Top 5 things to know about farm tech

Tom Merritt explores five ways technology is changing farming.

Top 5 things to know about farm tech

Agriculture gets a bad rap sometimes. Farmers are too often portrayed as either simple folks on a bouncy old tractor, or as a huge, heartless, agribusiness spewing pesticides. There may be some truth behind both stereotypes, but today's farmer is also incredibly tech savvy. Here are five things to know about farm tech.

SEE: Future of farming: AI, IoT, drones, and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

  1. Internet of Things on the farm. Soil sensors, water sensors, weather sensors, and sensors on combines all feed data to help farmers better manage things. That's why rural 5G connectivity is not just a concern for the home user.
  2. Precision agriculture. This farm management concept wraps up all the data from sensors and the recommendations from machine learning into a management philosophy for the farm. It even targets sub-zones of cropland to optimize water and fertilizer delivery, and it's getting close to be able to go plant by plant.
  3. Self-driving tractors. We're not just talking GPS guidance--tractors have had that for awhile--I mean a tractor that uses computer vision, telematics, and machine learning to know where the rows are, and plant or spray according to plan.
  4. Farms need tech to replace labor. Farm employment declined 11% between 2005 and 2019 because labor became too expensive or moved to cities. Technology can help fewer people manage more acres, preventing cropland from being under-utilized.
  5. Sustainability. AI can give insights on how to optimize equipment, improve planning, and minimize waste, helping farmers make their work more cost-efficient. One way is saving on water and power, which also helps ease the pressure on the environment.

It's a simple life full of sensors, AI, and autonomous combines. But the simple life is a good life.

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Image: iStock/NolanBerg11