RFID transmitters help farmers keep track of their livestock. 

RFID transmitters help farmers keep track of their livestock. 

Technology: The Future of Farming

When you think of a farm, do you imagine a farmer milking a cow by hand, or planting seeds in a row? While it’s true that some farmers use time-honored methods to farm, others are embracing technology to improve productivity and profitability.

Computers & Electronics

Many farmers today use computers to make calculations, keep records, to get information, and to track data. Sensors on farm equipment like tractors, buildings, farmland, and animals can send messages to computers. These messages help farmers make important decisions more quickly and efficiently. Instead of adding expensive products to entire fields, farmers can use a GPS to determine which areas of their crops need fertilizer, water, or other inputs to improve their health and growth. Tractors can even use GPS and computers to drive themselves. This helps farmers plant seeds exactly where they need to go and save fuel. Some farmers use RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips for food and livestock. These chips give producers important  information about the product origin, production or handling methods, and location. Unmanned aerial devices, also known as “drones” are also useful for a few reasons. The drones fly high above the crops and can show farmers areas damaged by wildlife that might need to be replanted. They can also use ultraviolet light to show when minerals such as phosphorous, nitrogen, and potassium are out of balance.

Biotechnology

Agricultural biotechnology allows scientists to make changes to plants, animals, and microorganisms at the genetic level. They do this to improve yield or quality and reduce inputs such as fertilizer, water, and pesticides.This can be done by traditional breeding, changing genes within an organism, or introducing new genes from other organisms. Biotechnology can make plants resistant to drought, insect damage, and disease. It can help livestock grow faster with less food. Biotechnology can be used to produce medicines, vaccines, and replacement organs. Foods can be grown with better nutrition and a longer shelf-life. Genetically engineered plants are also being developed that pull toxins out of soils. There are many environmental benefits.  In short, biotechnology allows farmers to do more with less.

Engineering & Conservation

Reducing human labor and growing more food and fiber per area has been one of the biggest challenges in agriculture history. Motorized equipment did not become common until the mid-20th century - until then most farms used animal-driven implements. We have come a long way since then. Technologies over the last 50 years have continued to improve production and reduce environmental impact. Modern tractors use less energy and reduce soil compaction, and farmers don’t need to till the soil as often. This reduces fuel use and soil erosion. Farmers are using conservation buffers and other best management practices on their farms to protect water, soil and wildlife. And since there are less people working on farms today, new machines make jobs easier, safer, and more precise.

Glossary of Terms:

  • GPS - Stands for Global Positioning System - a U.S. government owned navigation technology that shows us where we are in space.
  • RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)  - Computer chip device that reads information from a distance. It can be used in products or animals to communicate information to a farmer or producer.
  • Biotechnology - A scientific process used to change genetic information in organisms.
  • Till - Preparing a field for planting by turning, digging, or agitating the soil.
  • Conservation buffer - Small pieces of land planted with vegetation designed to keep soil in place and prevent erosion