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.