Anyone who works in the agrochemical industry knows that we’re constantly striving to develop new, more effective products. This isn’t merely about making a profit. Worldwide, there is an increasing demand for agrochemicals that maximize farmers’ crop yields. In order to meet the global population’s rising food production needs, everyone within the industry must place a continued emphasis on creating strong, reliable products.
While we’ve been successful, there’s always room to improve, innovate, and explore. No field is stagnant. It’s obvious that there are still undiscovered ways to make agrochemicals even more effective than they already are. However, there’s a boundary that could prevent us from reaching those goals as rapidly as possible: inefficient R&D processes.
Research and development is at the core of the agrochemical industry. It’s the key to improving our current products and developing new ones. In all lines of work that involve substantial R&D, though, it’s important to step back from time to time and determine what could be done to boost the efficiency of these processes. When we address the factors that may be slowing us down, we can do an even better job of developing agrochemicals that protect our crops and help them thrive.
Better Data Management
First, we should explore new means of data management to confirm that we’re using the best tools and methods available. Obviously, data management is important in any field’s R&D efforts, but it’s especially significant when it comes to creating new agrochemicals. Keeping track of data in an organized manner doesn’t just make it easier to identify the chemicals that appear to be the most effective. It also ensures that companies abide by the numerous regulations that are simply an unavoidable and necessary component of the industry.
Better data management is also increasingly important because the R&D process has grown more complex, costly, and time-consuming. According to the industry group European Crop Protection, the cost of bringing an agrochemical product to market has increased by 55% since 2000. In addition, it now takes about 11 years to develop a product, up from 8 years in 1995. On average, creating a new agrochemical product requires a considerable R&D investment of $286 million.
Many R&D teams at agrochemical companies are already implementing the most efficient data management strategies. However, when it plays such an important role in the process, there’s no harm in taking stock of the current strategy and making absolutely sure that there are no ways in which it can be improved.
Along the same lines, it’s worthwhile to explore the potential for making use of new technologies that can help R&D teams automate more of their tasks. R&D work often yields the best results when scientists are able to focus on their actual research, rather than the administrative aspects of organizing and managing that research. Unfortunately, R&D is, by its nature, filled with such tasks that take time and attention away from other processes.
Again, it may be that any given R&D team has already optimized their technology usage, automating all the tasks that they can. But until they can say for certain that this is the case, it’s often smart to investigate new options. While adopting a new technology usually involves a transition stage that could slow processes down in the short run, in the long run, it can provide for a tremendous surge in productivity.
Focus on Most Promising Products
It’s also fair to keep in mind that there is an extremely practical side to the type of work that R&D specialists do. Of course they are the ones who help create new agrochemicals, but they could end up wasting much of their precious time if they focus on developing a product for which there is simply no market. That’s why they also need to be sure that they’re staying up-to-date on new advances in the field, such as precision agriculture, as well as market demands. The end goal of their work is to create a product that will provide for more robust crop yields, but if no one has any interest in using the products they develop, then they’ll never have their intended effect.
Because of this, R&D teams and the people who manage them must stay abreast of the changing landscape that is the agricultural industry. It doesn’t matter if you’ve automated every last task you can and taken every step to ensure your data management processes are efficient—you’re still going nowhere if you’re developing chemicals for which there will be no demand when they hit the market.
Obviously, improving the efficiency of R&D processes is no simple endeavor. Each team has their own set of needs to be addressed. However, no one should fall into the trap of forgetting the importance of this goal. The demand for increased food production will not go away; the global population is counting on intelligent, talented individuals and groups to work rapidly in their efforts to improve agrochemicals. Getting some perspective and considering what can be done to make research and development more productive and efficient is a win-win-win. It benefits agrochemical companies, farmers, and the public.
One common theme in this blog is that the ways in which farmers optimize their crop yields are always evolving. Although agriculture may seem like an old-fashioned line of work to people outside of the industry, farms have come a long way since the first hunter-gatherer tribes slowly began making the switch to a more agrarian society thousands of years ago. This trend of growth and evolution continues to this day.
