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The 21st century farm

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Those in the agriculture industry will need to continuously develop and be more efficient as new research comes to light. The PwC has reported on expert views that agricultural consumption will need to increase by close to 70 per cent by 2050 to account for the world’s growing population — projected to hit 9 billion people in the same year. While not as high, the World Bank has predicted that those across the globe will need to produce 50 per cent more food by 2050 should global population continue to rise at its current pace.

With technology on a continuous climb, this will be beneficial to the agricultural sector. Two main areas of interest are that of drones and autonomous vehicles — this guide sets out how each could assist farmers in the future.

Drones on the farm

In 2017, it is expected that gadgets like drones will make around £4.8 million. This is a 34% increase. US technology research experts Gartner has also predicted that drone production figures will jump by 39 per cent this year compared to the numbers recorded in 2016.

Benefits that technology like this can offer to the agricultural industry are:

Planting

Those working in the agricultural industry can become stressed from time to time. But with thanks to systems which have been created by start-up companies that can achieve an uptake rate of 75 per cent and reduce the costs of planting by as much as 85 per cent. The idea is that the technology sees drones shooting pods with seeds as well as plant nutrients into the soil, enabling plants to receive the nutrients they need to sustain life.

Irrigation and how to make the most of it

Drones can now be fitted with sensors, this will help farmers to stop wasting water. Think multispectral, hyperspectral or thermal sensing systems. The idea is that the technology will quickly and easily identify the driest sections of a field and then allow farmers to allocate their water resources more economically.

Spraying and monitoring your crops

Methods that those in the agriculture industry might be familiar with are spraying crops and crop monitoring. However, drones can improve both of these common practices.

Drones can be on the lookout, and scan the crops below them. They can then spray the correct amount of liquid once the distance from the ground has been modulated — even coverage will be achieved while the amount of chemicals penetrated into groundwater will be reduced.

If there are any problems that occur in the crop, the drone will be able to detect them. These kinds of insights would have previously only been gained by satellite imagery — while very advanced, this technique could only be used once a day. Monitoring through drones can be used whenever a farmer wishes.

Farm insurance from a leading insurance broker like Lycetts will give land owners and farmers peace of mind, as options are available to provide cover for everything from buildings and produce to machinery and office contents.

Farming vehicles that are autonomous

Vehicles with autonomous features are becoming a part of a bigger discussion in the tech industry. In fact, a comprehensive report by Business Insider Intelligence has forecasted that there will be close to 10 million cars available which will have either semi-autonomous or fully autonomous capabilities. From a more general perspective, management consulting firm Bain has estimated that the global opportunity for assistive and autonomous technologies for the business-to-business market will be somewhere in the range of $22 to $26 billion per year by 2025.

There are ways that autonomous vehicles can have a positive impact agricultural matters. For instance, a team of agricultural engineers from the Harper Adams University in Shropshire have set about creating an autonomous tractor which can perform tasks like the drilling, seeding and spraying of land while being steered by a farmer who is positioned not behind the vehicle’s wheel but in a control room. The same team — made up of Johnathan Gill, Kit Franklin and Martin Abell — are also looking into how an automated combine harvester can be used to then harvest the same field.

“These small autonomous machines will in turn facilitate high resolution precision farming, where different areas of the field, and possibly even individual plants can be treated separately, optimising and potentially reducing inputs being used in field agriculture. The tractor driver won’t be physically in the tractor driving up and down a field. Instead, they will be a fleet manager and agricultural analysts, looking after a number of farming robots and meticulously monitoring the development of their crops.” Mr Franklin told the Daily Mail:

Christophe Millot, who is a French inventor, has created a vine pruning robot. Developed as a counter to a shortage in farm labour, the latest-generation model of the four-wheeled gadget is made up of six cameras, two arms and a tablet computer found inside the robot. These features combine in a way that the machine can learn as it goes about its task so to trim grass around each vine with a cut every five seconds.

Insuring your farm equipment

It is important to understand that bad things could happen to the equipment you need to do your job. No matter if you choose to invest in farming drones and autonomous farm vehicles, or continue with tried-and-tested techniques in agriculture, it is important to ensure that the equipment is insured to avoid unexpected surprises from costing landowners and farmers dearly.

Sources:

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601935/six-ways-drones-are-revolutionizing-agriculture/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38089984

https://www.fginsight.com/news/surge-in-drone-sales-sparks-farmer-concern-18916

http://www.croplife.com/equipment/farming-drones-the-future-of-agriculture/

http://uk.businessinsider.com/report-10-million-self-driving-cars-will-be-on-the-road-by-2020-2015-5-6?r=US&IR=T

http://www.bain.com/publications/articles/an-autonomous-car-roadmap-for-suppliers.aspx

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4496498/Hands-free-farming-using-autonomous-tractors-drones.html