In 1940, farmers could work all year long and only manage to feed 19 people. Today, thanks in great part to technological advances, one farmer alone feeds 155 individuals. Today’s technology is different from that of even just a few years ago.
Throughout each sector of agriculture there have been massive changes in the way farmers work to produce food. These new technologies have created an opportunity to be successful in the pursuit of feeding a projected 9 billion people.
Animal agriculture has had to make a multitude of advances, many of which work to overcome the common stigma that follows large-scale animal production. Some of the newest changes include new technologies that fine tune animal welfare practices. Other changes encompass genetic tracking capabilities as well as animal tracking devices.
Farmers of all sizes have their own goals and standards for their farms. More specifically, some farmers who raise cattle are looking into a newer ear tag identification that allows the animal to be tracked from its birth on the farm to the plate in a restaurant.
John Tummons, a professor at the University of Missouri in Columbia, raises cattle right here in Columbia, Missouri. He is just one of many cattle farmers honing in on genetic advancements and the way they can be used to rapidly advance the marketing quality of his herd.
“The focus on collecting cattle data has really been a game changer for us … looking at data in terms of tenderness and marbling, those are multigene traits that are important to us,” Tummons said.
Other forms of newer advancements surface in areas like swine farming. A geofencing tool that will track the movements of individuals that enter the electronically “fenced” area can be a major help to combat the never-ending danger of biosecurity. It will read the location of the individual from their mobile phone and hold information as to where they have previously been and how long ago they were there. Adopting new technologies on animal production farms requires careful thought and planning to ensure it is a logical business endeavor for the individual operation to implement.
Crop farmers face similar challenges to make the highest yield possible. There is no shortage of new technologies to help farmers achieve this harvest goal either. Some products include the time saving and resource maximizing technologies that accompany the latest precision equipment and combines. After implementing these kinds of innovative ideas, producers like Rolla, Missouri, row crop farmer Justin Brown can see a real payoff for his investments in these expensive tools.
“Ag technology has been a worthwhile investment on our corn and soybean operation,” Brown said. “Technology has not only made our farming more consistent but it has saved us time and money in the long run. With the new guidance systems, I never have to worry about over applying chemicals or wasting seeds.”
Additionally, researchers are working to create an extremely intelligent surveillance system to perfect the detection of diseases, weeds, damage and other common crop field troubles. More technologies along these lines and even more advanced are in the works all across the globe, all with the same end goal of producing more with less.
Leon Schumacher, Agriculture Systems Management professor at MU, envisions a future with widely accepted extreme advancements, including rooms full of monitors that track all the movements on a variety of farms. He explains that it is vital to the betterment of agriculture to have internet access expanded to all farmers no matter their size or location so that these kinds of advancements can be made across the board. Many troubles surround small farmers and affording this new technology.
According to an article by Carnegie Mellon University robotics engineer George Kantor, the use of intelligent robots may change the economic model of farming so that it becomes feasible to be a small producer again.
“A common misperception of farmers is that is doesn’t take any skill or any technological knowledge to be a farmer and that just is not true,” Tummons said. “I think things are changing really quickly and those who understand the technologies the best are the people who are going to survive in production agriculture,”
Big or small, changes are coming and are an important part of the future of agriculture.