As part of your continued education, I have posted links to magazines and PA technology sites, etc. Please feel free to look at them from time to time as I update them constantly.

Click on this link to further your knowledge - Knowledge Repository


PA Technologies that all farmers need to keep up on

GPS

GPS is at the MOST important part of the “Precision Farming” equation. Without it, you cannot have Precision! It is so important that most of the major brand farm tractors sold today come prewired and have hydraulic steering interfaces for GPS steering. For those smaller farm tractor companies like Kubota, Mahindra, etc., that do not, there are GPS systems that can be adapted to them.

There are three levels of GPS precision. Only RTK is worthy as a TRUE Precision Ag technique. Not that all tractors must have RTK to perform their duties but as explained below, the accuracy and repeatability makes RTK the only choice when performing key tasks in the field. Precision Agriculture requires that the accuracy be in inches not feet. To get this level of accuracy, you must use a “ground based” RF reference and the best solution is for the farm to purchase a GPS Base Station transmitter. The typical distance however is the limiting factor for a base station for three reasons, 1) the power of the transmitter is low, 2) the height of the antenna is typically ground level and 3) the base station frequency is most likely 900mhz which has poor penetration through vegetation.

Some areas offer a Paid Subscription service to their 450mhz GPS base station network. They can cover a large expanse of land because it is a network of multiple base stations. In some cases this subscription can be very expensive.

Some states provide the CORS network which can provide RTK accuracy as long as you are within approx. 6miles of a transmitter. Not all states have full coverage. The typical coverage is along major highways. Recent advancements in internet connectivity inside the tractor and in the field, has allowed the CORS network to use RTN as a way to extend that range to around a 20 mile. It is a viable alternative as this technology comes of age.

Farm implements such as Dry and Wet fertilizer and chemical sprayers, seed planters, etc. utilize GPS to meter how much is applied. This is called Variable Rate in Precision Agriculture. It is the ultimate solution to reducing Waste. A farmers simply creates a prescription for the field that he working and the GPS tracking allows the Variable Rate to be applied. Corners, ends rows, turn rows and areas that overlap have always been a waste of product. Variable Rate virtually eliminates this because flows are controlled by the GPS guidance. The tractor driver simply drives instead of having to manually controlling rate.

Software

As computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones becoming more common place in the tractor, more and more regulatory entities are pushing to eliminate the “Pencil and Paper”. Paper in itself is a redundant system. Each entity, be it the fertilizer supplier or a regulatory agency, needs a copy or a modified copy of the original information that the farmer recorded. By converting this information into DATA, reporting to each of these entities can be considered “Immediate, accessible and fully customizable”.

Future Planning - The efficiency for “future planning” is quantified when you layer years of “Historical Harvest DATA” on top of the other. The value of this layering at 3+ years is unpredictable. Which is why large farms are employing IT folks to manage their DATA.

Accounting - Farming is a different breed from other small businesses and is harder to account for because of the many aspects that need to be accounted for. It typically requires multiple softwares to have insight to their business’ money flows. API “Application Programming Interface” allows softwares to communicate and exchange data with each other. There is a huge market for API integrators and DATA storage vaults. DATA is GOLD (again once you get 3 years of data the value is huge).

Reporting - All of the data from the above points can be reported on using BI “Business Intelligence” interfaces to display specific metrics from queries on the DATA. BI is huge because it is visual and almost immediate.

Telemetry

Telemetry is the process by which measurements, controls and various other data is collected among multiple endpoints to make provide status and measurements from a distance. With today’s cellular systems and their coverage, telemetry is much simple to deploy. Water usage is just one task that this technology will enhance. Water usage is a metric that farmers are being pressured to measure accurately to satisfy water management and environmental agencies that they deal with. Currently the way water usage is guesstimated is to calculate the pumps “run time”. This is a manual calculation requiring a run time of the pump to be calculated against the pumps GPM capability. Once a flow meter is added, precise accounting of water usage can be obtained. There are endless efficiencies and possibilities to be had with true water flow data.

M2M "Machine to Machine"

M2M is growing leaps and bounds. Every device, be it a cart, a wagon, an appliance, whatever can now have intelligence. Combine that with communicating between each device and you have M2M. The possibilities are huge for agriculture. Field sensors can communicate with each other to provide some basic logical decisions to perform tasks autonomously. Ag-Tastic is heavily researching this technology as new functions arrive each week that promises to be the next new disruptive technology for the world.

M2M World News

Wikipedia

IoT "Internet of Things"

IoT is M2M with the internet added into the mix. There are so many companies building web based intelligence for M2M devices to connect to. The cloud intelligence provides a common knowledge repository for the devices to get instructions as well as for status updates to be recorded so that those statuses can be displayed on a browser. Ag-Tastic is working with Verizon Wireless and New Boundary on a soil moisture / irrigation system.

IoT World Events

Wikipedia

Unmanned Vehicles – UVs / Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – UAVs

Probably one of the most disruptive technologies coming to Agriculture. It will become the most important part once the FCC regulations are amended to allow contractors to fly them legally. UVs whether it be Aerial or ground based vehicles, further enhance Precision Farming by reducing fuel and labor. Aerial Infrared and Near Infrared images can provide key information about unhealthy plants, insect invasions or disease in a field on a daily basis if needed. These problems typically go unnoticed if they are not present at the edges of the crops and can cause great losses once harvesting is underway. By recognizing a threat and proactively responding to it with a UAV Spot sprayer the threat can be resolved or contained without employing a tractor into a field that will otherwise damage the other plants and compact the ground. In the past this type of evasive reaction tended to result in over spray and possible contamination of other plants with the very thing you are trying to isolate. This technology is proven outside of the USA. The Japanese are the leaders in Aerial spot spraying because of the efficiency gained in the delivery of chemicals to a precise area of a field. Japans agriculture is the most efficient in the world. The use of UAVs will be addressed by the FCC sometime in 2015 but the pressure is on to have it addressed sooner. The European community has made huge strides in the implementation of UVs and Precision Agriculture that the US might well have no choice but to address it sooner than later. I am a huge Advocate for UVs because it works.

Note that UVs are not to be called “Drones”. It is like calling a gun a “Weapon”. It takes on a whole different meaning when said one way or the other!

High Tunnels

Also called hoop-houses, are unheated greenhouses that can help commercial farmers extend their growing season so that they can improve the profitability and productivity of their farms. High tunnels are also an integral part of local food production systems in many parts of the United States. They aid fruit and vegetable crop production by extending the cropping season, providing protection from the elements (wind, storms, heat, etc.), and result in a more-stable production system that poses less risk of crop failure.

High tunnels come in many different shapes, sizes, and structures. Many 4-season tunnels are as small as 1000 sq ft, and 3-season tunnels (plastic is removed during winter) can span ranges up to 20+ acres.

Aquaponics

A food production system that combines conventional aquaculture, (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks), with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment.

Wikipedia

Aeroponics

The process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium.

Wikipedia

Hydroponics

A subset of hydroculture and is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Because Hydroponics is a controlled environment, it is used predominantly to grow plants that are not common to a specific area’s climate.

Wikipedia