When you think of farming, the first things that often come to mind are overalls, cowboy hats and tractors. That perception is slowly changing as farming expands to a new generation of ‘digital natives’ who are ushering in innovative technologies designed to improve efficiencies and increase profits.
The industry is already starting to see the impact of these new thought leaders who are graduating with agricultural degrees and a tech-minded approach. More than $700 million was invested into farming technology companies in 2017 according to research firm CB Insights, compared to $233 million in 2015.
That influx of cash is aiding in development of data science and robotic products that will improve yields and plant health which will, in turn, help reverse farmers’ eroding incomes.
4 New Technologies that are Transforming Farming
Some of the key disruptive technologies that will have a major impact include:
1. Precision Ag
Everything about farming is becoming more accurate due to the use of information technology and tools such as GPS guidance and control systems. RTK (Real Time Kinematic) satellite navigation systems are making precise planting and fertilization a reality. In coming years, artificial intelligence will make complex farming decisions – such as weed management options for crop rotations – easier by analyzing huge amounts of data in a short time, predicting potential crop outbreaks like corn stalk rot or leaf blight before they occur and suggesting the most precise course of action.
It’s not a scene from “Transformer” quite yet, but next-generation farmers will experience their own transformation as robotics and drones become commonplace in their fields. Farming machines are morphing into more productive tools that weed, hydrate and harvest faster and more productively than ever. While it might be another five years before a fully autonomous vehicle shows up for work, farmers are already using tools like a custom Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) which offers complete control over a grain handling system just by touching a computer screen. Technology will never replace farmers, but it will reduce physical strain, free up resources and add efficiency.
3. Tire Technologies
Larger equipment means farmers can cover more acreage faster. But, it also means more weight which compacts soil and robs crop yields. New, high-flex tires are up to 7.5 ft. tall, 4 ft. wide and have more flexible sidewalls that withstand heavier weights than standard radials. That spreads machinery weight across a greater area which reduces soil compaction, allowing farmers to cover more ground and increase their yield.
From monitoring the status of cows from their smartphone to scanning farm fields from the sky via drones, a variety of new smart sensors are becoming invaluable tools that can do everything from monitoring plant health to nitrogen levels in the soil. This provides farmers with input that enables them to move quickly and alter plans based on real-time data. One of the newest uses of sensors in farming is in irrigation, where sensors measure water needs, optimize water use and prevent yield loss, according to engineers at McGill University.
While all these new 21st century ag technologies offer the opportunity for growth, they also add complexity and risks that should be managed appropriately. As the #1 farm insurer in Wisconsin, Rural Mutual Insurance is here to help protect Wisconsin farmers’ investments in the future. Rural Mutual Insurance also sponsors Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, the largest agricultural show in Wisconsin which showcases the latest in farming innovations.
Contact your local Rural Mutual Insurance agent today for insights specific to your farming community.