by Taylor Dobbs
December 29, 2015
from Technocracy Website
Some track temperatures in the greenhouse air around his cucumbers.
Others track wind speed and rainfall in segments of field roughly a quarter-acre in size. When something is amiss - temperatures are too high or the soil is too dry - he receives an alert on his smartphone.
He also sends out drones to survey his field crops for dryness, soil erosion, and plant health.
For centuries, farming was an intuitive process.
Today, it's networked, analytical, and data-driven.
Large farms (1,000 acres or more) started the trend, adopting the tools of precision agriculture - using GPS-guided tractors, drones, and computer modeling to customize how each inch of land is farmed. Farm managers can measure and map things like soil acidity and nitrogen levels, and then apply fertilizer to specific plants - not just spray and pray.
As a result, they get the most out of every seed they plant.
Such methods have reduced farm costs by
an average of 15 percent and increased yields by 13 percent,
according to a 2014 survey by the American Farm Bureau
Cox, for one, says he has cut labor and
fertilizer costs by as much as 70 percent, and in some cases doubled
his crop yields.
He can also create 3-D models of crops to show biomass volume. He can look at larger landscape patterns via drone. And he can share information in real time.
His next innovation will be employing robots in the field. When corn grows to a mature height, it's difficult to get through the rows to apply nitrogen. Instead, farmers apply it to the soil at the start of a season and hope it lasts.
But Rowbot - created by Minnesota agricultural engineer Kent Cavender-Bares and his two brothers, one a roboticist - is small and sturdy enough to carry several gallons of nitrogen and work its way down the space between rows, applying nitrogen when needed.
That data will, in turn, affect how farmers like Cox manage their land.