Originally published in The Kawartha Promoter, Feb. 20, 2020 (Volume 30, Issue 3). See original publication here, on page 10 and 11.
Using GPS, cell phone apps, drones, and robots together sounds like something in a sci-fi thriller. It’s definitely high-tech, but it’s not sci-fi. This is what farmers today are using to increase yields, keep livestock healthy, and monitor their farms.
GPS isn’t just used to get you down the 401 and into the city anymore. Along with auto-steering mechanisms, computers, and monitors built into field equipment, farmers are able to use GPS to precision till, plant, fertilize, spray, and harvest their fields. Monitors in harvesting equipment can track the crop yield in a field down to its precise location, letting farmers know of potential issues in low-yielding areas. They can then check the yield maps from the fields and adjust their crop planning for future seasons. The precision driving from GPS and auto-steering means farmers can also be more accurate in their fertilizer, seed, and spray distribution in their fields, which is more economical and can be more environmentally friendly.
Cell phone apps can help farmers be alerted to issues on the farm without being physically there. While off the farm, apps and cameras can let them know when cows are calving, help identify weeds in their field crops, aid in choosing the best herbicide, and track and record livestock data.
With fewer people working on farms, using robots can take over jobs previously done by humans, freeing up farmers’ time for other jobs. Robotic milkers in dairy barns are used to milk cows on their own schedule, increasing cow comfort as well as milk production. Robots in barns can be used to move and distribute feed to livestock. Robots are also being developed to harvest fruits and vegetables, which means less human labour. Other robots are designed to thin crops and spray weeds, decreasing manual labour and reducing herbicide use.
Drones are another high-tech tool being used by farmers today. They can map fields, monitor crops and identify problem areas. Without drones, farmers need to complete these activities on foot or by vehicle, walking through their fields to analyze weed populations and look for diseases and nutrient deficiencies in their field crops. Now drones can find the problem areas and farmers can check specific field locations in person. These examples are only a small portion of the tech used by today’s farmers. With advancing technology, the possibilities of its use in agriculture are limitless.