With the latest gadgets and innovations, technology has transformed today’s agriculture. The number of entrepreneurs and investors who are investing their money in agriculture has been rising rapidly. In the future, agriculture will look completely different from what it is today. There have been major advancements in telecommunication, engineering of farm machinery and equipment, and computer software. In Kenya, mobile technology has been used extensively to improve small and large scale farming. It helps in reducing post-harvest and weather-related losses, improving farm operations, comparing different market rates, controlling farm machinery and equipment, monitoring the supplies and in the process making farming more efficient. Some of the major technologies that will take agriculture to another level are sensors, automation and mechanical engineering, and mobile devices.
Since most farm equipment can be connected to mobile devices most farmers are incorporating mobile devices in their farm operations. There are many apps that perform a wide range of functions such as controlling water meters, checking the weather, collecting field-level information and selling farm products.
Combining different technologies, farmers can be able to create smart farming systems. Smart farming utilizes internet-connected tools to leverage and capture data required for decision making.
Sensors play an important role in farming such as traceability, helping farmers to get real-time information and data regarding their equipment, livestock, and crops. Furthermore, they promote accuracy since the data undergoes complex diagnosis and analysis before a report is given. Today, sensors are connecting to sophisticated systems that analyze the collected data automatically. To grow high-performance crops, farmers are employing high tech systems. Sensors are also used for comparing weather conditions and testing the soil. Some of the sensors used in agriculture include:
Livestock biometrics: Collars with GPS and biometrics can be used to collect and relay real-time information about the livestock automatically.
Soil and Air sensors: These are sensors that can help farmers to understand water, soil and air conditions of their farms.
Crop sensors: These sensors are used to collect information related to the crops. They can help farmers understand the field conditions before fertilizer application and the amount of fertilizer required in the field. Drones can be utilized to monitor the crops’ health and know the correct remedy to prescribe in case the crops are not healthy. For instance, they can identify if the crops have been infested by pests or powdery mildew and relay the information to the farmers for analysis. During irrigation, sensors can be mounted on the irrigation systems to measure the amount of moisture in the soil which can help the farmer to know when there is enough moisture in the soil. Since the rate of irrigation is different in different crops, the information relayed by these sensors can vary. To assess the performance of the crops, drones can be fitted with sensors and GPS technology.
Equipment telematics: This technology is used for communication or from far. For instance, tractors can be started and given a few minutes to warm up before they start working.
Automation & Mechanical Engineering
In the next few years, farm equipment and machinery will be automated. Automation incorporates the use of robotics, micro-robots, computer applications and systems to monitor and maintain the crops. Some of the recent advancements include:
Variable-rate swath control: This is an advancement of geo-location technologies that help farmers to save on fertilizers, seeds, and herbicides by pre-computing the field size, overlapping inputs and automating tasks such as fertilizer application.
Agricultural robots: These days, tractors can be used to apply to be installed with devices that can be used to apply pesticides and liquid fertilizers to crops in the field. Agricultural robots can be programmed to perform tasks such as seeding and harvesting automatically.