Agriculture

How has Agriculture Technology Changed Life for Farmers?

How has Agriculture Technology Changed Life for Farmers?
Written by Shikha Mehta

What picture comes to your mind when I use the words “agriculture” or “farming”? Well, if you picture a village with farmers working on a field, it’s something that now only exists in old films. With the introduction of agriculture technology, farmers are able to produce more, minimize their risks and reduce manual labor on the field.

Of course, technology comes with its own price; so not all farmers can afford all of it. However, once he or she is able to start investing, their job on the field gets easier and more stress free. Let’s see how.

What is Modern Agriculture Technology?

The name itself is quite self-explanatory – application of technology in agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture. This technology not only includes tractors and sprinklers, but the use of robotics, artificial intelligence and internet of things in agriculture.

Yes, we have moved far from driving tractors on the field and manually-operated water sprinklers. This is what modern agricultural technology all about – automation of all the activities needed for farming. Be it irrigation, harvesting or pest control, you can take care of everything, thanks to the various technologies you’ll be reading about as you scroll down.

The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture

What is artificial intelligence anyway? It’s the technology which helps machines think and act like humans. So, in agriculture we’re making devices do plenty of things that they can do better than humans.

What you just read about vertical farming and robotic tractors are applications of AI in agriculture. Basically, AI in agriculture is used for detecting environmental conditions and then acting according to the plant’s needs.

  • The sensors used in agriculture (which we’ve discussed in detail below) can detect temperature, humidity, soil conditions and the condition of the crops.
  • This information is used further to understand how much water do you have to give to your crops, if there is any pest control requirement, any fertilizer requirement in the soil or if it’s time to harvest.
  • One of the main purposes of AI is automation – you don’t have to take reports and act manually. The use of robotic machinery and smart irrigation technology are examples of automation.
  • In vertical farming, the artificial control of sunlight, temperature and humidity is not possible without using AI.
  • If you’re growing crops in your field, you can use AI for monitoring weather forecasts. That can really help you when you’re about to grow your next crop too.

Smart Farming – The Application of IoT in Agriculture

IoT or “Internet of Tings” refers to devices that work with software and internet. It has multiple applications like smart home technology, biometrics, wireless internet and other appliances. Among these many applications, it has a very big role to play in agriculture too.

Smart or digital farming refers to using information & communication technology to yield more production. It includes the usage of software or mobile apps, robotics, data analytics, GPS and sensors. The concept of smart farming is not just about the key farming operations – it is a lot wider and has an impact on the entire agri-food chain.

Here are some examples of digital agriculture that explains its potential:

  • Using technology to locate waste water and reuse it for irrigation.
  • Checking soil moisture levels and providing the exact amount of water the crops need using sensors.
  • Using GPS to track the exact location of every seed in the field and monitor crops.
  • Selling harvests through e-commerce platforms and using other software for verifying your identity as a farmer is also a part of digital agriculture.

Basically, digital agriculture involves the use of technology that helps from purchasing the seed to selling the harvested produce. Here’s what it also includes:

Precision Agriculture

This concept revolves around using technology for farm management. It is a part of smart farming and is revolves around the core farming activities like ploughing, seeding, irrigation, pest control and harvest. The aim is to yield a healthy harvest and increase efficiency in farming.

For this purpose, we use real-time data apps and software to monitor fields. Using GPS for tracking robotic tractors and seeds, agricultural sensors (mentioned below) and agricultural drones (mentioned below) are also part of precision farming.

Smart Agriculture Sensors

You probably know about the role of sensors in smart home technology. They’re devices that can “sense” or identify temperature, humidity and physical movement. So, an agricultural sensor is one that can recognize temperature, humidity, sunlight and soil condition – all needed for growing crops.

The most commonly used sensors are for smart irrigation – identifying the water needs of the crops to sprinkle the exact amount of water needed. Other applications include monitoring growth, understanding the exact location of cropping and controlling machinery remotely.

Agricultural Drones

You’ve known about the usage of drones for photography, videography and military surveillance. Now, take a look at these uses – monitoring fields and irrigating them. Yes, the drone camera will help you take a look at your crops and livestock from a distance while the spray tank present on the drone will help you irrigate the field accordingly.

