We always tend to think that we are at the pinnacle of the technology revolution as we look back and see the pace of change in everything from cell phones to driverless cars. But there are companies everywhere developing futuristic technologies that are going to impact our lives and our livelihoods in ways at present unimaginable.
Marty Seymour, Director of industry and Stakeholder Relations at Farm Credit Canada recently addressed the Manitoba Beef Producers Annual General Meeting about some of the hottest trends in technology that could disrupt agriculture and food production.
“The most productive period in the United States was yesterday,” said Seymour. “We produce more stuff today than we did yesterday and the day before. The pace of change is much faster because our economies are bigger, there are more people and there are more things driving it. When I think about the future, having experience is no longer an advantage. It only means you’re an expert in the past, and I believe we need to be thinking ahead to what is coming.”
Consumer Goods Driving Innovation
A lot of investment is being poured into developing all kinds of technology that serves consumers from artificial intelligence (AI) to digital devices. “A lot of the technology is going come out of consumer driven products and agriculture will win on this one because the consumer stuff drives the price down,” says Seymour. “I think we need to think bigger, and I’m not suggesting you need to have every one of these technologies, but be mindful that someone else is and you have got to find what works for you and what’s going to work on your farm.”
If you use a cell phone you are using AI whether you realize it or not. Apps like SIRI, Amazon ECHO and Google Home are using our devices to connect everything in our lives ostensibly to make our lives easier. This is known as the Internet of Things (IoT) and most of the research dollars going into IoT are for things such as Smart Homes, Smart Wearables, Smart Cities and Connected Cars, while agriculture is bottom of the list.
Farmers are soon going to hear the term ‘smart farming’ a lot more often. Smart farming is basically the advanced use of information and communications technology that goes way beyond just precision agriculture, UAVs or GPS. It involves the collection, connection and management of vast amounts of data, and implementation of advanced robotics and AI throughout all levels of agricultural production. Large companies like Google, Microsoft and IBM are investing heavily in things such as Smart homes and wearable devices, but are only just starting to look at agriculture. “We are on their radar, but we’re not top of mind,” says Seymour. “My challenge to our industry is how can we get into the conversation?”
That said, agriculture is already benefitting in some areas from investments made in consumer items, and specifically from the toy industry. Agriculture has been an enthusiastic adopter of infrared technology and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) but it was the toy industry that made UAVs effective and affordable for farmers to use. “When the first UAVs hit the market in agriculture they were worth $8,000 to $10,000 and they didn’t fly really well, and you had to get your own camera and tape it to the thing,” said Seymour. “The toy industry came along and made stable UAVs with good cameras, and now you can put a drone in the air for $600 and do a great job of flying over fields. We benefit from all the research in consumer products as it spins off into agriculture.”
Coming soon: Is Your Farm Ready for the Future? Part two…. Artificial Intelligence, Robots and Virtual Reality
©2018, Angela Lovell.
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