With this in mind, there are some very practical reasons why people should pay attention to the latest technologies and methods employed by the agricultural industry. For example, by identifying areas where farmers need additional resources or tools in order to facilitate the deployment of innovative farming methods, individuals and organizations could find themselves in a position to benefit professionally and financially. And of course, everyone benefits when farms are able to grow more food while having less of an impact on the environment.
As this blog has previously discussed, farmers looking to save time while also improving their crops are turning to new technologies like aerial drones, unmanned farm equipment, and remote monitoring stations to perform their work with greater ease and precision. They can fly drones great distances to survey their land and even distribute necessary agrochemicals, and they can scale back their operations by using unmanned equipment, like tractors. This strategy not only saves money, but it also lets farmers redirect their workers’ energies to other necessary tasks. Another useful innovation is the remote monitoring station, which farmers can place throughout their fields to constantly check the health of their crops and instantly obtain important information that could help farmers reduce their water use or better manage pests.
These recent tools represent only a few of the numerous new technologies available, and it’s very likely that the industry will implement even more innovations in the near future. However, these inventions all share a common trait: they use mobile technology to send data to farmers remotely. Unfortunately, this attribute is one of the reasons why these technologies have yet to become widespread.
These new technological tools won’t work without significant infrastructure in place to facilitate mobile communications. However, mobile carriers have primarily focused on erecting towers and installing antennas in high-population areas, like major cities and roadways, where the majority of their customers are located. This means that rural and underdeveloped areas remain without the mobile technology infrastructure necessary to take advantage of the many farming innovations.
Unfortunately, many farms are based in low-population areas. This is especially the case if the farm itself is particularly large. From the point of view of a mobile carrier, this chunk of land isn’t a sensible place to build a new antenna tower. There are no houses, no major highways, no businesses—just farmland, with a very low surrounding population density. There simply aren’t enough customers in the area to justify the investment.
However, with the wide variety of new technological tools hitting the agricultural market recently, farmers are set to become big consumers of mobile technology services. It would, therefore, greatly benefit mobile carriers to pay attention to the evolving needs and demands of the agricultural industry.
There are currently significant gaps in coverage near many farms. Therefore, farmers looking to implement a tool like aerial drones or remote monitoring stations won’t be able to shop around for the best mobile carrier. Instead, they’ll simply give their business to whichever company happens to bring reliable coverage and service to the area first. Thus, the carrier who puts in place the needed infrastructure early on will be the one to reap the greatest benefits of this new business opportunity.
Even when other mobile carriers follow suit, the company that got there first will still be in a position to profit. Typically, municipalities do not allow carriers to erect additional towers if there are already existing ones on which the companies can place their antennas. This means that carriers who are late to the market must pay rent to the carrier who owns the tower in order to put up their antennas. This will provide an additional stream of revenue to the carrier who first built the infrastructure around these farms.
Mobile technology has had a tremendous (and positive) impact on the lives of people all over the world. These devices allow users to connect with friends, navigate roads, and research any topic with the click of a button.
Consumers aren’t the only ones who have improved their lives through the use of smartphones and tablets, however. Business owners have also found that “smart” devices and products that are part of the Internet of Things allow them to boost productivity, more efficiently manage tasks, and address problems quickly.
Farmers, too, can benefit from these innovations. While some may still see the agriculture and agrochemical industries as “old-fashioned” arenas that rarely employ new technology, this is a misperception.
Agriculture - A High-Tech Industry
As the rise of precision agriculture indicates, farmers are constantly implementing the latest tools to increase their crop yields and supply more high-quality food to people around the world. Whether they are using aerial drones to monitor their crops or relying on unmanned vehicles to perform daily tasks, agricultural professionals are often on the forefront of emerging technologies.
