It’s been more than 20 years since affordable geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) first came into widespread use, enabling the farm industry to plant and maintain crops with “precision.” Since then, numerous other innovations – automatic steering, seed and spray applications, and web-based technology, to name just a few – have made Precision Agriculture a standard way of doing business, with its efficient technologies and environmentally sound practices.
This week, World Ag Expo, “the world’s largest annual agriculture exposition celebrating 44 years of innovative agriculture” examines New Tools for Agri-Business. We looked at a few of the “Top 10 New Products of 2011” and how they further add to the “precision” of Precision Agriculture.
We’ll start with a decidedly low-tech innovation known as the AG Flag. As developer Mike Hansen explains on the World Ag Expo website, this “farmer-friendly” water-activated device helps farmers save money, water and effort by eliminating guesswork. “It’s an incredibly simple way to signal when your flood irrigation water reaches the pre-determined location in your field or crop and that it’s time to change or shut off the water.” Mounted at the end of a 5-foot long pole, the AG Flag springs up when irrigation water dissolves a strip of paper that secures the flag; once released and upright, the bright orange flag can be seen up to a mile away.
Meanwhile, World Ag Expo also tells us that a new software system called Connected Farm is helping increase farm management efficiency by combining precision farming information collected in the field with data management software and cell phone technology. According to a company spokesperson, the software provides users with an easy, secure wireless transfer of production records from the field to the office, and back to the field, enabling employees to work off the same set of data and simultaneously receive updates — no matter how far away from one another they may be.
And a new rugged tablet computer from Trimble Yuma is designed to work where farmers and ranchers work – in scorching summer heat and sub-zero winter cold, not to mention in driving rain and blinding snow and dusty, muddy conditions. So, as the World Ag Expo website explains, instead of using crop management or livestock monitoring software only in the office, this new portable device – weighing less than three pounds – lets farmers bring it into the field or barn, operating on two rechargeable batteries.
If you’d like to learn more about the educational opportunities available in the field of Precision Agriculture, check out the websites of Kirkwood Community College, or Agrowknowledge, the National Resource Center for Agriscience and Technical Education, where you’ll find plenty of information and resources, including educational and career opportunities available in the Agricultural Industry.