High tech, AI, and increasing farm productivity and profits

DJI T40 spray drone.Image: Jeff Sandborn

Written by Anish Topiwala

Precision farming technology has evolved over the past few decades, with the further introduction of artificial intelligence increasing agricultural productivity and efficiency.

A 2023 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that only 27% of farms and ranches nationwide practice this type of precision agriculture, compared to about 40% in Michigan.

Jeff Sandborn is a Portland farmer who represents Ionia, Barry, Kent, Ottawa and Allegan counties on the Michigan Farm Bureau board.Image: Michigan Department of Agriculture

Such practices include the use of technology such as GPS for yield monitoring and soil sampling, the automation of steering equipment, and, more recently, the use of artificial intelligence to interpret data and monitor livestock and crops. It will be.

Jeff Sandborn, a Portland farmer and member of the Michigan Farm Bureau Board of Directors, said every farmer today uses some form of precision farming practices.

“Agriculture is unique,” said Sandborn, who represents Ionia, Barrie, Kent, Ottawa and Allegan counties on the group’s board of directors. “Everyone does things a little differently.”

One thing many farmers have in common, Sandborn said, is that they “have a hard time finding employees, especially when it comes to this technology.” Some knowledge is required to operate this equipment. ”

One of the key technologies used by Sandborn is tractors equipped with autonomy-based technologies such as sensors, radars and cameras. “Autonomy is key,” he said.

Robotics also plays an important role in the selection of specialty crops and agricultural products.

Sandborn said autonomous technology not only saves on labor, but also allows farms to more efficiently perform routine tasks such as tilling, spraying fields with herbicides, and fertilizing with drones.

“Any work with crops is very time sensitive,” Sandborn said. “Mother Nature gives us a window of spring planting and fall harvest, but it looks like that window may be getting narrower and narrower.”

“The goal is to maximize everything we can,” he said.

Such practices are also usually the best way to protect the environment, Sandborn said.

He said a major gap with these technologies is the lack of data standards, which creates problems when working with multiple types of software and equipment.

“It used to be that everyone had their own file formats and protected their data, even if it was owned by a farmer,” Sandborn said. “Another piece of software will never be released for use on the platform.”

In his view, technology benefits not only producers but also consumers.

“Farms are getting bigger and labor is harder to find, so the best thing we can do is establish a stable food system so everyone can eat,” Sandborn said. Ta.

Timothy Bowling, director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, emphasizes the importance of agricultural precision technology.

“We’re bringing down the cost a little bit of what production looks like on a field-by-field basis, and now we have a better understanding of what it takes to grow a crop,” Bowling said.

Boling pointed to the cost of replacing old equipment with new technology or retrofitting existing equipment with modern systems.

Inside of a planter tractor. Image: Jeff Sandborn.

Precision agricultural practices are constantly being innovated. Artificial intelligence is one of the key areas used by farmers and engineers to improve agriculture.

“We produce a lot of yield maps, but frankly today we’re not using them to their full potential,” Bowling says. “Remote sensing data, such as drone and satellite imagery, is becoming increasingly accessible.”

Daniel Huillet, assistant professor of biological systems and agricultural engineering at Michigan State University, is working to improve agriculture using artificial intelligence.

“Everyone is waiting for the growing season to experiment because the winter is too cold and no one is growing anything,” Wuye said.

Huillet said he and several colleagues started a project to develop a digital environment powered by artificial intelligence, allowing them to conduct experiments throughout the year and take advantage of the best results during the growing season.

“This is a very ambitious dream, but the main results show very good prospects, so I hope we can get there,” Wuye said.

“The issue is ease of use,” Wuye said. “At the moment we don’t know how useful this will be to growers, but it will definitely be useful to researchers working in this field. It will have implications for growers as well.”

Wuye said the goal is to have concrete results in the hands of researchers within three years.

Fellow MSU professor Daniel Morris also employs artificial intelligence to develop new technologies.

Morris works in the field of precision animal husbandry, with a focus on animal monitoring.

“How can you look at a farm and see in real time if one of your animals is lame, not eating, or has some other problem? Is that okay?” he said.

Morris is working with artificial intelligence to develop this technology to help farmers monitor the health of their livestock.

Morris said it’s because of special cameras that automatically track livestock.

Morris and his colleagues have founded a startup around the device, called Motion Grazer AI, and hope to have a working prototype ready for use in the coming months.

Mr Wuye emphasized the importance of innovation in agriculture and how it is an unattractive profession for many young people.

“What is the future of agriculture in this country if young people are not attracted to this region? The goal here is to make agriculture really attractive,” he said.

Anish Topiwala reports for Capital News Service

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button