That’s why farmers should pay attention to the kinds of benefits they can enjoy if they make use of mobile devices and IoT applications. Developers tend to respond to market demand.
There are many applications for this type of technology in the work of farming. However, if the people who create the technology aren’t motivated to by consumer demand, they’ll be much slower in tailoring their products to the agricultural industries. It’s up to farmers, agrochemical suppliers, and other professionals to make it clear how these products can and ought to be used on a farm.
Monitoring Crops with Technology
For example, farmers looking to get the most out of their crops know that it’s important to monitor them. Monitoring helps identify instances in which a particular set of crops may need additional nutrients, herbicides, pesticides, or other treatment.
In the past, this typically required sending out actual workers to visually inspect crops on a regular basis. This is an inefficient way of performing this task, but until recently, there was not any other option.
Technology has changed that. Farmers can, theoretically, install monitoring stations throughout their land. These stations will remotely supply them with data about the health of the crops in that particular area. By simply checking their mobile devices, farmers will see whether or not a crop needs any additional work or attention in order to properly thrive.
Managing Resources with Technology
Technology won’t merely allow farmers to boost crop yield (although this is an important benefit, as it results in more food for people to consume). It will also give agricultural professionals the opportunity to make more efficient use of their resources.
For example, this means that workers who would have previously been sent into the field to assess the state of a crop can instead focus on other necessary tasks. Rather than applying agrochemicals randomly, farmers will know precisely which crops need additional pesticides and which don’t, making it easier to conserve their supply.
Instead of converting nearby areas to farmland, the increase in crop yield means farmers will be able to rely on their current land, preserving natural habitats as a result.
This is merely one application for mobile technology in the agricultural industries. The unmanned vehicles mentioned earlier can also be equipped with devices that provide information on their condition, so farmers can make any necessary repairs before the machinery breaks down entirely.
The potential uses for IoT devices are seemingly limitless. Additionally, if history is any indication, innovative thinkers will certainly introduce new ideas - and in the near future.
Challenges with the Implementation of Agricultural Technology
Of course, there are roadblocks standing in the way of these developments. Many farms are still located in rural areas with low population density. As such, the infrastructure necessary to support this type of intense mobile tech use may not be in place.
That’s another reason professionals in the agricultural industries should clearly express their interest in such innovations. By making it clear to tech developers that there is a demand for these products, they’ll be developed and made available more quickly. Additionally, wireless companies will also recognize the demand and respond accordingly, building the cell towers required to support these applications.
Anyone familiar with the nuances of agriculture knows that increasing efficiency and productivity is a key goal of all farmers. Throughout human history, farmers have identified useful processes and technologies, incorporating them into their work to achieve these goals. As mobile tech becomes more and more ubiquitous, it’s important that farmers continue this trend, embracing the potential uses for these products.
As with any major industry, if you’re not directly involved, you may fall prey to misconceptions. This is especially the case with the agriculture and agrochemical industries.
Perhaps misconceptions occur because this type of work is highly specialized, but it’s not highly publicized. Since movie stars and directors are constantly in the news, many ordinary people have a reasonable familiarity with the workings of the entertainment industry. When it comes to agriculture, however, unless you are an active participant in the industry, you may not be exposed to the latest news and trends. As such, it’s reasonable that you may have misconceptions.
This blog post serves to challenge three of those misconceptions, illustrating why agricultural and agrochemical work is important and showcasing why these industries have some of the most significant potential for technological and social progress
Misconception 1: Farming Is an Archaic Industry
As has been pointed out by numerous experts and historians, agriculture is among humankind’s oldest industries. Because of this, it makes sense that some people have a tendency to regard it as an outdated practice that is no longer relevant to society as a whole.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of the food we consume is generated through farming. As any global history expert can confirm, the amount of food available to a population plays a major role in that society's development and stability.
Without farms, the world as we know it would look remarkably different from the one with which we are familiar. Quite simply, agriculture is essential to maintaining order in human society. It’s had this effect for literally thousands of years and, there’s currently no reason to suspect that it won’t continue to do so.
