The agriculture sector is continuously expanding: in 2021, the industry in the US added a net value of around $187 billion. However, despite the growing demand for produce, there is a growing labor shortage in agriculture, due to an aging farmer population, increase in farm wages, and widespread urbanization. This is bad news for both farmers and consumers because the industry must constantly evolve to meet demand. Fortunately, as with every other crisis humanity has faced, people have opted to overcome challenges by incorporating advanced technology in agriculture. The farming sector has seen new technologies in agriculture, driven by the emergence of autonomous farming frameworks that improve systems and techniques.
Technological developments in agriculture allow farmers to grow crops despite limited manpower and weather windows. Read on to know what kinds of technologies have assisted in ushering in the autonomous farming era.
One of the widely used new technologies in agriculture are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Right now, China is one of the countries using drones in agriculture, with over 50,000 in operation. These agricultural drones utilize the images of different wavelengths and measure the several conditions of crops through these visualizations.
UAVs can provide information related to water systems, as well as farming aspects that cannot be detected by the naked eye, such as soil variety, pests, and fungal infestations, through advanced image data analytical tools. By having this important information at hand farmers can make an informed decision that can boost productivity and minimize operating cost.
The visual spectrum of crops acquired by UAVs can also be used to produce a map of vegetation indicators, which aid in distinguishing between healthy, sick, and weedy plants. These autonomous farming processes through UAVs are made possible through the use of various sensors, depending on farmers’ chosen applications. Sensors can be focused on disease detection, nutrients detection, and water status identification, among others.
For example, in 2020 an automatic yellow rust disease monitoring system using UAV was deployed in the field for problem analysis. Using drones in agriculture can also help with running pesticide and fertilizer sprays for large farm areas. UAVs are capable of carrying up to 40-liter pesticide tanks and can follow pre-mapped routes to spray crops. These help farmers to take corrective action and with better crop management. This remote farming technology is also helpful in the agricultural industry given that manual spraying poses risks for humans who conduct the activity, and can potentially cause excessive use of chemicals. In turn, these process inefficiencies can lead to added costs for farmers.
2. Precision Farming
Precision farming is forecasted to reach a market valuation of USD 11.04 billion by 2026, compared to USD 3.83 billion in 2019. Precision agriculture, also known as precision farming, refers to how farmers regulate crops to enhance the productivity, grade, and output while ensuring the effectiveness of inputs such as water and fertilizer. Precision agriculture also helps in improving processes of reducing pests, flooding, and crop illness. This kind of farming approach uses mobile phones, and other new technologies in agriculture such as remote sensing using satellites and UAVs, to lessen the manual agricultural inputs like water, fertilizers, and pesticides. Satellites can be used to monitor changes in soil conditions and crop health, detect pest infestations and better land management.
Satellites, in conjunction with GPS technologies, aid in the identification of precise placement of seeds and agrochemicals, as well as the efficient use of available irrigation. One such example is the Real-Time Kinematic-Global Navigation Satellite (RTK-GNSS), which is used to track agricultural robots and the food supply chain. It will therefore be possible to communicate the information collected by these sensors via mobile phones.
3. Farm Management Software
Farm Management Software is often used to monitor and streamline farm operations and business activities. The program assists in the automation of agricultural operations such as record administration, data storage, monitoring and evaluating farm activities, and streamlining production and work schedules. As one of the best new technologies in agriculture, it can also assist farmers forecast and measure earnings while keeping track of all financial activity in order to improve farming efficiency. This software can also create crop plans, track and measure field activities, and manage risk portfolios, alerting farmers to imminent hazards and assisting them in making the best decision to avoid emerging issues.
The goal of these kinds of software is to automate record management, data storage, and analyze farm activities. These softwares are customizable for specific farm requirements, and it helps provide farmers with a comprehensive view of their operations to help make an informed decision on operations, such as crop rotation, as well as use of pest controls and fertilizers. Analyses can also provide alerts on potential agricultural risks, such as weather conditions and market demands. The global farm management software will further contribute to technological developments in agriculture: it is expected to reach USD 5.26 billion by 2026, with a compound annual growth rate of 18.55% until 2026.