Smart Greenhouse

Also known as greenhouse farming, it is the technology that helps in artificially controlling the environment where you grow crops. It involves automation of monitoring as well as taking care of the crops’ needs.

The sensors help to detect the current condition of the weather, soil and crops. Multiple other AI-enabled devices implement automated environment control, irrigation and harvest. Thus, you’re taking care of almost everything here. This is the technology that in fact encourages vertical farming.

Vertical Farming Technology

So far, you’ve known farming as growing crops on a field. Vertical farming takes you indoors and proves that you can grow crops in an artificial environment too. Here, crops are grown on vertically inclined spaces like buildings, warehouses or shipping containers.

Here’s how it works:

  • The light, temperature and humidity are controlled artificially with the help of rotating beds.
  • Instead of soil, substitutes like coconut husks, peat moss and liquid solutions are used.
  • Even though there is extensive use of technology, the technique helps in saving water and space, also encouraging organic farming.

Robotic Tractor

Ploughing fields was earlier done manually, using a plough, ho or cultivator. Then came the tractors, which made saved a lot of energy for the farmers. However, these were tractors that you would have to drive yourself.

A robotic tractor is one that is automated – it doesn’t need a driver. All you have to do is start the vehicle and it does the rest for you. So, if you have a very large field, you can operate multiple tractors simultaneously which makes your work faster. In fact, if you have a tractor GPS, you could operate your tractors while you’re in some other corner of the world too!

Farming Technology in Aquaculture

The term “farming” is never limited to agriculture. It includes horticulture and aquaculture too. So, the agriculture technology we’re discussing here is not just limited to crops – it is used in horticulture and aquaculture too.

Of course, when it comes to fishes, it works a little differently for obvious reasons. Here are 2 technologies that are extensively used in aquaculture these days.

Biofloc Fish Farming

Growing fish requires a lot more investment from the very beginning. You need to have a pond, high quality fish food and filtration system to maintain the pond. However, an alternative to this is biofloc fish farming.

In this technique, you use a tank for breeding fish and a technology that can convert toxic substances into feed for the fish. The excreta of fish and excess food is converted back into food in the presence of sunlight. This is done with the help of heterotrophic bacteria, that convert ammonia into protein. That’s how the cost of fish feed reduces a lot.

Precision Fish Farming

The concept is very similar to precision agriculture, of using technology to monitor the animals and ensure healthy fish production continuously. Here are some of its applications:

  • Monitoring health and condition of fishes
  • Ensuring the water quality remains good
  • Bio-encapsulating vaccines into fish feed
  • Artificial control of environmental conditions

What are the Significant Benefits Farmers are Gaining Out of Agriculture Technology?

You can probably understand the benefits you could gain out of agriculture technology. You’ve seen how in the earlier days laborers and farmers have struggled on the field, manually ploughing and harvesting with heavy tools. Even after investing so much of their energy, they were dependent on nature for their success.

This is the poor condition of farmers that will gradually change as adopting of smart agriculture becomes feasible to all farmers in the world. Here’s how it will benefit a farmer once he has it:

Higher Yield

The ultimate purpose behind investing in any kind of technology is higher production. This applies to manufacturing and service sectors of the economy too. When your dependency on nature reduces, your risk of failure automatically comes down in agriculture. Moreover, smart agricultural sensors are way more efficient in helping you receive more from the crops you plant.

Lesser Use of Pesticides and Fertilizers

This is not just a benefit to the farmers, but also to the consumers. There is no doubt that agricultural technology promotes organic farming, thus producing healthier crops. This is mainly possible with the help of smart agricultural sensors that can detect soil conditions and robots that can be used for pest control.

Precise Use of Water

The idea of smart irrigation is to save water and at the same time ensure proper growth of plants. Crops do dry out due to lack of water, but excess water isn’t good for them either. With the help of sensors, you’ll get exact information on how much water do the crops need. Moreover, with automated irrigation systems and agricultural drone sprayers, you can water your crops remotely too.

Safety for Farmers

Let’s face it – a field could be having pests of different kinds. Moreover, the weather may not be appropriate all the time for a farmer to be in the open field. By remotely being able to operate on the field, you could sit in the shade and take all the control measures you need to.

