Farming News - How will smart technology shape the future of farming?

How will smart technology shape the future of farming?

04 Aug 2020
Frontdesk / Arable / Livestock

Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, farmers were braced for change as a result of the end of the UK’s membership of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). These concerns have been compounded by COVID-19. However, the industry is known for being resourceful, and many farmers have met the challenge and are looking at new ways to future-proof their businesses.

Smart farming and precision agriculture have long been buzzwords in the industry, with numerous reports discussing the Internet of Things’ impact in agriculture under the headings of ‘AgIOT’ or ‘AIOT’. And this thinking, once fanciful, has been fast-tracked to become a fundamental component of this new age of agriculture – set to transform an industry and work towards food security to meet our ever-expanding needs. As with any disruptor, smart technology has the potential to empower widespread change and improvement through easily-integrable solutions.

What will the future of farming look like? Data-led – with higher yields and profits off the back of precision processes, is what Matthew Margetts, Director of Sales and Marketing at Smarter Technologies predicts. 

“Data insights will empower a granular view of operations – no matter how staggered or spread out they are,” he explains. And with this in mind, he shares some key considerations for farmers as we look to the future.

Farm Labour

With the UK’s strong reliance on migrant labour from Europe, labour shortages as a result of COVID-19 have highlighted the vulnerabilities of the supply chain on a grand scale. Many farmers around the world are looking to automation and robotics as a solution. The advancements have allowed farmers to work to full capacity with fewer labourers. On top of this, data-streamlined systems tend to require fewer people to achieve the same results (with lower overheads and reduced chance of human error), which could well be the trend going forward.

Further trends such as autonomous vehicles will only add to the opportunities for farmers to benefit from the cost savings technology provides. 

Farm Security

Farms have always been a target for criminals. Remoteness, high-value assets, and the easy resale of items such as quad bikes all play into their hands. Moreover, with the government incentivising access to public lands and a limited understanding of country code amongst consumers, farm security becomes even more important to prevent perimeter breaches, stock theft, or gates being left open because of basic ignorance.

A system of sensors and tags can connect farmers to the minutiae of their operations via a secure data network. This low-cost solution can send notifications on everything from perimeter breaches and unauthorised access to altered storage tank levels, movement of assets, and, in some cases, be linked directly to rural crime officers who can then act on the information. 

Food Security

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) have predicted that food production will need to increase by 70% by 2050 to feed our growing global population. Farmers face a range of challenges to grow food production in a context of shrinking arable land, climate change, and limited natural resources. Here, a revolution in farming practice may be our only hope in meeting quotas for survival. As never before, farmers of the future will have to look at all opportunities to maximise yields, reduce costs, and meet their deliverables like never before.

Smart technology linked to livestock monitoring and precision farming looking at water retention across all parts of a field are acting to highlight some of the savings and present the first steps towards rethinking the yield equation. 

Data-driven crop farming

What can be monitored can be more effectively managed. Sensors can monitor temperature, humidity, fertiliser levels, pesticides, disease, soil, irrigation, humidity, carbon dioxide levels, and plant growth (and just about everything else). This means the immediate power to react – even in large-scale operations – without the need for slow, costly manual checks. Real-time data reporting also allows for precision adjustments which will increase yields and improve profitability.

Dairy and livestock – herd management made smarter

For cattle and dairy farmers, smart technologies will remove the time and guesswork regarding livestock well-being for cattle and dairy farmers. Real-time herd management means immediate detection of illness, which can lower spread and mortality rates. Instant notifications of high temperatures also have fertility and calving benefits for breeders. Through an ingestible bolus, together with pressure pads, sensors, and cattle collars, stress factors can be quickly addressed while location, weight-gain, feed quality, and overall health are closely monitored.

The only way is up

On the extreme end of this, vertical farming and greenhouse cropping can be perfected to almost superhuman standards. Gauging optimal conditions and being able to manipulate and adapt conditions for premium growth is the space-saving, resource-conserving, yield-enhancing method which may well define farming of the future.

Smarter – from gate to plate

Smart technologies can be used throughout the supply chain to ensure produce is more sustainably farmed to reach consumers faster and fresher. Smart sensors give insights into atmospheric and storage conditions at every stage of the supply chain, with actionable alerts along the way, to reduce waste.

Traceability becomes automatic ensuring that, at every stage of the process, reports can be generated to meet compliance and regulatory checks. 

Insights to analyse, adapt, and act

The agricultural technologies available today have been designed to be powerful, accessible solutions for farmers. Multi-faceted, real-time reporting over trusted data networks creates a detailed overview of entire operations – no matter how remote or dispersed. Through these unique insights, farmers are empowered to analyse, adapt, and act to preserve resources, deal with diminishing workforces and achieve total efficiency.