Farmers have heard plenty about high-tech farming, where you’re starting to capture data and put it to use. But it appears the term may be changing to digital farming. It’s a trend that could better describe just how farming has evolved in the past half-decade as more companies — both legacy and startup — work to capture information and manage it in new ways.
What are the potential benefits of this new digital farming world? Here’s a look at three trends, based on conversations from farm shows and global media events, that could shape how you do business in the future.
• Machine communication expands.
The trend for machines talking to each other has been around for some time, with the advent of ISOBUS. The rising trend toward ISOBUS Class 3, where the implement not only talks to the tractor but also tells the tractor what to do (in a way) offers potential for increased productivity, and also more precise farming with less-trained workers.
When the implement and the machine are in communication and the implement tells the tractor to slow or speed up, depending on conditions, without operator intervention, the potential for producing more consistent results improves. While the first tech is with baling equipment, the potential for site-specific tillage and other enhanced services is possible.
It’s a next-generation tech that’s a logical progression in the development of equipment as digital control of machinery expands.
• Information from new sources.
Over the years farmers have done a great job turning their combines and implements into data-gathering tools. The yield maps, as-applied maps and other information associated with these implements have improved the layers of information farmers have for their operations. Yet farmers are looking to the skies to gather more information to enhance decision-making.
Whether that’s imagery from unmanned aerial vehicles, or the rising number of users of satellite information for crop and livestock decision-making, that’s just one example of new types of information. The rising interest in sensors in agriculture, whether on equipment or placed strategically in a field, will provide new levels of information as well. Lower-cost sensors will allow you to capture a range of information for decision-making in the future.
• Building a crop model.
This is perhaps the most promising, but also the most daunting challenge for all this information: the ability to essentially grow a crop in a computer and look at key factors to determine what could impact yield. Nitrogen modeling is one of the early tools that can actually help you determine the best way to fertilize your crop.
University work is showing, in more detail, how your crop uses nutrients, and with that information there will be more information about how best to apply the valuable N, P and K for the future.
Digital farming is a reality, but how it gets put to work on your farm will evolve in the next few seasons.
- Decision Time: Technology is independently produced by Penton Agriculture and brought to you through the support of Case IH. For more information, visit farmindustrynews.com/decisiontime.