One of the most significant challenges for new farmers isn’t about finances or labor. Instead, many new farmers aren’t up to date on how agtech has developed over the past few years – and what kind of new technologies can help make their farms more efficient or eco-friendly.
All farmers – regardless of skill set or niche – should know about some of the latest agtech developments reshaping the agricultural sector.
The Digitization and Automation of Agriculture
The rise of agricultural robots has been one of the most remarkable developments in agtech. These machines can help farmers cut down on the amount of labor it takes to plant, cultivate and harvest crops.
For example, a handful of semi-autonomous tractors are already on the market. These tractors come equipped with cameras and other sensors that help farmers control the tractor while out in the field. Some can drive themselves under specific conditions or for limited periods.
Fully autonomous tractors likely won’t be available until late this decade, but they will probably have a major impact when they arrive on the market. These tractors could soon allow farmers to automate massive portions of the cultivation and harvesting process.
How New Tech Is Making Agriculture More Eco-Friendly
Modern agtech doesn’t only help farmers boost the efficiency of their farms. Some new applications of existing technology are also assisting farmers’ efforts to make their practices more sustainable and eco-friendly.
For example, food waste remains a massive challenge for the industry. Without careful tracking and management, produce can spoil at every step of the process — in the field, the supply chain or the supermarket.
To solve this issue, agtech developers have found a way to use spectrometers to determine produce’s ripeness. Shining UV lights on a piece of fruit, for example, can excite the chlorophyll in the fruit’s skin. The specific wavelengths that this UV-excited chlorophyll produces can tell you how ripe the fruit is, and how long it is likely to last before spoiling.
Farmers can pass this info on to shippers and other supply chain professionals, who can store fruits that are closer to spoiling in controlled climate conditions that slow down the ripening process. Shippers could also prioritize these items for processing, ensuring that they don’t instead go bad in the supply chain or at the supermarket.
Other farmers are using new agtech to tackle water waste. For instance, smart irrigation controllers use vast webs of internet-connected sensors and other devices that track humidity and soil hydration to intelligently and automatically manage watering — irrigating crops only as needed.
Some farmers have also started to use drones to improve watering efficiency. When equipped with spray nozzles, drones can accurately target and water crops, reducing water costs by as much as 60%, depending on the crop.
You can also have a look at: How automation is revolutionizing agriculture growth and storage
New Agtech Can Support Sustainable Farming Practices
As new, more eco-friendly farming practices gain popularity among farmers, agtech developers are finding ways to apply their tech to these practices.
For example, regenerative agriculture is an agricultural practice aimed at using farming systems to generate food while restoring the local environment. Farmers following these principles adopt new practices that help them rebuild topsoil and improve area biodiversity.
Practitioners of this technique sometimes use cutting-edge tech, like AI-powered farm data analytics. The right tools can help farmers manage soil nutrient management and cover crop planting. Over time, these tools can also allow them to track the impact of their regenerative practices on soil quality and the local environment.
How New Farmers Can Leverage Modern Agtech
The latest developments in agtech can make a significant difference for beginning farmers. New tech can help reduce labor, reduce waste and even make it easier to implement restorative or regenerative agricultural practices.
While labor and finances are likely to be major areas of concern for beginning farmers, they shouldn’t overlook the major shifts happening in agtech — many of which could simplify their work or help them cut down on agricultural waste.