March 28, 2023
Nelson Neale, head of CHS global research, continues his look at emerging trends in agriculture with a discussion on technological advancements for farmers to watch.
Ag technology is evolving rapidly and will continue to change how work is done on and off the farm. Nelson Neale, head of CHS global research, explores three advances to watch as he continues a six-part series about trends shaping the future of agriculture.
Robotic process automation simplifies workflows
Robotic process automation (RPA) employs software to execute time- and labor-intensive administrative tasks. “Anything a human can do with a computer, RPA can likely execute as well,” says Neale. “Tasks such as developing and maintaining spreadsheets and sending out information such as invoices, daily barge schedules or basis prices are all in the realm of RPA capabilities.”
RPA can be a partial solution to the agriculture industry’s current labor issues and can help businesses simplify administrative workflows, he adds. The technology can also help improve accuracy and reduce errors in day-to-day business tasks.
Drone versatility soars
Drones aren’t new to agriculture, but the technology powering them is getting more and more sophisticated, Neale explains. While initially used for high-level crop scouting and agronomic purposes on the farm, today’s drones offer more utility.
“Drones can be used beyond typical field scouting applications to make volumetric calculations of stored grain, for example,” says Neale. “Today’s technology can also enhance safety and efficiency, such as inspecting the structural integrity of grain elevators or silos without the risk and effort of putting a human on scaffolding or a ladder. As drone technology continues to evolve, the agriculture industry will capitalize on more opportunities to employ it in novel ways.”
Autonomous vehicles improve efficiency
Most farmers would agree that GPS and auto-steer have made fieldwork more precise and easier. The next iteration of this technology is fully autonomous vehicles that don’t require a driver in the cab at all. Whether a tractor in the field or a semi hauling grain on a road, vehicles are engineered to process and calculate their position and speed relative to physical obstacles to accomplish a task .
“By 2030, the American Trucking Association estimates there will be more than 100,000 unfilled truck driver positions. Autonomous vehicles can help with that logistical burden,” says Neale. “Most states have approved autonomous semi-truck driver testing, and some big box retailers are already running autonomous vehicles between warehouses and retail locations.”
Trusted advisors can inform practical implementation
While these emerging technologies may not have an immediate fit on the farm, they are trends to watch, says Neale. “Farmers and ranchers should evaluate where this technology fits in their operation. Whether farmers want to improve safety or office efficiency, they should keep an eye on these emerging trends and consult with their trusted advisors.”
Note: This article is part of a six-part series on the trends shaping the future of agriculture. Read other parts of the series:
- Outside market forces impact farm revenues
- The 5 latest trends in agriculture’s labor market
- How to manage supply shifts and rising input costs
- How shifting fuel demands are affecting crop production
- Will China and Brazil maintain global ag influence?
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