Misconception 2: Agriculture Is a Technologically Outdated Industry
This misconception is an extension of the one above. Just as many people assume that farms are a relic of the past, they may also assume that the farms that do still exist are stuck in the past. People who don’t keep current with the shifts and developments in major technologies may assume that farms have failed to inspire further technological progress.
Not so. The principles of precision agriculture - using advanced methods and tools to maximize crop yield - have resulted in the implementation of numerous new technologies in the effort to grow more food and to limit the amount of land that needs to be converted to farmland.
These technologies include, but are not limited to, unmanned aerial drones that monitor crop growth and potentially distribute agrochemicals; unmanned agricultural equipment that can reduce much of the human labor necessary for farming; and remote monitoring stations that alert farmers to the condition and needs of certain crops.
Those are just a few examples of how agriculture helps to move technology forward, which is beneficial to human society as a whole. Historically, when a technology is developed for one purpose, others quickly find new applications for it.
This will undoubtedly be the case with various new technologies that are currently being used in the agriculture and agrochemical industries. Right now, they help farmers to get the most out of their land (which also helps to keep people fed). However, in the future, others will find new ways to make use of these tools.
Misconception 3: Farming Is Not Intellectually Challenging
Throughout the world, there has been a stereotype of farmers as stoic laborers who work strictly with their hands, facing few if any intellectual challenges in their work. This is a strange misconception, although it’s a persistent one.
In order to make efficient use of farmland, one must have an in-depth understanding of the numerous variables which go into growing healthy, robust crops. Farmers also need to be able to understand how to use new technologies, such as those discussed above, to their best advantage.
In addition, the people actually involved in creating these and other technologies - such as newer and stronger agrochemicals - need to be highly-educated, with creative minds and a passion for innovation.
This is why how schools teach agriculture is important. Many students may not be drawn to the idea of pursuing a career in the agricultural or agrochemical industries if they believe that technology and innovation play only a minor role.
Of course, the real truth is that these industries are ideal for those seeking a job that will provide them with constant mental stimulation. Farming will continue to benefit from the brightest minds in the world, and the world as a whole will continue to benefit from farms.
Although they may seem to be niche fields, the agriculture and agrochemical industries are in fact directly linked to numerous popular interests and career paths. As history has shown, the more often talented people with unique perspectives engage with those working in the field of agriculture, the more dramatic the resulting innovations tend to be.
That’s why it’s important to continue to inform students and the public at large about the major role that agriculture and agrochemicals play in the world. By having a better understanding of how these industries interact with other seemingly unrelated fields, people will find more opportunities to share their own talents.
This list represents a mere sampling of the major industries and fields that agriculture significantly affects. In truth, because farms lay the foundation for human civilization as a whole, they touch just about every part of our lives in one way or another.
The following are just a few of the industries and interests that are tied closely to agriculture:
1. Culinary Arts
Agriculture may be nearly as old as human civilization, but farms still provide the global population with the vast majority of its food. As such, anyone with an interest in professional cooking can benefit from paying closer attention to trends within the agricultural industries. They might, for example, begin to learn more about which crops are thriving, allowing them to predict which ingredients will be easier to integrate into their dishes, and which will be less available over time.
Chefs are artists, and food is their medium. Having a more thorough understanding of how their food is produced and what steps need to be taken to maximize production will give those involved in the culinary arts a broader view of how their own industries may develop. On top of that, chefs who are able to make decisions regarding which farms to source their food from will find it easier to make these choices if they know which farming techniques and practices result in the highest crop yield.
Farmers have made use of new technologies for millennia, and if recent news is any indication, the trend shows no signs of stopping. Over the past several months and years, agriculture experts have asserted that technologies such as unmanned aerial drones, GPS navigating systems, and even robots will soon be commonplace on many farms. Many outside the industry might not realize that agriculture offers some of the most significant practical applications for these new tools.
