Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 2

5 technologies that are making farms smarter and more efficient than ever before

Wi-Fi-connected crops

A modern farm typically has electronic sensors distributed throughout the field that can monitor for
different conditions; in some cases the gadgets send data to an on-the-farm server or to the cloud
(the network of servers increasingly used for the computing and data processing). These data are
analyzed automatically, sending instructions to a farm’s automated irrigation system, which in some
cases can even add the appropriate dose of fertilizer if necessary before delivering the right amount
of water through drip tape, hoses with holes punched in them that run along crop rows.

This maximizes efficiency, delivering just the right amount of water intermittently, preventing waste
and mitigating fertilizer runoff. The farmer can access this data through tablets or smartphones,
giving real-time information that in the past would require a slower, manual-intensive soil-testing
process. Connected crop technology can also monitor other soil conditions, such as nitrogen levels
that inform farmers where and when to add fertilizer.

“Liveware” gene editing

Despite the controversy over genetically modified foods, gene editing is increasingly important for
staple crops, as global population increases and global warming continue to accelerate. Setting aside
the important debates about trademarked seeds or the right for consumers to know if the foods
they purchase contain genetically modified ingredients, farmers can edit a plant’s DNA sequence
(sometimes referred to as “liveware”) to be more resilient to climate change, consume less water
and increase yields. This is particularly important for staple crops like rice and wheat, whose low
yields can lead to food shortages or price spikes that harm impoverished communities. For example,
gene editing by the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute is producing strains of
rice that consume less water and provide more nutrients. The institute has created more than 800
varieties of rice deployed to nearly 80 countries, according to the website of the global nonprofit
group.

Robot farmers

The rapid pace of development in self-driving cars is also happening on the farm. Self-driving tractors
and robots are becoming more common as a way to control payroll costs by automating time-
consuming tasks done by humans. There are farming robots for picking lettuce and strawberries, for
mowing hay, harvesting oranges and pruning grapevines. Some attach to human-driven tractors
while others are highly customizable with sensors and attachments that can perform highly specific
tasks, such as detecting where cows have peed and treating the affected grass to stimulate
regrowth. These robots are often guided by highly precise GPS tracking that allows them to nimbly
navigate through the narrow spaces between crop rows.

Eyes in the sky

Mapping technology is a vital part of data-driven agriculture, and getting those maps is easier and
more cost-effective than ever before thanks to the explosive growth in drone technology. These
small, affordable unmanned aerial vehicles give farmers a bird’s eye view of their crops and can be
operated by the farmers themselves. The drones fly autonomously, taking instructions wirelessly
from sophisticated GPS data.

Because farmers can launch these drones frequently, they can build a time-series animation of their
fields throughout the growing season. That data can be used to identify how a crop behaves in one
growing season in order to make adjustments in the next. These drones come with multiple sensors,
giving farmers two types of visuals: basic digital photographs that show areas where plants are
suffering from irrigation or pest and fungus infestations that are harder to find at ground level, and
multi-spectral infrared images that can identify healthy and distressed plants in ways that can’t be
seen with conventional photography or the human eye.

Wavelength management

Urban and vertical indoor farming is becoming more popular, giving growers of specialty crops ways
to produce year-round regardless of outdoor weather conditions. But one challenge has been how
to produce the ideal wavelengths of sunlight that optimize growth in cramped indoor spaces.

Traditionally indoor lighting promoting plant growth has been done with energy-intensive and
expensive full-spectrum fluorescent lighting, but advances in light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in recent
years have provided a cheaper and better alternative. Modern agricultural LEDs reduce growing
times compared to previous lighting because farmers can use different configurations to maximize
the wavelengths of light certain plants prefer. For example, certain combinations of red and blue
LEDs can reduce the amount of time it takes to grow a head of lettuce indoors by up to 17 days.
Hooking LEDs to timers allows indoor farmers to maximize the ratio of light to dark that can further
speed up the growing process.