Innovation is extremely vital in modern-day agriculture. The industry continues to face challenges such as shortage of labour, reduced annual budgets from governments and the many negative impacts that climate change brings (rise in pests and diseases, soil degradation, severe weather events etc).
In the last ten years (2010 to present), there have been many climate-smart techniques developed to help combat some of these challenges and as we know by now, hydroponics is one such measure. Even with the commercialisation of hydroponics, most countries still rely on traditional agriculture for crop production.
The development of agricultural technologies reaps many benefits in traditional agriculture. Farmers no longer must apply fertilisers, water or pesticides manually and uniformly across their fields; they can now use the minimum quantities required and target very specific areas, or even treat individual plants differently.
Further benefits include high crop productivity, less runoff of chemicals into rivers and groundwater, lower environmental and ecological impact and decreased use of water, fertiliser, and pesticides, which in turn reduces food prices.
Here are some of the latest research and technologies that were developed to support traditional agriculture:
Smart Farming/Farm Automation—
This is the introduction of robotics into the agricultural sector. Many companies have designed autonomous tractors, robotic harvesters, seeding robots and automatic watering robots. The primary goal of these technologies is to address the major challenge of labour shortage.
Soil and Air Sensors—This is a fundamental addition to the automated farm. These sensors can understand the soil types and air quality and report to the farmer what needs to be adjusted. The soil sensor can indicate the soil temperature and soil moisture content reporting to the farmer if the crop needs water.
Crop Sensors—Similar to the soil sensor, high resolution crop sensors inform the fertiliser application automated equipment of the correct amounts of fertiliser mix needed. Drones and optical sensors can identify the overall health of the crop in the field and give warning to the farmer of any pest or disease that may be attacking the crop.
GPS—In precision agriculture (site-specific farming), Global Positioning System (GPS) enables the coupling of real-time data collection and accurate position information. GPS is used in field mapping, tractor guidance, crop yield mapping and even soil sampling. It allows farmers to work during rain, fog, dust and darkness.
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