That’s why individuals in the technology industry should pay close attention to how tech can benefit farmers. While it may be invigorating to work toward any sort of technological breakthrough, society demands that the breakthroughs that scientists devote their energies to serve a practical purpose that benefits as many members of the human population possible. By examining how these emerging technologies can revolutionize farming, tech specialists can find new ways to justify their projects and research.
It’s no secret that food is among the most important resources in the world. In the past, wars have been fought over it. The scarcity or abundance of food in a given area plays a critical role in shaping policy and determining the course of a nation’s development.
Obviously, numerous factors contribute to geopolitical conflicts. Food is just one of many. That said, politicians looking for ways in which to inspire further cooperation across the global community will find that agriculture offers unique approaches to this goal. By taking steps to increase food production—such as providing farmers with greater access to agrochemicals—politicians can help to address one of the primary causes of global conflict.
4. Environmental Science
Embracing new technologies hasn’t simply made it easier for farmers to grow more crops and make more money. By boosting the efficiency of their land, farmers have less need to convert neighboring areas into farmland. As a result, natural habitats are less likely to be disrupted.
As a result, anyone with an interest in environmental science should also focus on developments within the agriculture and agrochemical industries. If they can help to spread awareness of (and access to) farming techniques and tools that allow for greater efficiency, they can also help to preserve more of the environment. As more and more citizens of the world realize the importance of taking steps to protect the planet, people with these insights will be even more valuable to society in the coming years.
If the trends of 2016 are any indication, 2017 looks to be yet another year of innovation and progress for the agriculture and agrochemical industries. Although farms have existed for millennia, the work of farming is constantly changing. New technologies and methods allow agricultural specialists to maximize their crop yield, reduce the amount of farmland they need to produce a sufficient quantity of food, and perform basic farming processes more efficiently.
With that in mind, now seems like a good time to explore where the agriculture and agrochemical industries are headed in 2017. The following farming trends have picked up steam in recent months, and it’s a safe bet that they’ll continue to do so in the year to come.
Put simply, precision agriculture involves accounting for variability within the conditions of a given crop field. Rather than treating all the plants in a given area equally, farmers employ numerous technologies and approaches to ascertain the individual needs of a particular crop.
For example, in a field, some plants may thrive, while others may need nutrients, endure pests, or succumb to illness. In the past, farmers may have addressed this in one of two ways: by focusing on the healthy crops and failing to tend to the needs of the unhealthy ones, or wasting valuable resources—pesticides, fertilizer, water—on the entire field just to address the needs of the unhealthy crops.
In other words, if a farmer identifies that certain plants within a field require more herbicides to fight off weeds, then he or she might distribute the same amount of herbicides throughout the whole field, even though there may be healthy plants that don’t need this kind of attention.
This waste of resources can cut into the profits of a farm. On the other hand, if a farmer fails to notice the unhealthy crops within a field because they’ve attended only to the healthy ones, they won’t produce as much usable food as they can.
These potential consequences are two key reasons why more and more people working in the agricultural industry are adopting the precision agriculture approach. By using GPS technology along with innovations designed to give a thorough portrait of the soil and crop conditions in a specific area of a field, farmers can divide their crops into smaller and smaller sections. This allows them to more effectively care for unhealthy plants without wasting resources on healthy ones. For the rest of the world, this could mean increased food production.
To aid in the work of precision agriculture, many farmers have begun to make use of unmanned aerial drones. Rather than physically travelling to a portion of their fields to assess the health and overall condition of the crops, they can operate these vehicles remotely, getting an aerial view of the field. This new development promises to make farmers much more efficient in their work.
However, reconnaissance isn’t the only use for drones. In the future, it’s possible they could be equipped with mechanisms that would allow them to distribute agrochemicals from the air. Some specialists even anticipate drones armed with safe laser devices that could target invading weeds with surgical precision.
