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Precision agriculture technology has not been disruptive – yet!

Precision agriculture technology has not been disruptive – yet!

Disruptive technologies are on the way to solve core farming challenges


Precision agriculture technology has not been disruptive yet, Chris Paterson with Bayer Crop Science said at the Precision Agriculture Conference in Saskatoon, Sask.

Thus far, the agricultural industry has applied new technologies to enhance existing technologies and processes. Several technologies exist, however, that could be disruptive, he said.

These technologies include:

  • Radio-frequency identification (RFID), which could be used to provide crop inputs to a retailer
  • Augmented Reality, which could be used to present data visually
  • Gene editing, which could impact how we grow crops
  • Robotics and auto navigation and sensors, which cold impact how farmers complete tasks in the field, in terms of analyzing weeds, pesticides and phenotypes
  • Wireless data
  • Recognition technologies (livestock, plants, bugs, weeds)
  • Nano technology

What remains elusive is the return on investment of these technologies.  To build value, deep machine learning and artificial intelligence will be what is required, Paterson believes.

Bayer Crop Science has experimented with the Bayer Digital Farming Zone to analyze a farming zone and then create a prescriptive map, which is used to apply product only where it is needed. Even at 160+ miles per hour, spraying aerial applications on canola crops is already very accurate.

Paterson and Bayer Crop Science are working to implement technology by using smartphones, which large farmers and small famers alike have access to – even in third -world countries. 

Bayer’s weed detection app is already 88 per cent accurate when identifying the top weeds in a field.  As more photos are taken and analyzed, the app becomes more accurate. 

Paterson initially thought farmers would be too busy to help develop these apps. To his surprise, because farmers want the technology to succeed, they have been more than happy to upload photos to help the apps learn.

Bayer has developed apps for weed scouting, insect monitoring, disease management, nutrient analysis, and yield estimations.

Technology will, indeed, disrupt farming, Paterson believes, but “shadows in the field” – humans – will still be required for many years to come.

Top photo: Pinpoint map of farmers who uploaded photos to help the Bayer Crop Science Weed app learn to identify weeds.

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