Technologies changing methods of Agriculture
Technology in general terms refers to the application of any scientific knowledge, skills, methods, techniques or any processes for practical purposes, especially in an industry.
But when it comes to the Agriculture sector, it means application of these techniques or any such knowledge and skill to improve the agricultural productivity, quality of crops, etc.
Climatic change has always been a challenge for the farmers, and they also need to protect their crops from insects and pests. They always need such a system which can help them to produce high quality crops in an effective manner without any loss of resources. Technology in Agriculture has been developed to make it easy and hassle free, increase productivity, reduce manpower and make it cost effective.
The modern age is the age of Digitization and almost every field is now connected to it. The industries are getting transformed through various means of technologies and innovative practices and the Agriculture sector is also not left behind from it. The agriculture sector has experienced a massive shift from traditional to modern farming techniques including Drones, Sensors, and many more. These are not only the future of the farming industry but maybe they can be the keys of survival for the human race.
This article is about those technologies which have changed the methods/ways of farming.
Role and Need of Technology in Agriculture
Technology is ver important in Agriculture as the crop yield and higher productivity is totally dependent on it. Technologies help in developing the machines for farming which would help the farmers in every stage of farming. These machines will help in the tilling of soil, plantation of seeds, irrigation, harvesting and also controlling them from pests and diseases.
Human population is increasing day by day and since the resources are limited, we need to practice some sustainable farming techniques to meet the future demands. Also, the arable land is decreasing due to urbanization and industrialization and we have got very little place for agriculture, and with the growing population there will be increase in the demand of food and due to this, there is a much higher requirement to move to modern farming techniques because the traditional farming has limited yield of crops and require larger spaces for farming. So, for meeting the needs of the future there is a very huge demand to use the innovative technologies and modern techniques of farming so as to feed the growing population.
The agriculture industry has started facing challenges as the cost of supplies are rising, there is a shortage of labour and also the consumer preferences are changing day by day for transparency and sustainability. So to meet the needs of the customers there is a requirement for modern practices as these technologies help to produce more crops in less space of land and the quality of crops being much organic and disease free.
Importance of Technologies in Agriculture
Technologies have become a helping hand for the farmers which not only help them with plantation of crops, and Irrigation but also help them with the application of fertilizers and pesticides.
Some other benefits to include are mentioned below.
- Higher yield of crops
- Minimized use of water resources, fertilizers and pesticides
- Reduced Run-off of chemicals into rivers
- Reduced Manpower, and increased safety of workers
- Less impact on natural ecosystems and environment
- Monitoring of crops
- High quality foods with safe growing conditions
- Higher efficiency and cost effective
Technologies Changing the way of Farming
Technologies are highly emphasized to enhance the productivity of crops. Smart farming helps the farmers to produce more sustainable and productive output of their crops. These technologies help these farmers to predict the best climatic conditions required for their crops which have resulted in a positive way for most of the farmers and has led to an ultimate access to high quality food products at reasonable prices.
Let us learn about some of these innovative practices which have revolutionized agriculture.
See and Spray technology
The agricultural industry has a most important goal of applying the pesticides uniformly all over the farm because under dosing may not provide the desired coverage and control and overdose may contaminate the soil and groundwater and could become more expensive.
This technology is based on the spraying of pesticides whenever or wherever a weed or pest is seen in the farm land. The AgriTech providers claim that smart spraying of solutions would lower the herbicides costs upto 90% due to selective application on weeds only.
The selective spraying of herbicides is based on computer vision and Data Analytics where they provide data driven actions.
This technology is divided into three stages:
- Find and Define – The sprayers are equipped with the cameras which capture real-time images of the spraying area in the field. They are trained with examples of what weeds exactly look like and they identify these weeds in images and label them as their targets for spraying.
- Decide and Act – As soon as the spraying camera captures the image and the system analyzes for the presence of weeds in the farm, the robotic nozzles target those weeds with high precision and spray doses of herbicides that is adequate for the weeds size and age and it applies only to the targeted plants and avoids those areas which is open.
- Analyze and Improve – This type of selective spraying technology reduces the use of chemicals and also reduces the Global annual consumption of herbicides up to 2.5 billion Pounds. These smart spraying solutions help the farmers to know the exact amount of product they are using so as to calculate their cost savings.
These smart spraying technologies help the farmers to save money and also avoid overspending on the herbicides which are wasted in case of broadcast spraying. Also, it prevents harmful doses of chemicals which are sprayed on fields and spread around the environment causing contamination of soil and ground waters and thus harming the environment.
Nitrogen is the most essential nutrient for production of crops and also the most challenging to work with. The compound is very important to achieve food and nutrition security, but could lead to major consequences, damaging the environment due to fertilizer leak in case of excess nitrogen.
Nitrogen is used to make amino acids which make proteins and is one of the building blocks for DNA. It also helps in the growth of plants because it is a major component of chlorophyll.
