How High Tech Is Transforming One of the Oldest Jobs: Farming
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Posted by: Jeff Couture
Of all the out-of-the-box products a Silicon Valley tech start-up could offer, Bear Flag Robotics may be delivering the most unexpected: plowed fields.
The company is developing autonomous tractors, a goal that equipment companies like Case IH, John Deere and Kubota are chasing as well. But the business model of Bear Flag, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., has a twist — it does not build the tractors. Instead, it adapts the sensors and actuators needed for driverless plowing to existing tractors produced by major manufacturers.
That step is not as sci-fi as it might seem. From equipment automation to data collection and analysis, the digital evolution of agriculture is already a fact of life on farms across the United States.
The drive to increase productivity is urgent in all phases of agriculture. Feeding a world population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 faces dire challenges, according to the summary of a United Nations report released in August. The effects of climate change — extreme weather, soil loss, migration pressures — will strain land and water resources, potentially disrupting food supplies.
Yet growing crops has historically been an uncertain enterprise, a livelihood that increasingly depends on forecasts of weather conditions, commodity prices and complex factors like maturity index and projected yield. Agriculture is seen as an industry ideally suited to large-scale data collection and analysis, and technology companies more closely associated with databases and computer hardware are seeing opportunities.
Read the full New York Times article.