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Innovation, the Key to Farming’s Future


Innovation, the Key to Farming’s Future


Paul Rea

Farmers are demanding more and more solutions to more and more problems. From combating new insects and resistant weeds, to tolerating climate change, agriculture is in need of new crop traits and chemicals.  Paul Rea, Vice President of Crop Protection with BASF, says companies like his are making major investments in innovation to produce new production technology for agriculture, “We are investing at the rate of $2 million a day to bring to the farmer the very latest technologies they will need today and in the future to feed this growing population.”  He added there are technologies that will allow farmers to produce more than they have in the past. He said, with public sector spending on ag research basically flat, it will be up to the private sector to make the investment needed to increase food production to meet the growing world food demand.


Rea said growers will continue to see new products and new technology coming to market in the next few years, “Innovation is going to be a critical enabler if farmers are going to be successful in pushing production limits even further in a sustainable way.”  A walk around the large trade show at Commodity Classic revealed dozens of new products and innovations that will be on the market in 2013 or 14.


Innovation, however, will not be limited to crops and chemistry. The equipment used to produce is also undergoing a revolution, a revolution that is driven by data. Patrick Sikora, with John Deere, says they are continuing to improve a machine’s ability to collect and transmit data to the farmer.  Currently, eight of Deere’s larger equipment lines have the ability to collect and distribute data to the farmer.  Sikora told a press conference at Commodity Classic that this is just the beginning of the kind of data collection and distribution that will be possible, “Imagine being able to look at a readout that tells you where all the equipment is, what it is doing, where it has been, and how it is progressing toward a specific task.” A display will show farmers, in real time, their progress toward planting, spraying or harvesting a crop.   In addition, agronomic data such as yield will be collected by the equipment and delivered to a central database accessible to the farmer anytime and anywhere.


In the future, these smart machines will not only deliver mechanical and agronomic data but also environmental data such as the soil temperature and moisture of particular fields or places within fields. At Classic, Deere announced an expansion of their Field Connect soil moisture monitoring system. These new environmental sensors include: Weather Station, Rain Gauge, Temperature Sensor, Pyranometer, and Leaf Wetness Sensor. In addition to the soil moisture data provided by the Field Connect system, the new sensors provide data on temperature, wind speed, wind direction, humidity, solar radiation, leaf wetness and rainfall. The sensors are installed in customer fields as part of the Field Connect Gateway.


All of this information will be at a farmers fingertips via his computer, tablet, or mobile device. Deere is already making plans to integrate these devices into their equipment.  John Deere has introduced mounting brackets and attachments to make it easier and more convenient for producers to have hands-free access and improved viewing of their mobile devices while operating equipment.