6 Technologies Coming to the Farming Industry in 2020

Reader Contribution by Kayla Matthews
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It’s no secret that the rapid pace of technological development and discovery will continue to revolutionize virtually every industry in the coming decade. 

A burgeoning world population combined with a push for sustainable food sources continue to make a tough job even more complicated for farmers.

Thankfully, there are people dedicated to integrating some of the world’s most advanced technology to assist our agricultural professionals. Here’s a glimpse at some technologies revolutionizing farming today and beyond. 

1. IBM Watson

AI is making waves in dozens of industries across the globe — and farming is no different. IBM purchased The Weather Company, which many farmers have relied on for weather forecasting, in 2016. With the acquisition, they were able to adapt one of the world’s most brilliant supercomputers to assist agribusiness. In 2018, IBM unveiled the Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture

IBM’s mass data storage capabilities and AI prediction software pair perfectly with the advanced weather forecasting data from The Weather Company.

IBM’s platform uses data from satellites and equipment sensors to oversee crop growth, soil nutrient levels and many other vital components. Together, they build management models that allow farmers to make better decisions for the health of their crops. 

2. Self-Driving Farm Equipment

You may have seen self-driving cars tested in major cities over the past few years, but this capability isn’t limited to the transportation sector. Bear Flag Robotics is at the forefront of tailoring this technology to give farmers an advantage. 

Tractors, combines and other equipment upgraded with Bear Flag’s driverless technology, are guided by GPS systems, cameras and sensors. They can now plow fields, distribute fertilizer and even plant crops autonomously. This helps farmers be more efficient than ever before, working around-the-clock.

Farmers can save money on labor costs from automation technology and bridge the workload gap caused by worker shortages across the globe. 

3. DNA Testing of Soil

DNA testing has been at the forefront of medical research and testing for many years. Today, the agriculture industry uses it as well. 

Pattern, an Agriculture DNA company, is plowing the way for farmers across the Midwest to use genetic testing. Pattern uses DNA analysis of a farmer’s corn or soybean soil to test for the following pathogens:

  • Nematodes
  • Foliar Disease
  • Insects
  • Root and stalk rot

Farmers can use the insights from Pattern to find out how healthy their soil is. Crop-growers can plan accordingly to invest more money in the processes more likely to bring a high crop yield. Additionally, farmers can use the information about known pathogens in their soil to take preventive measures to avoid crop loss, before its too late. 

4. Smart Greenhouses

Many people are integrating their homes with intuitive technology such as cameras and AI-assisted speakers to make their lives easier and convert to “smart homes.”

Indoor farming is being revolutionized by the same idea, with advanced monitoring technology creating smart greenhouses. Postscape’s meticulous diagram of components displays all the vital technological pieces that complete the puzzle of a smart greenhouse. These include:

  • Sensors to monitor temperature, humidity, water content, plant moisture, light and CO2 levels
  • Equipment to control irrigation, shade, heating, cooling, humidifying, lighting and even harvesting
  • Remote management of scheduling, plant growth, supplier pricing and energy consumption
  • Analytics/machine learning to predict future inputs/outputs and control systems automatically

A 2018 report from Research and Markets predicts a 15.36% compound annual growth rate in the smart greenhouse market by 2023. That CAGR means the demand will keep rising due to expectedly high rate-of-return on investments. Growers will have to pay a hefty price up-front for these smart systems, but they will pay off over time with lower energy consumption, higher crop quality and more efficient growing processes. 

Despite all the benefits of a smart greenhouse, farmers need to keep cybersecurity best practices in mind when entering the new decade. Just like banks and retail behemoths need to protect their data, so do agricultural businesses.

According to Joeseph Steinberg, the CEO of SecureMySocial, 22% of the companies that suffered a security breach lost a significant portion of their customers. Most farmers and food manufacturers likely can’t bounce back from losing up to a fifth of their customers. Data security is more paramount now than ever before, especially now that farmers are beginning to rely on big data to drive their production. 

5. Digital Produce Marketplaces

You’d be hard-pressed to find something you can’t purchase online in 2020, as digital marketplaces seem to run the world. The same concept is shaping up to be promising for those in the farming industry. Companies such as Indigo Ag are revolutionizing the farming world by connecting growers, buyers and consumers in one marketplace.

Indigo Ag pairs scientists and farmers to produce the best possible grain while preserving the environment. Buyers of grain products can quickly work with these farmers to get the exact high-quality ingredients they need at a fair price, delivered straight to their facilities.

Consumers then enjoy healthy, sustainably grown food that tastes great. Despite a projected 50% food demand increase expected by 2050 and over 30% decrease in agricultural workers since 1950, digital agriculture marketplaces are making a positive impact.

6.  Automated Irrigation

For plants to grow, they need water and lots of it. However, technology is making irrigation smarter and more environmentally conscious. Some startups are creating analytical systems focused on reducing water use by as much as a third.

The soil monitoring software systems use moisture sensors in the field that connect to the Internet. The sensors will alert farmers, through an app, when their fields need water. 

This ensures plants get the right amount of water at the right time and eliminates any unnecessary watering. When paired with precision irrigation systems that apply a consistent amount of water, farmers can avoid over- or under-watering plants.

Other benefits include reduced crop stress, better nutrient absorption, reduced runoff and leaching, and improved crop quality and yield. 

Embrace the Future of Farming

Keeping up with modern farming technology will set you apart from other farmers and ensure you’re making the most out of your resources in the next decade.

Use your best judgment to account for all factors and decide which technology will work best for you and improve your farm.

Photo credit: Michael Bourgault, Upsplash

Kayla Matthews has been writing about healthy living for several years and is proud to be a featured writer on a number of inspiring health sites, including Mother Earth News. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+, Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on ProductivityTheory.com.

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