, however.
These products are generally tailored to guard against particular species of insects. This makes them a good resource to have available if there is a certain insect that is especially common in a given area.
Another factor that makes insecticides worthy of attention is the fact that they fall into two separate types. One type of insecticide, called a contact insecticide, simply kills an insect when the insect comes into contact with it. These products are effective, but the effect is short-lasting. Since they don’t remain on a plant permanently, they’re not a long-term danger for insects.
Other forms of insecticides - through complex chemical and biological processes - essentially become a part of the plant. In other words, the plant begins to absorb the insecticide. That means when an insect tries to consume the plant, it also ingests the insecticide.
Even if you don’t work in the agriculture industry, the odds are good you’ve used herbicides. If you’ve ever sprayed weedkiller on your property, you’ve used an herbicide. It may have been a consumer market herbicide, but weedkiller is an herbicide nonetheless.
Herbicides are useful because animals and insects aren’t the only pests that pose a threat to crops. Other species of plants can begin to grow in the same area, competing for nutrients and resources.
Herbicides are designed to kill off invasive or unwanted species of plants while leaving the useful crops unharmed. This gives the crops a greater chance to thrive, as they’ll make greater use of the nutrients in the soil.
Many species of fungus have also been known to cause significant damage to crops. As such, fungicides are commonly used in agriculture, but they are also widely available to the average consumer in a variety of forms. These products effectively prevent fungi from doing harm to any crops to which they're applied.
To be more specific, synthetic fertilizer.
Many fertilizers are actually natural materials. These don’t qualify as agrochemicals because they have not been designed or manufactured to include any special chemical-based formulas.
However, it’s no secret that fertilizers play an important role in agriculture. Without them, it would be far more difficult to grow healthy, robust crops. In fact, the role fertilizers play is so important that many have chosen to improve on natural fertilizers by creating synthetic, agrochemical varieties.
There are several other types of agrochemical growth agents, like hormones, commonly used in farming. With them, it’s even easier for farmers to grow the most food possible.
Once again, that’s good for everyone. Agrochemicals may have been in use for many years. However, it’s important that they continue to improve and that the industry continue to progress towards more effective solutions.
Although the agrochemicals in use now are strong, they don’t completely maximize the potential of a farm to produce crops. The closer the industry gets to reaching that goal, the more food there will be for people throughout the world.