Eco-friendly

Gone are the days when technology led to environmental pollution and global warming. Today, it is going in the direction of saving our resources. Agricultural technology has helped save a lot of water, promoted organic growth of crops and even contributed towards improving soil conditions.

Countries with the Best Agriculture Technology

I won’t say every farmer in the world is using technology right now. It is practically impossible because these devices do come at a cost that not everyone can afford. Nevertheless, from developing to highly developed countries, you’ll find its presence everywhere. Here’s a few around the world:

Israel Agriculture Technology

Israel happens to be the 2nd largest agricultural producers in the world and one of the global leaders in agricultural technology too. Their cutting-edge technology used in agriculture includes:

  • Thermal imaging for monitoring conditions of crops.
  • Biological pest control.
  • Generating unique software applications that help in farming.
  • Developing variants of various crops that can grow in different climate conditions and have lesser water requirements.

Farming Technology in Netherlands

In spite of being a small country that is a little densely populated according to its size, Netherlands happens to be the 2nd largest exporter of food in the world. The secret behind this is that more than half of their lands are used for agriculture and they use greenhouse technology to ensure their produce.

By artificially controlling the climatic environment of the farms, they have managed to produce crops without the use of pesticides and with lesser water too.

The Japanese Agricultural Technology

Japan happens to be one of the most advanced nations when it comes to their farming technology. From having planters and advanced harvesters, they use genetic engineering, cloud computing and indoor farming to increase production.

  • Genetic engineering helps in reducing the need for water, grow crops in different conditions, increase yield and reduce the need for pesticides & fertilizers.
  • Cloud computing is used for creating sensors and monitors that help detect weather and soil conditions. This helps in providing the crops with accurate amount of water and nutrition.
  • Indoor farming has a similar concept of vertical farming – where you can grow crops in an artificial environment. Since it reduces the need for land, it is the new way of increasing production.

Agriculture Technology in USA

One of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, USA obviously has plenty of it used for farming. Half the corn in the world is produced in this country. The technology used there includes genetic engineering of seeds, sophisticated machinery and AI for monitoring soil and crop conditions.

Farming Technology Used in India

Being a developing country, it has majority of its population engaged in farming and quite a lot of them have been using technology too. Technologies here include:

  • Using irrigation methods that help in saving water
  • Greenhouse cultivation of vegetables
  • Using AI for weather forecast, detecting soil conditions and water requirements of crops
  • Mobile apps for remotely controlling farming operations
  • Agricultural drones for irrigation and monitoring fields
  • Satellite images for monitoring fields

China – The Inventor of Agricultural Drones

Even though this developing nation has faced a lot of food shortage in its tough times, it is on of the most advanced countries in agriculture today. The company XAG Co Ltd introduced the world to agricultural drones back in 2007. The various drones they produce currently have the following features:

  • Remote sensors
  • Autonomous flight
  • Field mapping technology
  • Rotary automation
  • Sprayers
  • Automated spreading machine for seeding and fertilization

What is the Future of Agriculture?

The first two green revolutions came about in the world when efficient methods of farming were discovered. Many countries have provided subsidies to their farmers and helped them adopt farming technologies. What many scientists do predict that the current technological advancements in farming will lead the world to its 3rd green revolution too.

With the help of AI, here’s what we have achieved so far:

  • Losing dependency on weather, water bodies and even the presence of land for farming
  • Saving water
  • Reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides
  • Eliminating the need manual labor on the field
  • Getting accurate information on what our crops need and applying it

This already gives you everything you need to solve the problems of farming. You are minimizing almost all your risks and producing more from what you already have. If you wish to start a farming business now, you don’t even need a field anymore. All you need is greenhouse technology to start growing plants indoors.

Of course, I don’t deny that agriculture technology does demand a lot of investment. However, this investment is one-time and once you start using it, you’ll surely increase profits in return. You have the opportunity to expand your produce and reach out to a greater part of the world – all with the help of IoT in agriculture. How do you consider using it?

About the author

Shikha Mehta

I discovered my talent in writing while I was in high school. Since then, I discovered the joy of sharing your knowledge with people around you. This is the reason why I love making my contributions to Insights of Technology. Being a certified content writer, I have been writing on several topics, science & technology being one of my favorites.

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