Aerial drones are not the only unmanned vehicles farmers have begun to make use of. Recently, manufacturers have developed unmanned tractors and similar agricultural equipment to perform many of the tasks formerly relegated to humans. In some instances, these vehicles may operate on their own, much like robotic swimming pool vacuum cleaners do.
In other cases, farmers could operate or monitor the vehicles remotely, performing necessary jobs and getting a thorough picture of their crops’ health in the most efficient way possible.
As of now, experts at Goldman Sachs estimate that in the near future the driverless tractor industry could be worth $45 billion, which doesn’t even account for the other new agriculture technologies that are beginning to hit the market.
The appeal of these developments is clear. One of the key goals of most farmers, after all, is maximizing crop yield. By focusing more precisely on the specific needs of individual plants, using drones to survey their property, and relegating time-consuming work to robots, farmers can ensure that they’re taking every step possible to get the most out of their farms.
If you read even a little bit of tech news, you may have heard about something that experts like to call the “Internet of Things.” Although it may seem like a vague term, one that is probably used to describe some obscure technological concept, in truth it simply refers to the increasing trend of connecting everyday tools and appliances to the Internet.
Your smartphone is an example of the Internet of Things. In addition, companies such as Nest Labs have incorporated a thermostat into the Internet of Things. The smartwatch is yet another example.
Topcon Agriculture, SDF Enter into Partnership
And now, it looks like the agricultural industry plans to follow suit. Topcon Agriculture recently entered into a non-exclusive, long-term agreement with SDF, a major manufacturer of agricultural equipment, including tractors, harvesters, and other large machines.
Of the partnership, Fabio Isaia, CEO of Topcon, says, “Topcon Agriculture’s products and services are aimed at enhancing efficiency, productivity, and workflows to virtually every phase of a farming operation, which pairs well with SDF—a respected supplier to customers worldwide with a wide range of tractors and other agricultural machines.”
He added, “The anticipated agreement will facilitate active and continuous cooperation between our two organizations, and also in the planning and development of IoT solutions for the agriculture market. Topcon and SDF have long enjoyed an existing collaborative association, and this agreement extends and solidifies that relationship.”
SDF CEO Lodovico Bussolati echoes these sentiments. “Precision Farming is a key factor in order to improve both the productivity and the well-being of the end users. The strengthening of SDF’s current collaboration with Topcon reinforces our position in providing to the final customer the most advanced farming technology integrated into our products. This new relationship is consistent with our strategy focused on the enlargement of the product range and opens new opportunity for Farming 4.0 era,” he says.
New Ways to Use the Internet of Things to Benefit Farmers
In other words, two major names in the industry have made it clear that they are going to pursue new ways to use the Internet of Things for the benefit of farmers. But how might that look, and what does it means for people who specialize in agrochemicals?
Well, consider this potential development. Weather stations within specific fields could be connected over the same network. These, along with soil moisture sensors, could send an alert your way when it appears that it would be a good time for a fungicide application. You might even be able to use your mobile device to trigger the application remotely. If technology were to move in such a direction, it’s possible that agrochemical companies would benefit from partnerships with others in the field to develop compatible devices for such a feature.
Additionally, those who have considered the potential results of an Internet of Things approach to agriculture believe that in the not-too-distant future, farms will be equipped with remote bio-monitors for their livestock. The monitors will constantly relay information to a farmer about the health of the livestock, so any problems can be addressed early.
The same type of feedback mechanism could be used in crops, as well. Devices would monitor whether or not a crop received sufficient nutrients, whether it was affected by disease, and possibly whether it had come into contact with any pests. The information would alert a farmer to instances when more pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizer needed to be applied to a crop.
Precision Agriculture Methods Growing More Popular
All of this essentially means what many have already seen and reported on in recent months and years: precision agriculture methods are becoming more popular throughout the industry, as farmers learn that using the latest technology can help them get the most out of their crops and livestock, while also conserving resources such as their supply of agrochemicals. When they know specifically which crops need more herbicide and which don’t, they can apply these chemicals in a more focused way.
