Precision Agriculture

As the population increases the amount of arable land is not going to keep up at the same rate.

Does anyone ever consider where their food comes from, what it takes to grow, or the technology behind the new age farmer?

There is now large farm equipment such as tractors that cannot be serviced without a laptop with propriety connector cables and customised software for diagnosing. This can tie the farmer to a particular tractor company for the life of the product. Farmers need to service their own equipment as they have done for generations. Recently farmers have even resorted to running hacked Russian firmware just to service and run their Tractors and other equipment. Who owns the software on the tractors on board computer to keep it running? A recent exemption to the Digital Millennium act made it legal for farmers to hack their tractors solely for the purpose of repair. Microsoft and Apple were both in attendance at a recent hearing in Nebraska to understand a ruling on this very question. Why would Microsoft and Apple care if a farmer in Nebraska can service and repair their own tractor? Because it would affect all tech companies, not just John Deere. A right to repair.

What is the impact of GPS.

Precision technology such as GPS and Internet of Things (IoT) helps lower the total price goods of which most consumers are oblivious to. Recently during a meeting with local farmer Mark Williams I wanted to understand the impact of technology within his business. All of the measurements on the right can be done right from 1 screen without having to exist the cabin of his harvester. Traditional manual ways of obtaining these measurements results resulted in down time/outages. He stated that a GPS on a tractor/harvester saves on average 10 laps of a paddock from unnecessary over laps. This adds up to thousands of dollars in savings of wasted products, seed and diesel. A farmer may work a paddock 4 or 5 times each year, that is 40-50 laps saved per paddock per year.

How accurate is GPS?

When a farmer sows a crop, the GPS keeps the tractor unbelievably straight. The next year the GPS will be able to remember exactly to the cm where the machine was and what it did last year and move each row over exactly 4 or 8 cms to ensure that you are not planting a seed directly where a seed grew the year before. This technology has mind boggling accuracy with significant yield increases! This is incredibly powerful. A harvester may spend 40% of its life harvesting at night time in the dark, this is now easier and more efficient thanks to GPS, saving on fuel and wear and tear.

Farmers Edge is partnering with Microsoft’s Azure IoT to monitor moisture content across a farmer’s land. Understanding specific weather patterns via a weather network and the different micro-climates to measure heat, wind direction, rain, and other metrics. This will help ensure that correct amount of fertilizer/spray is used in each region of the land and paddocks.

As the world’s population continues to grow this and other technology will be very important to ensure there are ample crops.

Mark also stated that he has previously used weather modelling tools that show yield but this requires manual entries. Previous to this Mark recorded everything manually. Mark is currently assessing what IoT could do for his farm to digitize and increase yields while saving costs. To learn what you and your customers can do with precision farming to increase your yields with Azure IoT click here.

Aaron Whittaker @aaronw2003

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