Agricultural technology developments are transforming the ways farmers work. The sector has seen the emergence of autonomous farm equipment, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), sensors, robotics, and environmental controls, among other related technologies.
One of the advantages of these technologies is the fact that it drives the increased utilization of autonomous devices. Case in point: a Global Market Insights study anticipates that the size of the autonomous farm equipment market would expand at a compound annual growth rate of over 6% or $95 billion in 2027. The study also projects that autonomous farm equipment shipments will exceed 210,000 units by 2027. This increase will come from the demand for automated agricultural equipment, particularly in areas of the country with a relatively small number of farmers.
Let’s look at the five of the most important agricultural technology developments causing transformations in farming practices worldwide.
1. Smart Irrigation Systems
This agricultural technology uses sensors paired with a customized Internet of Things (IoT) platform to detect current weather conditions and soil moisture, then base the landscape’s irrigation needs on this information. These sensors also collect field data stored in a cloud framework and can be accessed at any time and from any location. Farmers can assess crop growth phases using data sets such as humidity and temperature readings.
Smart irrigation systems can also determine when, how much, and which areas require irrigation and carry out the decision without human intervention. This technology helps conserve resources, resulting in lower operational costs and the prevention of weed growth.
A smart irrigation system’s motor pump can also be manually turned on and off from a remote location using a smart mobile device. These mechanisms that allow farmers to minimize water supply utilization contribute to its effectiveness and efficiency.
2. Drones and UAVs
Agricultural drones are automated farming devices that help survey large- and small-scale farms, capture field footage, and collect field information. Experts predict the usage of this agricultural technology will rise further in the next few years. According to one report, the agricultural drone business could be worth $4.8 billion by 2024.
One of the values that Drones and UAVs bring to farmers is the farm field data that their sensors and cameras can collect. Advanced drones, such as those outfitted with NDVI imaging equipment, display colored footage to help depict field and plant health, as well as accurate field mapping and elevation data, which aid farmers in detecting anomalies in the field. The result: farmers can get usable information about the health of fields and crops to help them make educated agronomic decisions.
For example, drone data assists farmers in planting strategies and treatment applications that increase crop yields while maintaining quality. Meanwhile, certain types of drones assist in planting seeds, particularly in hard-to-reach areas. Drone seeders are primarily used in forestry, but they have the potential to be used in agriculture as well. Farmers can also use drones to spray pesticides, allowing them to reach steep, high-elevation tea fields without manually doing the work, saving employees from the dangers of backpack sprayers.
3. Targeted Weed Control
Agricultural technology developments have paved the way for innovations in weed control mechanisms that allow farmers to utilize herbicides only in areas that need them, thereby minimizing herbicide costs. This same technology is the one our parent company, John Deere, introduced in 2021. See & Spray Select is built upon the John Deere ExactApply™, which reduces herbicide consumption by spraying only green material into farm fields. The other version, See & Spray Ultimate, created in collaboration with Blue River Technology, is expected to become available in limited quantities by 2023. The new See & Spray Ultimate provides in-crop weed management for maize, soybeans, and cotton using targeted and broadcast spraying technologies.
This method prevents the sprayer from becoming a one-purpose machine. A farmer can utilize the sprayer all season, only using the See & Spray spot technique when necessary. It also allows farmers to transport items that would be hostile in a tank mix but are available in a one-pass application. The system consists of 36 cameras strung along a 120-foot carbon boom, with each camera capable of “seeing” a 2,200 square-foot field area. The field of vision overlaps between cameras, providing a view deep into the crop row.
With the help of machine learning, the system can distinguish weeds from the developing crop. While running at 12 mph, the technology can “see” a weed, decide to spray it, and start the treatment in less than .2 seconds from camera to ground.
4. Robotic Harvesters
A robotic harvester is an agricultural technology that uses real-time data and in-field equipment to optimize harvesting. This autonomous farming robot which uses crop sensing technology is gaining popularity among large farm owners in the United States and industrialized European countries. Crop sensing technology allows for autonomous harvests, in which machines are furnished with soft suction cups or cushioned grabbers to collect crops.
There are also self-driving vacuum harvesters that use computer vision to recognize apples and suck them through a soft hose at a pace of one apple per second. On the other hand, some harvesting systems incorporate a pair of autonomous robotic solutions that “work together.” One robot serves as a scout that surveys the farm area with vision-based mapping and collects data, such as the position and size of each fruit. The second robot resembles a metallic octopus. It intends to gather fruits with its eight distinct arms, with the guidance from the first robot’s 3D map to look for and pluck only ripe fruits.
5. Autonomous Tractors
The autonomous tractor industry is expanding and is expected to be worth $11.58 billion by 2030. Because of its efficiency and cost-cutting benefits, farms have adopted this smart farming equipment. For starters, autonomous tractors operate precisely without needing a human driver.
A single person can control a fleet of tractors from outside the field through smart devices. These vehicles can work anytime or under any weather, allowing farming operations to continue regardless of temperature changes.
The other benefit of this agricultural technology is its ability to analyze farming data through its sensors and cameras, which allows farmers to get real-time information on weather and temperature changes, pest infestation, and field health without having to be on the field. These pieces of information are uploaded from the autonomous tractor into a cloud network, which the farmers can access using their mobile devices.
Autonomous Technology For Agricultural Scaling
Farming has been dramatically influenced by agricultural technological advancements throughout human history. From the invention of the wooden plow in 3500 B.C Sumeria to GPS-driven precision farming equipment in the twenty-first century, humans have always found better ways to increase food production and feed more people. Today, agricultural technology can assist with the development of smart agriculture systems through AI, big data, IoT, and robotic engineering.
These systems promote robotic farming equipment, which automates time-consuming tasks, allowing for better resource management, increased productivity, and higher profit margins. These technologies also use advanced farm detection tools that help conserve farming resources, ultimately making farming more sustainable. In addition, these agricultural technologies are currently assisting farmers in addressing issues such as labor shortages, climate change, and rising production costs. These machines have paved the way for more sustainable farming practices.
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