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Technology:The Future of Agriculture

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A recent article looks at the technology and how it has and still will make an agricultural revolution in the future. This article is published by nature outlook; and postulates that a technological revolution in farming led by advances in robotics and sensing technologies could reform modern farming practices. Farmers have over the years adopted technology, however advances in robotics and remote sensing technologies could disrupt today’s agribusiness model.

The following robotics and remote sensing technologies are being implemented:-

  • Automatic ways to monitor greenhouse fruit and vegetable production to reduce costs and increase crop quality (Ripe for the picking).
  • Livestock farmers are using sensing technologies to manage the health and welfare of their animals (Animal trackers). 
  • Monitoring soil quality (Silicon soil saviours)
  • Eliminating pests and diseases without using agrichemicals (Eliminating Enemies)

These technologies are still in the research labs and have a potential to revolutionize the agricultural practice.

Ripe for the Picking 

The Strawberry harvester is a technology developed in the United Kingdom by Green and it relies on stereoscopic vision with RGB cameras to capture depth, but it is its powerful algorithms that allow it to pick a strawberry every two seconds. The challenge with the technology so far is it ability to pick all kinds of vegetables - even within one type for example tomatoes come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours.

In the picture to the left, Zude-Sasse has implemented the technology for pears, citrus fruits, peaches, bananas and apples. 

Eliminating enemies

According to FAO, about 20-40% of global crop yields are lost each year to pests and diseases, despite the application of pesticides. There is hope that intelligent devices such as robots and drones could allow farmers to halve the use of agrichemicals and help in detecting pests and allowing for their early removal.

The use of drones will continue and these with specialised cameras could be useful in collecting the needed data for managing pests. For example, the article cites, "these cameras would be able to collect data from the invisible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that could allow farmers to pinpoint a fungal disease, for example, before it becomes established" (nature.com)

Animal trackers

While smart collars have been used to monitor cows in Scotland since 2010, new collars being developed by the Israeli dairy-farm-technology company Afimilk detect early signs of illness and monitor the average time each cow spends eating and ruminating- with alerts sent to the farmer via smart phone.

This technology combines also cameras that are also improving the detection of threats to cow health. In Belgium, cameras have been developed to monitor broiler chickens in their runs. These are behaviour-monitoring systems help detect diseases early.

Silicon soil saviours

Soil is the most important resource for farming, yet farming practices do affect the quality of arable soils- for example large harvesters damage and compact soil, and chemicals do affect soil quality. The use of robotics and autonomous machines is poised to help maintain soil quality.

The picture on the left shows the Bonirob - developed by a team of scientists and those at Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences in Germany - can measure the indicators of soil quality, such as soil moisture and assess soil compaction.

 

The text used is modified from this article