Of course, as has been mentioned before on this blog, in some rural areas there is still a roadblock to fully implementing the Internet of Things into the work of farming: a lack of infrastructure. Some of these regions still don’t have enough cell towers to support the devices and features that people would make use of on farms.
However, that should not be seen as an insurmountable barrier. Odds are good that if farmers show an interest in these Internet of Things solutions, wireless carriers will recognize an untapped market and begin focusing on building the necessary infrastructure. The agriculture industry is changing with the times, and this latest announcement from Topcon and SDT simply confirms what many have already pointed out: precision agriculture and mobile technology are going to change the way that farmers work in a big way.
Although agriculture is among the oldest industries in the history of humankind, those who work in this arena continue to embrace the latest technological innovations. This is especially the case when it comes to applying pesticides and other agrochemicals - new tech generally provides for greater precision and efficiency in this process.
Just consider the following examples:
The company Case IH Agriculture has been equipping farmers with tractors, mowers, and numerous other vehicles for years. However, they recently unveiled their Autonomous Concept Vehicle, which could signal a revolution in the industry.
The Case IH Autonomous Concept Vehicle is essentially an unmanned tractor. No human operator is necessary, as it uses radar, cameras, and other features to identify obstacles, correcting its route in order to avoid them. The tractor can run throughout the entire day, controlled remotely via computer or tablet.
Granted, this is not the first prototype of its kind, but it does indicate that momentum has built to a point that unmanned tractors will likely become more commonly used in the future. This has major implications for farmers, especially from an economic perspective. Rather than hiring workers to operate their vehicles, they can cut down on costs (and save a lot of time) by relying on autonomous machines.
For consumers, this could mean more food on the table. With additional time and money at their disposal, farmers can invest those resources back into their products, identifying ways in which they can further increase their overall crop yield.
Of course, it’s unlikely that such changes will happen overnight. However, it seems likely that they will happen sooner rather than later.
Commercial drones are set to offer tremendous benefits to farmers. In some instances, they already have. In Japan, for example, some farmers have used them to help spray pesticides in areas where the terrain is too steep to do so by hand or with grounded machinery. Japanese farmers have also used drones to target flooded rice paddies that were previously difficult (if not impossible) to access. Again, this will play a major role in boosting crop yields.
But drones may not merely make it easier to reach certain areas of a farmer’s property. If technological development continues on its current course, drones may also provide for vastly improved precision. With precision agricultural methods and techniques becoming more commonplace in the industry, it’s a natural step.
Based on recent innovations, it looks as though it may not be long until farmers use drones to conduct aerial surveys of their crops. Using onboard tools, the drones can identify areas where more pesticides or herbicides are necessary, applying the exact amount needed.
This has the potential to save food that would otherwise have been lost to pests, disease, or simple competition for resources. It may also help farms save money by only using the needed amount of agrochemicals.
In Germany, some are taking this concept a step further. At Leibniz University, researchers are working on a laser that could be installed on drones. This device would help further eliminate competitive plants that could otherwise deprive a crop of much-needed resources. The laser would identify weeds based on their shape, shooting the growth center with intense heat to kill the plants.
It’s not science fiction, though it might sound like it.
Progress always takes time. While there are already many incentives for farmers to adopt these technologies, there are also obstacles standing in the way. One of them is money: while drones and unmanned tractors appear to be sound investments in theory, until enough data is available to show that they do indeed offer substantial financial rewards, farmers may be reluctant to make use of them.
Another problem, one which has an indirect but significant effect, is lack of proper infrastructure to support all of the features these new tools have to offer. A drone that flies above a farmer’s crops, using infrared technology to provide a thorough and accurate representation of the health and productivity of a field, is technically a useful tool. However, in many rural areas where farms are based, the infrastructure necessary to quickly relay this information wirelessly simply isn’t in place yet.