4. Harvesting Robots
The worldwide agricultural robotics market is expected to reach 20.6 billion US dollars by 2025. Right now, there are several pre-commercial R&D initiatives for harvesting robots, for certain types of crops, such as strawberries, oranges, and apples. Crux Agribotics was one of the first organizations to show a fully autonomous harvesting robot in a real greenhouse environment, detecting, sorting, and harvesting cucumbers. The advancement of new technologies in agriculture as evident in robotic harvesters is constant. In fact, one study used inverse kinematics technology, which allowed the robot arm to target a fruit’s position and twist the hand axis to harvest.
The rise of robotic harvesters is constantly progressing, as a matter of fact, a study has used inverse kinematics technology, which allowed the robot arm to target a fruit’s position, and twisting the hand axis to harvest. The experimental results showed that the robot could harvest a fruit in 16 seconds, and more than 90% of the fruits were detected. A similar research at the Monash University Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is also being conducted, which saw a robot’s capability to harvest an apple at around 7 seconds, with an 85% success rate. In other prototype developments, machine vision and artificial intelligence are being used for harvesting lettuce, and selective harvesting for greenhouses. Harvesting robots remain in early stages, though some farms are already using it, but recent R&D efforts show promising results that may lead to widespread deployment and utilization of the robotic harvesters.
5. Autonomous Tractors
Autonomous tractors can till the land, plant seeds, plot the field, and harvest yields without the assistance of a human driver. The global autonomous tractors market generated USD 1.56 billion in 2020, and is projected to reach USD 11.58 billion by 2030. This type of autonomous farming technology has been adopted and applied by farms because of its efficiency and cost-cutting benefits. The computer-based precision of autonomous tractors is contributing to technological developments in agriculture. It uses various new technologies in agriculture, such as GPS systems, LIDARs, and sensors. The 360-degree cameras, and AI integration – notably machine learning capabilities – assist in automatic detection and avoidance of obstacles.
Autonomous tractors also analyze data and provide information for making smart decisions based on their results. Autonomous farm tractors are essential in the agriculture sector’s ongoing evolution. The autonomous tractor outperforms ordinary manned tractors in terms of productivity and accuracy. Because farming is labor-intensive, it has always needed a steady supply of capable workers to maintain production strong. However, the continuous labor deficit has become a source of concern for farm owners everywhere. That is why an autonomous tractor can replace the void left by decreasing human labor.
Regardless of the manpower pool available, autonomous tractors can run by itself, so there’s no need to worry about being short-handed or not having enough staff to cover the entire field. A fleet of tractors can be operated by a single operator at the same time, boosting productivity. Furthermore, employing automated agricultural systems will assist farmers in keeping up with climate change and adapting to its difficult demands. A fleet of autonomous tractors can operate during brief periods of ideal weather while maintaining optimal production. It can also reduce risks such as working at night or in inclement weather.
The Future Is Autonomous: Keeping Up With New Technologies In Agriculture
In recent years, the new technologies in agriculture have changed the way farmers handle crops and manage fields. Technology has altered the concept of farming, making it more profitable, efficient, and simple. Farmers now have a broader perspective and a birds-eye view of their entire farming operation field thanks to the application of Unmanned aerial vehicles. Precision farming has streamlined operations for farmers worldwide by using cutting-edge technology to collect data that eliminates guesswork and poor farm forecasting.
Farm management software, on the other hand, automates data handling and keeps farmers informed and up to speed on field trends. Harvesting robots have the potential to make field operations faster and more efficient. Of course, the autonomous tractors are designed to make field labor easier and more cost effective by allowing a single operator to oversee a whole fleet from a remote user console. Promising new technologies in agriculture are rapidly progressing into the future. They provide significant assistance to farmers in their efforts to optimize inputs, simplify farm management, and ramp up production. Increased yields and lower maintenance costs contribute to higher profit margins. Without a doubt adopting new technologies in agriculture like the autonomous tractors boost future sustainability and will ensure that the agricultural supply chain meets the world’s demand.
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