Agriculture Technologies & Techniques to Help Modernize Your Farm
Over the last few decades, advancements in technology have transformed our daily lives. From smartphones to smart homes, engineers and scientists have discovered ways to make our lives run more smoothly. The agricultural industry has also benefited from this technological boom. Advancements in sensors, aerial imaging, and robotic systems have modernized the farming process. At BTC Bank, the heart of our community is rooted in commercial agricultural businesses like yours. We’ve compiled the top up-and-coming new agriculture technology and techniques to help you modernize your farming practice.
What is AgTech?
The term AgTech refers to agriculture technology. Advancements in technology are being applied to the traditional farming process to benefit both farmers and the environment. Farmers across the country have adopted new AgTech to help streamline their work, cut expenses, reduce waste, and combat the effects of climate change. Smart farming technologies have allowed farmers to more precisely tend to their individual crops, rather than having to focus on their fields as a whole. Advances in agriculture have resulted in numerous benefits, including:
- Increased worker safety
- Increased crop production
- Decreased demand for irrigation, fertilizer, and pesticides
- Decreased impact on the environment
Up & Coming Agriculture Technology
GIS Software and GPS Agriculture
GIS software is allowing farmers to map temperature, rainfall, crop yields, and more across their acreages. This data can help business owners plan for the future by studying the past conditions of their different fields. Paired with GPS, these technologies are what guide autonomous tractors, seeders, and combine harvesters to work the fields following a precise strategy. GIS software is also behind the use of drones and satellites in an agricultural setting, enabling an aerial assessment of crop biomass and height, weed presence, terrain, and weather.
Soil and Water Sensors
Humans have long relied on their limited senses to interpret the world around them. Can you see a problem with your crops? Can you smell or taste a problem with your food? Robotic sensors provide data far beyond what we can see. Sensors monitor soil conditions like temperature and pH, humidity, plant health, and pest stress. Human error can be reduced and work time managed more efficiently when robotic sensors are employed on a farm. The information gained from these sensors is not only accurate, but also communicated quickly and remotely to the farmer.
Remote sensors create algorithms from the data they gather. As with any computerized algorithm, the accuracy improves as increasing amounts of data is processed. Over time, remote sensors could help create a farming algorithm that will accurately predict a variety of outcomes for your crops based on real-time conditions of your fields. This data can help farmers plan and adapt to prevent crop losses and maximize profits.
Satellites have been used for numerous purposes over the years, and it should be no surprise that scientists have devised a way to utilize satellites as AgTech. Modern satellite images allow farmers to incorporate data from pertinent spectral indices in order to practice precision agriculture.
Four important spectral indices for agriculture include:
- Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI)
- Normalized Difference RedEdge (NDRE)
- Canopy Chlorophyll Content Index (CCCI)
- Modified Soil-Adjusted Vegetation Index (MSAVI)
The NDVI, NDRE, and CCCI analyze the amount of chlorophyll in crops. Low chlorophyll can signal nitrogen starvation before the damage is permanent and allow the farmer to provide precise fertilizer application. The MSAVI is specifically modified to detect vegetation in recently seeded areas or areas with large amounts of bare soil. This index can show how well the area was seeded or the health of crops in relatively bare area.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is not unique to agriculture. Farmers are finding that incorporating RFID into AgTech can improve crop tracking. RFID is similar to a barcode but can be scanned from several feet away, even through soil. RFID tags can be programmed with up to 2 KB of data, making them handy for labeling crop name, location, and date of planting.
RFID will also increase the ease of tracking farm products as they are shipped. A simple scan can reveal the origin of the product as well as processing date and time. RFID technology can reduce human error by storing data securely on the product. Retailers and consumers can be confident of the origin farm and production date of food products when RFID technology is applied.
In the past, if a foodborne disease was detected on produce from a certain region, the entire region would face a profit-shattering recall in order to protect the public. Blockchain technology aims to reduce wide-spread effects of such issues by accurately tracking the supply chain path of all products within our food system. With blockchain technology, food contamination could be traced back to the exact source.
For blockchain technology to be successful, each producer would need to share a digital record of their food’s journey in real-time. Some producers still keep paper records of their sales and shipments, making it hard to quickly assess a product’s origins. A fully digital blockchain would create transparency in the market that could reveal accurate supply and demand for food products. This real-time insight into the food market could help producers better price their products and plan production.
Research is leading towards genetically enhanced crops. Starting with a very small amount of genetic material (minichromosomes), scientists are using genetic engineering to enhance the nutritional content and crop resistant traits of produce. This new technology retains the plant’s original chromosomes, making it a more socially acceptable means of crop enhancement than other methods of genetic modification. The full potential of this new AgTech is not yet fully developed, but you can expect to see exciting developments in the near future.
Up & Coming Agriculture Techniques
Indoor Vertical Farming
Indoor vertical farming involves creating a closed, controlled environment for growing produce stacked vertically one on top of another. By growing crops vertically, the farmer requires much less land than conventional row farming. While this technique has been utilized primarily in urban settings, anyone looking to maximize production could benefit from growing vertically.
Vertical farming techniques include both the traditional use of soil, hydroponic techniques that use nutrient-dense water, and aeroponic techniques that spray only the plant roots with water and nutrients. Artificial grow lights are applied to the indoor space providing more control over the growing process. Vertical farming typically requires 70 percent less water than traditional farming. Labor requirements for vertical farming are often less as well, and some vertical farms even implement robotic planting and harvesting to decrease labor requirements even more.
Once only used for early season seedlings, modern greenhouses now provide full crop production year round. Advancements in technology have provided the LED lighting and automated control systems needed to create an indoor growing environment for famers. Robotic systems can provide the perfect amount of irrigation, light, and humidity to produce crops indoors. Vertical farming, hydroponic farming, and aeroponic farming are all growing practices that utilize the modern greenhouse.
Advancements in drone use and robotics have created a new way to farm. Technology now allows for self-navigating combines for harvesting and robotic seeding and weeding. Automating these repetitive tasks reduces the labor requirement of the farm. Automatic watering can be as simple as scheduled irrigation or as complex as soil monitoring around individual plants.
Farm equipment automation is addressing the labor shortage and putting less stress on the farm workers. Higher yields are reported as self-driving machines can work around the clock. When manual labor is delegated to machinery, farmers can focus on planning and problem-solving to improve the long-term success of their businesses.
In the past, most farms treated their fields as one unit. They irrigated and applied fertilizer or pesticides to meet the needs of their crops as a whole. Advancements in technology have allowed farmers to monitor their plants’ needs on a more precise scale. High tech monitoring of moisture levels, soil conditions, and pest damage allows precise action to be taken on small, individualized areas of the fields.
Precision agriculture is decreasing the cost of farming by minimizing the amount farmers spend on fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation. The work of farming is becoming more efficient as farmers treat specific needs rather than the farm as a whole.
Looking to Modernize Your Ag Business?
Rising supply prices and labor shortages have fueled the demand for new farming technology. Modernize your agriculture business today with a Farm Operating Loan or expand your production with a Farm Real Estate Loan from BTC Bank. Whether you are a beginning farmer or a seasoned pro, we’ve got the agricultural loans in Missouri to help you succeed. The benefits of using technology in farming are becoming more apparent every day. Contact a local ag business loan officer today to learn more about incorporating modern farming techniques into your business. We proudly serve Missouri with 17 full service locations in Bethany, Gallatin, Albany, Cameron, Pattonsburg, Chillicothe, Carrollton, Boonville, Beaman, Trenton, Gilman City, Maysville, Osborn, Jamesport, Buffalo, Oregon, and one location in Lamoni, Iowa.