Agriculture may have a quaint public image but in reality it’s at the forefront of modern technology. Farming, like any other industry is eager to find ways to cut costs and drive efficiencies and the technology comes in many forms, from basic smart phone apps and information websites to cutting-edge driverless tractors and weed-exterminating robots.
One of the most significant technological breakthroughs was the use of satellite guidance, something which is now adopted by many farmers. With such a reliance on machinery for day-to-day farming operations, covering the ground efficiently can lead to significant fuel, labour and input cost savings. Auto-steer, for example, allows operators to concentrate on using machinery effectively rather than on driving in a straight line, reduces driver fatigue and the risk of overlapping the same area of ground.
Satellites and now drone cameras can be used to photograph holdings and work in tandem with crop sprayers to map problem areas of a farm’s fields which allows the farmer to apply inputs variably and reducing costs. Livestock breeders are also making use of modern technology by using ultrasound and CT scanning to select stock with superior carcass quality. And while it is impossible to control the weather, investment and innovation has changed the face of forecasting, so much so that today’s Met Office four-day forecast is as accurate as a One-day forecast was 30 years ago. This information can now be accessed at a farm level via smart phone apps and websites in helping farmers plan when to plant, spray or harvest crops.
Whatever a British farm looks like in 50 year’s time technology will not be able to replace the importance of looking after your base assets, be it soil or stock, but it can make looking after it easier.