The Future of Agriculture is in Your Hands — Literally [Opinion]

Growers boot up drone technology on the farm
Photo courtesy of Highland Precision Ag

Technology is a blessing. For some though, it also could be seen as a curse. It all depends on how you look at it. Can you actually reach the point of having too much information? Perhaps when your pupils resemble giant saucers or when the drool on your face is no longer noticeable to you.

I have to admit to feeling this way a time or two (million) when delving headlong into online reader metrics for GrowingProduce.com. It’s a big part of my job, and the ways to measure growth and pinpoint weak spots continues to evolve and expand. Keeping up with it all can be a challenge.

However, having the access to the copious amount of data is a huge opportunity.

The complications surrounding not only providing the consuming public with sustenance, but also making a decent living requires more than just sweat, tears, blood, and more sweat. Well beyond desktop computers, the age of mobile data intelligence is here, and it is making an impact on how you farm. If it’s not as of yet, you’re missing the boat.

Data Plans

Recently, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the availability of up to $5 million for research to strengthen the science behind the next wave of digitally connected agricultural tools and resources through its Cyber Physical Systems program.
Self-driving tractors and vehicles, as well as smart irrigation scheduling apps, are just some examples of the cyber-physical systems already in use or testing.

Florida Grower® magazine’s February 2017 cover story takes a deep dive into the status of big data and its influence on agribusiness. Robert Saik, noted agricultural futurist, was interviewed for the article and says artificial intelligence is the smart bet for farming going forward. “The biggest decision a grower will have to make in the next three years or sooner is the data platform he or she chooses to run their operation,” he predicts. That statement says a lot about the meteoric rise in rank of ag-tech among other well-established farm management obligations.

Robotic Reality

Sooner than you probably think, you could look out onto your fields and not see any farmworkers. This is not just because of the ongoing labor crisis, but because they will be replaced by droids.

Momentum keeps building for companies like ag-tech startup Harvest CROO Robotics. The Plant City, FL-based operation’s concept for an autonomous strawberry picker continues to churn closer to fruition. In addition to several industry investors taking an interest to kick-start the notion into reality, the company was recently awarded a grant of up to $1 million by the National Science Foundation, which would go to the support the company’s mission to answer the need for agricultural labor with technology.

Yep. They get it. Why wait for government regulation — which may or may not ever come — to save your business? The power is at your fingertips — even more than you know.

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