Future Trends in Agriculture

Future Trends in Agriculture drone

Agriculture is changing quickly as farmers integrate new technology. Drones, robotics, sensors, and AI are just a few of the new innovations that are taking place. Small farmers are starting to use a new system called vertical farming, and even bee keepers have a new vaccine to help bees survive a devastating disease called American foulbrood. 

Drones are quickly being adopted by farmers to monitor and improve crop performance. Drones can fly above crops and through thermal imaging and multi sensors, capture information on crop health, pests, environmental stresses (drought, excess moisture, heat stress, etc.) and nutrition needs of crops. Drones can map soils, check on crop variability, and help farmers make decisions about how to fix issues in the field. Real time information helps farmers respond quickly to improve crop performance. Often, farmers save money because nutrients or pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides) are only applied to areas that need attention. This saves farmers money and also is better for the environment. 

GPS (global positioning systems) and auto steer options help farmers farm by the inch because they know exactly where they are in a field. These options are becoming common on most new agriculture equipment including tractors, planters, sprayers, and combines or other harvesters. GPS allows farmers to precisely apply seeds and inputs like fertilizer and chemicals. 

Some farmers tell me they get bored now because the tractor or combine almost runs itself. Soon automative robots will be running the equipment, planting, harvesting, spraying, and applying inputs very precisely, with little to no soil compaction. Robotic equipment can easily be downsized to 4 to 6 rows which reduces the weight. Robots may operate 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. They may also be used to monitor crop health. Multiple robots may soon be used on farms and the number of robots a farmer has will be decided by how many acres they farm and how many they can handle. 

New sensors for moisture, soil temperature, nutrient needs, pests (insects, diseases, weeds) are being used with lots of data being generated. Over a trillion data points per acre up to a quadrillion bits of information or more per acre. The human mind can not process that much information, but with computer programs and artificial intelligence (AI), that information is summarized to help farmers make decisions quickly. AI can analyze multiple scenarios to help farmers make the best decisions in real time. Even farm management issues like how to lower costs, maximize labor, how to get the product to market, how to get the best price, or produce the highest quality product while making the most profit. 

AI are like high powered human brains, making multiple decisions. How do they make the decisions? They use multiple scenarios called digital twins, replicating what is occurring in the real world. Then based on real time data and multiple scenarios and risks, they pick the best option. Humans input is still used to develop risk options. For example, one farmer might want a 95% chance of success (5% failure) while another farmer can accept 20% failure (80 percent chance of success). Generally, as risk increases, higher profits follow but not always and AI helps farmers lower potential risks and potential failures while maximizing profits. 

Vertical farming is becoming a major trend. Instead of farming horizontally over a flat surface, many crops are now being grown hydroponically in vertical structures, with and without greenhouses. The advantage to this system is that it uses as much as 95% less water with very precise nutrition. Since there is less pests from insects, disease, and weeds; less pesticides are generally used on these systems. However, the downside is they are expensive to build and they generally use lots of electricity. Common crops grown include leafy vegetables, herbs, micro greens but also strawberries, squash, melons, green beans, even rice and potatoes. Vertical farming is becoming increasing more important as our population expands world wide and good quality soil is becoming less available. Vertical farming is becoming common in cities and densely populated urban areas. 

There are many more innovations in farming coming but a new novel one is a vaccine for bees. A new vaccine (2023) for queen bees has been developed to prevent American foul brood, a deadly bacterial disease that is devastating bee hives. The worker bees are fed a sugary mix which they turn into “Queens food” a royal jelly. Instead of injecting the bees, the Queen’s food gives the Queen bee immunity to the American foulbrood disease which she passes on to her off spring. Enjoy the changes coming in the future.