Smart Farming – how technology is transforming the agricultural industry
A new era of farming is upon us and the summer of 2014 will go down in history as one of the quickest harvests on record.
Of course, the weather helps; the early sunshine and hot spells undoubtedly played a huge part in ripening the crops in anticipation of the harvest. But there is also no doubt that technological advances have given farmers the ability to efficiently carry out their jobs faster than ever before.
Combine harvesting – a monotonous job of cutting crops and collecting grain – has always been a significant part of an arable farmer’s working year. Yet with the help of technology, this process has become infinitely more efficient.
Satellite navigation is now used in new-model combines: a GPS tracking system which allows the combine to be controlled automatically. The GPS readout provides the driver with harvesting speed, distance, loading capacity, and vehicle location, whilst allowing for automatic steering. GPS technology can also maps the field in advance, and from this the combine can follow a virtual pathway to within an incredible accuracy of 2cm, saving farmer’s time and relieving pressure. GPS technology can even be applied to other agricultural machinery, such as fertilisers and sprayers.
Technology is also helping farmers better identify when crops are truly fit for harvest. Crops need to be harvested dry so they can be stored for indefinite periods without deteriorating. Whilst the combine harvester cuts the crop and separates the ear from the stalk, these intelligent machines are now able to calculate the grain’s moisture content which is shown as a percentage. A low percentage means less time and money will be spent drying the grain once it has been harvested.
For the tech-savvy farmer equipped with a smartphone, there is now an array of mobile applications attempting to revolutionise farming. Apps to identify soil types, weeds and cereal diseases all exist. There is even an app called TractorPal which gives farmers an inventory and maintenance record of all their agriculture machines and vehicles, another example of how technology is easing the pressures of farming.
Even animals cannot escape the technology upgrade, as implanting microchips into livestock is now common practice. Microchips allow farmers to track their livestock, take readings of their body temperature and whether (in dairy cow cases) they are ready to be milked. The chips also prevent livestock theft: horses and other domestic pets are often chipped for this reason too.
Technology is clearly assisting farmers and allowing farming methods to become even quicker and more efficient than before. However, with the rules and regulations continuously being brought in from the EU which are in danger of slowing farming down, and with the public ever more conscious of where their food is grown from, these technological advances will no doubt be continuously developed, and eventually enforced.