Agriculture has advanced exponentially over the last decade, and for farmers, this means staying current with the latest information and technologies in order to remain profitable. While advanced technologies may sound both intimidating as well as out-of-reach, these innovative products and systems can be both user-friendly as well as cost-effective, with the potential for greater return on investment than standard practices.
Among the technologies available are:
- Global Positioning (GPS) Enabled Autopilot—products in this category assist by making micro-adjustments in steering of farm vehicles (such as planters). This reduces negative impacts of driver fatigue, which can lead to errors or accidents, or overlapping of rows, which can increase input costs.
- Wireless Sensors—collecting data on a variety of field and crop conditions and reporting it in real-time, sensing technology can help farmers manage inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides, as well as determine the need for irrigation or when optimal harvest times have been reached. This helps to achieve cost savings, resource efficiency and greater yields.
- Aerial Imaging, Satellite Imaging, and Soil Mapping—much like wireless sensors, these features allow farmers to obtain the most accurate information for crop and resource management and land use.
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)—commonly referred to as drones, UAVs help ranchers and farmers keep an eye on their livestock operations, including visually tracking animals and even herding. There are also developments in connecting drones with RFID technology so that specific animals can be tracked remotely.
- Data Management Solutions—From handheld computers with mobile collection software to desktop systems, integrated data solutions pull together information from all sources, compiling it for better management of all farm operations, from inputs and outputs to labor and yields. Several of these solutions also contain iOS and Android applications for on-the-go decision-making.
While these technologies mark an increased reliance on technology and information for more reliable and profitable farming, additional innovations and new techniques in food production also showcase the need for farmers to go beyond the traditional resource-intensive methods. Hydroponic and aquaponic systems have been gaining market share, and vertical farming, especially within an urban environment, has been drawing greater attention among agricultural investors.