Granted, if drones do become more widespread in the agricultural industry, wireless companies will be more likely to erect antenna towers in those areas. However, that could take years. In the meantime, a farmer might feel as though owning a drone with these functions is like owning a sports car with no road to drive it on.
The key lesson to take away from these recent developments is that precision agriculture continues to earn advocates. Additionally, technology companies are responding to such trends.
It probably goes without saying that agrochemical companies will need to respond to these trends as well. It’s an exciting time for the industry, and since farms are essential to stopping world hunger, it’s an exciting time for the world as well.
In a short amount of time, drones have become fairly ubiquitous, affecting everything from international affairs to amateur filmmaking. Soon, it appears that they’ll also play a major role in the agriculture industry, because as of now, there’s no bigger market for drones. According to estimates, agriculture will be responsible for $350 million in drone revenue by 2025.
In the United States, drones are set to become even more useful to farmers in the coming years. Recently, the FAA worked to make the process of registering for commercial drone use simpler. Previously, anyone wishing to fly a drone commercially needed to apply and pay for both a pilot’s license and an exemption for drone use—thus far, thousands of such exemptions have been made for farmers. Now, so long as they only operate drones that conform to specific restrictions regarding weight and altitude, certified drone operators can take a written test to get certified for commercial use. As a result, experts expect agriculture to make up 80 percent of all commercial drone use in America.
Ideally, this turn of events will be advantageous for everyone. Drone companies will have a larger target market, farmers will be able to do their work more efficiently, and the community will benefit from a stronger economy and a larger food supply.
Drones offer many benefits to people working in agriculture. First of all, simply knowing how much food you’re producing involves surveying your crops. With an aerial view, a farmer can more easily identify spots that are not yielding as much as expected, as well as areas that have been harmed by disease or pests. They can also use drones to keep a closer eye on their livestock.
Together, these two uses allow farmers to embrace what is sometimes referred to as “precision agriculture.” Quite simply, the population of the world is on the rise. Sustainable methods of growing food are becoming more and more necessary. For farmers, this means constantly monitoring their crops and gathering data to ensure that all of their resources are put to use in such a way as to maximize crop yield.
Without drones, this is a cumbersome process, one in which farmers often have to walk through the field itself for a full visual inspection. Now that they can gather the needed information more quickly, their response time can accelerate as well.
Of course, drones also make it much easier for farmers to protect their crops. Although the FAA changes are technically fairly recent, many in agriculture have already equipped their drones to help them spray fertilizer, pesticides, fungicides, and numerous other agrochemicals. Farmers can fly a drone over their crops, spot an area where disease is causing damage, and set out another drone to apply the needed chemical, all in record time.
Already, it is abundantly clear how these advances will contribute to a stronger economy while helping to reduce world hunger. In addition, they may also offer potential environmental benefits.
Throughout the history of agriculture, several principles have remained constant. One is easy enough to imagine: if a farmer’s crops don’t produce a sufficient yield, the farmer often has to expand their farmland into neighboring environments. This can mean cutting down trees, displacing wildlife communities, and, sadly, destroying natural habitats.
While agrochemicals have substantially reduced the degree to which farmers feel the need to extend their property, more innovations are always welcome. If those in the agriculture industry can more efficiently monitor their crops, identify problem areas, and spray chemicals, they can make the most of the land they currently have. Thanks to the amount of time saved via an aerial visual inspection (instead of a ground-level one), they’ll further boost their efficiency, creating more crops for everyone. As a result, they’ll feel less inclined to convert neighboring areas into farmland.
Agriculture is one of the oldest industries in the history of humankind. It’s also among the most important. Thankfully, farmers are the type who continue to see how emerging technologies can assist them in boosting production. As more governments lift restrictions on commercial drone usage, these vehicles will likely become a key component of the industry. When this happens, we can anticipate economic benefits, less hunger, and a cleaner, healthier planet.