Long gone are the days when agriculture and farm management was purely a manual labour job. With the rise of precision agriculture and the need for efficient, effective solutions to new worldwide farming problems (herbicide resistance, to name a substantial one) technology is stepping up to the plate to help farmers.
Technology is constantly growing and changing; according to Moore’s law, computing power doubles every 12 to 18 months. Though of course, you’re unlikely to find the latest tech on the average farm. What begins as a simple idea needs to grow into a start-up, gain momentum, please investors and most importantly, be innovative. Not all new tech will pass the test of time. Only once it takes the world by storm and becomes accessible to the masses will it really become a practical aid to farming.
Whilst in the first stages, this new tech is only available to those that are developing it or can afford to invest. Sure, there will be mistakes, mishaps and maybe even disasters, but eventually that breakthrough will happen and what was once just a blue print becomes a revolutionary agriculture aid.
So far we’ve had a fantastic year for new ideas and developments. Here are a few new tech developments we’re very excited about right now!
This is an amazing technology, the kind you’d imagine finding in a futuristic far-off world. Imagine growing crops without the need for soil or sun and with no pests. That’s what Aerofarms aspires to create. Through tech they hope to achieve a crop growing system that’s space efficient, profitable, pesticide free and provides food to people in cities on a commercial scale.
Aerofarms use precise technology to grow plants in a vertical format. The technology can be applied anywhere there’s space. Unused city warehouses and commercial buildings to feed the city or even desert and unfertile lands where crops can’t currently be grown.
The system looks like tall towers and rows of boxes stacked up. Inside those boxes the crops are grown on a cloth, rather than heavy soil, with a tray of nutrient rich mist solution below for the roots to grow into. Aerofarms make use of integrated LED lights making then entire system much more efficient than traditional agriculture. This new tech is allowing crops to be grown 24/7 in the centre of cities, offering a viable solution to fresh food shortages in major cities.
Prospera have developed one of the many farm data management systems available, but with a difference. Their technology focuses on giving data that’s incredibly specific; we’re talking about a crop by crop data analysis system. They’ve developed a system that doesn’t just bombard you with a ton of data that’s interesting but useless; it gives you data about your crops that’s genuinely useful. They want to solve the critical issues that farmers face, including everything from pest infested fields to irrigation problems.
They make use of sensors and visual data records to develop advanced techniques. They monitor plant health and stress levels as well as climate data to give you an overview of your fields: everything you need to know is laid out simply in one place, giving you actionable insights into your farm on a crop by crop basis.
This tech is currently only available in Spain, Mexico and the US, but if you sign up to their website they’ll let you know when it will be available for you.
3 Blue River Technology
We’re excited about the See & Spray machine from Blue River Technology; it’s a huge step forward for precision agriculture. Blue River want to address one of the big problems with today’s modern farming methods; a problem so unavoidable you might not even realise it’s there. Farmers are forced to treat every crop the same – it would be impossible to inspect each crop individually. Yet, if we could somehow achieve that, imagine how much more efficiently your crops would grow and profits would increase!
The See & Spray machine is just one solution. Blue River have developed a machine that’s so technologically advanced that it can identify each individual plant in your field as it drives along, ensuring that herbicides are only applied to weeds.
Not only is this going to massively reduce the amounts of herbicide you’re using on your fields, but hopefully it will prevent further development of herbicide resistant weeds too.
4 Farmers Business Network
This tech isn’t exactly new, but it is definitely innovative and could benefit farmers across the world. A network of farmers sharing data not just on agriculture, but the business side of running a farm too, is indispensable. The Farmers Business Network is connecting farmers across the US, allowing them to share data on the most successful crops and how to grow them at optimum, as well as data on input prices and farm management operations.
Signing up to the network gives you access to data that can really help you get a better grip on farm finances. It allows you to see what other farms are paying to manage their farms, what crops are popular and why and it also gives you access to products directly from the manufacturers, saving you money.
This network might not be revolutionary, but it’s certainly filling a niche. The business side of running a farm now has the support it needs.
5 Freight Farms
Freight Farms are much more small scale than commercial Aerofarms. The idea might be similar but the application is quite different. Firstly, you don’t need a building as the tech comes in its own box. Furthermore, the whole container can be monitored and controlled by app.
Freight Farms offer vertical farming in a shipping container, which is great for small scale farming. We like this farming tech because you can ship that shipping container to anywhere in the world and it will still work perfectly. Freight Farm tech creates the perfect environment for growing crops year-round regardless of geographical location by carefully controlling the climate and using their vertical growing system.
The idea is not yet ready for huge commercial farms but we foresee a bright future for this start up company!
Tech has done a lot of amazing things for agriculture over the years. What seems like a crazy, fantasy idea today could well be the next tool to be utilised by farms across the world. If you’d like to contribute to the growing agricultural tech then there are several options available for you: firstly, you can have a go at developing some new tech on your farm to solve problems you face. Secondly, you can visit event days and product shows of new tech to show your support (and maybe even be selected to trial run some new tech on your farm). Or lastly, you could just donate to a start-up you feel passionate about.
The more we focus on new agriculture tech, the quicker the future will come to us.