In the process of Nitrogen Cycle in which Nitrogen moves from the atmosphere to the earth, through soil converting the organic matter into ammonium and nitrate which is absorbed by the plants and excess nitrates are converted back into inorganic nitrogen by denitrifying bacteria which is released back into the atmosphere. Excess nitrate can seep into the soil and can pollute groundwater streams, due to rain or irrigation.
Nitrogen use efficiency is maintained using Nitrogen modeling and it enhances crop productivity, minimizing environmental losses through careful agronomic management and helps in improvement of soil quality over time. This ratio can be improved by targeting fertilizer application and using slow release nitrogen fertilizers. Precision Nitrogen application tools can also be used or fertigation can be done using micro irrigation.
Nitrogen modeling ensures the use of farm management practices that would account for the capacity of soils and the crops being grown to remove Nitrogen. It will also help in ensuring the sustainability and future uses of water resources.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Internet of things is a concept of connecting different databases to the internet. In Agriculture, it is implemented to boost the productivity of the crops, preserve the resources and minimize the costs. IoT has enabled smart farming which not only benefits the farmers but it also optimizes the inputs and treatments including efficient usage of water and other resources.
Applications of IoT in Agriculture
- Precision Farming
Precision farming is a farming technique which is more controlled and accurate in terms of raising livestock or growing crops. It uses various components like sensors, control systems, robotics, automated vehicles and automated hardwares.
- Agricultural Drones
Agricultural drones are one of the most effective technologies in agriculture which are used in ways of ground based or aerial based to monitor the crop health, irrigation, spraying of pesticides, planting of seeds, analyzing soil and fields including soil, air and moisture quality.
Drones are used for increasing the crop yield as it has real time monitoring of data and it has an ease of use.
- Livestock Monitoring
Agriculture requires regular monitoring of its livestock and the gap between supply and demand is also continuously increasing day by day. IoT helps the farmers to track the stock information directly on their mobile phones and enables them to detect flu breakouts on an early basis so they can separate the infected breeds with non infected ones.
- IoT analytics
IoT has smart sensors which analyze the weather conditions and help the farmers with smart and automated decision making in case of extreme weather conditions like floods, droughts, etc. Its predictive analysis also includes soil quality, humidity, and temperature as its parameters.
- Smart Greenhouses
Greenhouse farming enables the farmers to grow crops in a controlled environment where every requirement is maintained artificially. IoT helps to monitor as well as control the climate in the greenhouse reducing manual intervention by connecting it to a cloud server which will process real time data and apply the control action. It will be more cost effective and an optimal solution for the farmers as it would provide information about light levels, pressure, humidity and temperature and would automatically operate all the equipment like turning ON the lights or fans or controlling heaters, etc. through a WiFi signal.
- Smart waste management
The biological wastes produced from farming can be reused for making fertilizers and pesticides. IoT enables us to measure the toxic chemicals in the waste by using smart sensors, thus managing the proper agricultural life cycle in a smart way.
Automated Irrigation system
Automated Irrigation system is an application of Automation technology which makes the irrigation process more efficient and productive by the use of sensors, timers and mechanical appliances. It is a system in which human intervention is minimized and everything is monitored automatically.
Automated irrigation systems set up a smart network over the entire field which includes the source of water and the pumping which is controlled by microcontrollers like Arduino. The system monitors the moisture content of the field and turns on the pump when the moisture level is below the required amount and then turns off when the required moisture is reached.
Robotics in Agriculture
The farming industry has changed to a whole new environment where manual intervention has reduced to a high extent. Robotics is a high tech technology used in Agriculture where Robots pick up the crops during harvesting and strip away weeds at a faster rate than any human labourers.
Robots are used for many tasks such as:
- Green seeker robots to read the requirements of plants.
- Robot drone tractors to decide the location of planting, time of harvest
- Flying Robots to spread fertiliser
- Fruit picking Robots
- Robot cattle Grazing and Automatic Milking
Electrical Conductivity Sensing
Electrical conductivity is the measurement of a soil ability to conduct electrical current. Electrical conductivity is affected due to following factors:
- Size of the soil particle
- Organic matter in soil
- Nutrient level in the soil
- Soil compaction
- Soil drainage ability
- Water holding capacity of the soil
- Salinity of the soil
- Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) of the soil
The sensors used in electrical conductivity provide a way to overcome the factors mentioned above. This technology is used by the farmers who use precision farming technology to create spatially dense datasets and provide information about the soil variability to the producers. Many fields have different soil texture and thus it can be divided into different management zones and can be sampled for nematodes. It would also help to manage weed resistance, thus enabling high yielding of crops.
Agricultural technologies are moving into the future by offering help to the farmers in optimizing inputs, farm management and increased productivity. They help to produce high yielding of crops in a low investment, thus boosting the margin of profits. They have brought several disruptions in the industry making it one of the major career options for the young minds. Many agricultural technician jobs are in high demand and we can say that technologies have changed agriculture for the better and to the better!