The way agricultural methods are improving, new research suggests that it needs to continue to develop. For instance, 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 constantly improving, this has been very beneficial to those in the agriculture industry. Two main areas of interest are that of drones and autonomous vehicles — this guide sets out how each could assist farmers in the future. Farm insurance from a leading insurance broker like Lycetts, will be able to give land owners and farmers peace of mind when protecting their gadgets.
Drones on the farm
Gadgets like drones are expected to have sales of over £4.8 million in 2017 – this is an increase of 34%. 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.
These gadgets offer many different benefits such as:
Using them for planting
Looking after plants and produce can be stressful, especially if you have a lot to look after. Drones can take away that stress, and new starter companies can achieve an uptake on 75% and reduce the costs of planting by as much as 85%. 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.
Making the most of irrigation
Water can be wasted around the farm, and this can be expensive. Drones can help avoid this problem with sensor equipment. 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.
Spray your crops!
Those in this industry will know the methods of crop spraying and monitoring. However, drones can improve both common practices.
Drones are becoming more common in businesses. In regard to crop spraying, drones can effectively scan the ground of a farm and 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.
Drones will be able to detect any problems with a crop, but will also be able to show how things are developing. 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.
Vehicles for the farm are changing
Vehicles with autonomous abilities have a growing market. 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 have already been presentations on how these types of vehicles can help those working in the agricultural industry. 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 when asked about the benefits.
A vine pruning robot has been invented by Christophe Millot. 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 farming equipment
Investing in your craft is vital when it comes to agriculture. 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.