The Definition Of Precision Ag

Technology moves us forward in virtually every industry. Just look at Apple, and in particular, iPhones. The iPhone 7 is now rolling out. I remember getting the iPhone 3 and thinking it was the greatest thing ever.

Back then I thought, “How can they top this?” I got my answer and then some.

Last month, while in the Golden State visiting growers, attending variety trials, and speaking with some of the heads of startup companies affiliated with the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology, I learned about some cutting-edge scientific developments that will benefit vegetable growers.

The startups have big plans: the use of aerial images to track plant vigor in the field, patent-pending moisture sensors that provide real-time soil moisture and temperature data; and devices, still in the prototype phase, that will work with hand-picked specialty crops, providing the grower with information about the speed with which employees harvest crops — and much more.

I also had an opportunity to see precision thinning units operating in lettuce fields. The accuracy of this equipment was impressive.

These technologies fall under the umbrella of precision ag. That’s a term that has been around for a number of years, and we usually see it through the prism of row crop production. But I started to wonder how we should be defining “precision ag” for specialty crops in 2016.

I asked some of the folks I visited with what precision ag means to you as a vegetable grower. One person told me it is still evolving. Another defined it as tools that will help with increasing yields and devices that will reduce the number of people needed in the field.

The topic of labor came up repeatedly, and more than one person said the lack of labor and the rise of minimum wage in California will push growers to adopt precision technologies in more aspects of their operations — just to stay in business.

To help you gain a better understanding of why precision ag matters to your future success, American Vegetable Grower® magazine’s parent company, Meister Media Worldwide, is hosting the Precision Ag Vision Conference in Phoenix, AZ, Oct. 18-20.

The conference’s agenda is for leadership of agriculture, food, supplier, financial, and policymaking organizations who must chart a longer-term direction for their organizations through the coming digitization
of the farm. For details about the conference, go to PrecisionAgVision.com.

As the world’s population has been projected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050, we will need to use the latest technology — including precision ag tools — to to feed the world. It’s time to rise to the challenge.
We all need to eat. It is as simple as that.

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