Three agricultural revolutions have altered the way humans produce food. During the First Agricultural Revolution, humans transitioned from hunting and gathering to planting and sustaining. In the Second Agricultural Revolution, humans increased agricultural production and expanded access to market locations due to improved transportation. And today, we are in phase of food production termed the Third Agricultural Revolution, in which farm operators use technologies including geographic information systems, smart farms, and robotics, to radically boost yields.
New technologies in agriculture – now more known as agricultural technology, or agtech – have become crucial components of advanced farming systems. The Third Agricultural Revolution is assisting farmers in developing more efficient farming operations and more data-driven approaches. These developments are helping the agricultural sector — a USD 12.5 billion industry with 847 million workers — understand that technology and innovation can substantially enhance the efficiency of food production approaches.
Continue reading to learn more about the Third Agricultural Revolution and the significance of agricultural technology in this era.
What Is The Third Agricultural Revolution?
The Third Agricultural Revolution started in the late 1960s. One key trigger was the increasing global population. In the early 1900s, the world’s population was around 1.6 billion. By 1950, it had grown to 2.5 billion. This increase in population created a demand for more food.
The second factor was the advancement of technology. The early phase of the Third Agricultural Revolution saw the use of newer and better agricultural machines, such as tractors, combine harvesters, and irrigation systems, which helped with speeding up agricultural processes.
As the population continued to increase, the agriculture sector maintained the goal of increasing food production. This led the Third Agricultural Revolution to witness a seeking for newer and more advanced tools, which now form part of today’s agtech.
Below is an overview of three technologies that form part of these advanced farming tools and the benefits they bring to farm operators today:
Geographic Information Systems
The Third Agricultural Revolution paved the way for the utilization of Geographic Information System (GIS), a tool for creating visual datasets and doing geographical analysis. GIS is one of the crucial components of precision agriculture, a farming system that uses multiple technologies to promote data-driven farming processes.
A GIS is equipped with remote sensors that assists with creating data and analyses. Through these sensors, GIS can provide real-time monitoring of crop health and estimate yields from a field. Then, these multiple data layers or variables can also be converted into digital imagery.
For example, GIS can map agricultural acres lost due to flooding, pests, and other disasters. It can also detect the topographical characteristics, organic matter content, acidity, wetness, and nutrient concentration of the soil, as well as historical crop yield data, which all contribute to effective soil preparation.
The result: farmers can understand the current situation of their farm fields and enhance their decision-making capabilities. For example, they can attend to unhealthy crops and conduct crop planning to maximize yields.
The Third Agricultural Revolution saw the development of smart farming, also known as Farming 4.0 or digital farming, in the late 1990s – with the introduction of GPS into farming. Today, smart farming now combines information and communication technologies, such as the Internet of things, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence, into agricultural machinery, equipment, and sensors.
Smart farming software and hardware are integrated with autonomous vehicles, such as autonomous tractors and UAVs, and allow for the remote control of the machines, as well as the provision of farm visuals and data while these machines are running on the field. The remote access happens through a software application that can be accessed through a computer or a mobile device, such as smartphones and tablets.
Smart farms also have the capability to provide real-time data about farm fields. This data can be presented as visual data, such as mapping tools and satellite imagery, or the provision of metric data sets about the current health of a farm field.
The result: farmers can extensively monitor the field without being physically present on the field. They can also acquire measurable information about segments of the field, such as pest infestation, and areas of the field that need more farming inputs and irrigation. This accurate information promotes the conservation of farming resources and allows farmers to grow healthier crops.
There are various types of farm robotic technologies, which are being used in a variety of agricultural applications, such as crop monitoring, yield analysis, soil mapping, irrigation, and pesticide application. Autonomous tractors are one of the key farming robots in use today.
Autonomous tractors can till and plant seeds accurately, monitor farm fields, and collect data while running through the fields without a human driver on the vehicle. They can can be remotely controlled through a software application, and their navigation across the field can also be customized based on farmland topography, ensuring that the automated tractors can run smoothly on the field without causing hiccups and accidents.
Other robotics used in the field today include crop harvesting robots and agricultural drones, among others. Unlike manual workers, these machines can operate 24 hours daily without breaks.
The result: farmers get more work done in less time. They can monitor the field remotely, while still having the capability to collect more accurate data. Robotics speeds up the workload for farmers and ensures healthier crops, which can lead to increased profits and productivity. This terch also allows farmers to have more time in making farming strategies while the autonomous tractor does the physical work.
Ushering in the New Age of Agriculture with Agtech
While the Third Agricultural Revolution started with the need for increased production, the recent phase of this agricultural era met this goal via the accurate collection of farm information. Recent developments in agtech have paved the way for all-new efficiencies. The agricultural sector understands the benfits, as proven by the continuously growing adoption of these technologies.
The GIS market is estimated to reach USD 25.5 billion by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 15.2% from 2021 to 2030; the global smart farming market is forecasted to reach USD 33.69 billion by 2029, with a CAGR of 12.86% from 2022-2029; and the global agricultural robots market is projected to grow to USD 11.9 billion by 2026 at a 19.3 % CAGR.
The future is bright!
Subscribe to the Bear Flag newsletter to receive regular updates and news about autonomous tractor technology.