Avoid Technology at Your Peril [Opinion]

Some colleagues and I were shooting the breeze recently about the fantastic growth in the use of technology in growing fruit and other specialty crops.

Among other things, we decided we needed to clear up the way we referred to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones. Though drone is commonly used, a lot of people in agriculture feel it has a regrettable connotation to their use in military operations.

But one editor noted that global positioning systems (GPS) came from the military, and the term “GPS” is commonly used today in any number of fields, with no military connotation. It’s so familiar, it’s just become part of the lexicon.

She was right, and I immediately agreed, saying these tiny aircraft will be all over the place in just a couple years. I surprised myself in saying it, because I honestly hadn’t consciously given that particular aspect of the technology a lot of thought. I’ve been reading so much about them over the past few years, the vision that they would soon be everywhere had apparently seeped into my subconscious.

I got to thinking about that when writing this month’s cover story on n.io, an artificial intelligence platform. A comment from one of the growers in the story, Phil Asmundson, stuck with me.

He said: “You can avoid technology, but do so at your own peril.”

Avoid it? I can’t imagine anyone wanting to go backward. Who among you would prefer to conduct your day-to-day business without your smartphone?

Of course, I’m biased, as I think technology’s going to have a dramatic effect on farming over the next few years — and beyond.

I don’t want to repeat the gist of the cover story, “Vineyard of the Future?” But very briefly, Phil and Kim Asmundson won’t be making irrigation decisions this coming year on their Willcox, AZ, vineyard. They’ve “taught” n.io exactly what soil moisture they want at various grapevine depths for their many varieties, and they expect n.io to take care of it.

In the past, I would have referred to this as an advanced form of precision agriculture. This domain used to belong to the program crops, such as field corn and soybeans, and has long been referred to as “Precision Ag.”

But as can be seen in the cover story, the application in horticultural crops such as fruits and vegetables has aspects that are applicable only to these crops. I mean, no offense to the program crop growers, but I daresay the range in quality in winegrapes is greater than that in soybeans.

The opportunity to utilize big data and precision agriculture in specialty crops will provide benefits greater than those realized in commodity crops. While these technologies have been in use in row crops for years, they are just now being widely adopted in specialty crops.

In short order, these technologies will be coming at fruit growers at a dizzying pace. For that reason, our parent company, Meister Media Worldwide, is launching HortTech™ as a priority initiative in its coverage of specialty crops. Just look for the HortTech icon, which will highlight stories on this fast-developing sector.

So please join us in the coming months and years as we present new technological applications designed to help make you fruit growers become more efficient, sustainable, and productive.

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