Whether you call it precision farming, precision ag, smart farming, or cyber agriculture, the bottom line is that success in the increasingly difficult work of modern agriculture lives and dies by embracing the latest technology.

But these methods aren’t just about the newest and shiniest gadgets. The strategies we’re about to outline, and the software and industrial computers that can execute them, offer clean solutions to the problems that have vexed farmers for decades (if not centuries).

1. Combining Analytics with Robotics and Automation

Wide fields full of massive machines are hardly a new sight on a farm — motorized tractors and combines have been sewing and tilling and harvesting for a century. However, the need for a human operator is gradually decreasing, allowing machines to run longer, harvest more material, and create a greater yield and a wider profit margin for farmers everywhere.

But agricultural robots — and the industrial tablets and computers that control them — aren’t just limited to the field. Automated cow-milking machines not only increase yield and free up workers for my skilled labor, they also incorporate analytics that would be difficult or tedious to match with a person. 

The panel PC attached to the milking machine keeps track of the milk yield over time, contrasting it with the type and volume of feed the animals are taking in. With RFID tags on the livestock, it’s even possible to track things like movement and exercise and add those factors into the milk yield equation as well. This data can then be used by the farmer to change feeds, eating schedules, and monitor livestock health to better take care of the animals and to maximize milk production.

Of course, the milking machine is just an example. Any automated process can be made better by strong data collection and subsequent analytics. 

For instance, soil monitoring can reveal nitrogen deficient soil areas, and that data can be shunted over to a robotic device like a “Rowbot.” A device like a Rowbot will then apply nitrogen to those critical areas, increasing crop yield overall with barely a hint of human interaction.

2. Paperless Paperwork in Farming

It’s easy to think of farming as a hands-on, out in the field, up-to-your-elbows in sweat good, honest job. And in many ways it is. However, ask any farmer and they’ll tell you that paperwork takes up no small amount of their time. 

Between filing reports, data records, orders, regulations, and receipts, your average farmer can easily get buried in paperwork if they don’t stay on top of it. To make matters worse, much of these reports and orders are still done offline at the speed of the postal service. There’s even evidence to suggest that 40% of farmers found this physical paperwork so annoying that they missed out on federal funds and other programs due to the sheer tedium and time investment required. In the age of instant communication in every facet of our lives, this plodding pace can put off even the most patient farmer. 

There’s even speculation that these slow paperwork processes are even turning off younger farmers from the job, folks who expect all of their work to be online to some extent.

Whether you’re just getting started, have been in the agricultural business for a long time, or are a part of larger ag company, don’t neglect farm management software on your computers or tablets to track and collate paperwork on any scale. 

Software like Harvest Profit, Conservis, and Granular all specialize in not only gathering analytics for reports and improvements, but for helping sort through spreadsheets, budgets, orders, scheduling, and the thousand other bits of paperwork that keep a modern farmer tied to their desk instead of out in the field (or relaxing back at the house after a long day of work).   

3. Managing Pests and Insects

Pest and insect problems have plagued farmers since the beginning of time, and unfortunately it’s just one of those problems we’re always going to have to deal with. Even now, with modern pesticides and pest strategies, massive amounts of crops are lost to pests every year. 

According to a world-spanning study of pathogens and pests in major food crops, global crop loss from pests is anywhere from 20-30% depending on the exact crop.

Blanketing fields of crops with pesticides isn’t always the best solution for a few reasons: it’s a financial waste, it’s often ecologically unsound, and frequently unhealthy for the local population and the water table. 

This is where precision farming can make a huge difference. Drones and networks of sensors, all accessible from an industrial tablet (or even from a mobile phone) can be used to test soil for pest-friendly conditions. If corn root worms are a problem on your land, the soil map created by these sensors can detect areas of rich loam where corn root worms are more likely to breed. 

Then, using this data, farmers can either physically spray those specific areas, or use a remote drone or automated sprayed to target the danger zones in question. 

This saves money on pesticides, helps protect the environment, and ends up being way more effective for pest control in the long run.

Farming Smarter

Of course, not all of these methods need to be employed all at once to be successful. Consider even just embracing only the strategies that tackle your most serious concerns and problems.

Want to learn more about smart farming and how to implement it, or what kind of technology and computers you’ll need to get a strong precision farming initiative off the ground? Contact an expert at Cybernet today.