Agriculture is an industry subject to technological revolution. Set against a backdrop of feeding a world population of nine billion by 2050, food producers now compete on a global stage. Smart farming and data connectivity has become a necessity rather than an ambition.
If you add the need for food production to lower its environmental footprint and navigate the sometimes turbulent markets in current times, the scale of the challenge becomes evident.
The effectiveness of technology goes beyond new pieces of machinery and the never-ending release of smartphone apps – solutions for ultra-efficient, sustainable farm businesses now need to seamlessly integrate into existing operations and break new ground, working with business partners and customers for an outcome that is mutually beneficial.
The evolution of robotics
Robotics has positively impacted on farms and throughout the food supply chain. Vegetable growers, fruit packers, egg producers and processors are just a few groups that have seen the improved efficiency and financial benefits granted by automation, while maintaining high standards of food quality at a fair price for the consumer.
That said, the dairy sector has seen the most rapid implementation of robotics in recent years. The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers estimates that 5% of dairy farmers have switched to robotic milking parlours and that automated parlours constitute nearly one-third of all new milking systems being purchased.
Those sold on the technology are also exploring robotic feed pushers and feeders too in a bid reduce labour costs and spend more time focusing on cow welfare and performance.
Automation produces huge amounts of information which in turn creates a more analytical customer for the supply chain to talk to ¬– one that looks to suppliers to create marginal improvements in their products or advice leading to a measurable, meaningful benefit for the farm.
Robotics’ value continues to expand significantly as the supply chain deploys new technology to the arable and vegetable sectors.
Automated weeding machines, for example, are becoming available across the world. Their ability to straddle rows of crops and mechanically remove any weeds could work in tandem with applications of crop protection products.
Livestock sector transformed
The arable sector is often where new farm technology is targeted, but livestock farmers are just as adaptable to change if they see a performance or financial benefit.
Across the world technology is being deployed to allow more accurate, efficient stock management in the beef, sheep, dairy, pig and poultry sectors.
Automated body condition scoring infrared cameras for cattle is now available, while heat detection collars and satellite-tracked movement tools have all been developed to improve farmer decision making and are as much a precision farming tool as a GPS-guided tractor.
Modern broiler units have been developed to allow maximum control of the shed’s environment while minimizing the amount of physical time a stockman has to spend walking the flock, disturbing the birds and increasing the biosecurity risk. It has allowed precise management of every aspect of the birds’ needs from a control room, tablet or smartphone.
Stockmen from all sectors are engaging world-leading breeding companies in order to adopt high quality replacement programmes focused on developing desirable genetic traits that will herds and flocks that are fit for the future.
A connected picture of agriculture
The technology revolution and resulting data have resulted in a step-change for the agriculture sector. In the next decade, businesses across the world are set to adopt new technology more quickly than ever, and seek connectivity options that allow them to interface with partners and customers.
Through an innovative supply chain, and progressive farmers, agriculture will become a sector founded on connectivity, and well placed to deliver on the lucrative benefits that tech innovation offers to the supply chain in the future.