Farming may not be the first industry that comes to mind when we think of technological advancement, but that’s changing — fast.
Agricultural giant John Deere, for instance, just spent $305 million to buy a robotics company. The farm machine manufacturer has been around for almost two centuries, but it too has felt the need to keep up with changing trends and tools, says Deanna Kovar, a marketing director for John Deere.
Its acquisition, Blue River Technology, is a startup that makes agricultural robots capable of identifying weeds and other unwanted plants, and dosing them with high-precision sprays of herbicide.
The smart sprayers operate much the same way as conventional spraying equipment, but these come equipped with computer vision, artificial intelligence and automated sprayers, with cameras that use machine-learning software to discern the difference between plants.
‘People assume farmers don’t use technology’
Right about now, you might be picturing farming Transformers that morph from tractors into bipedal robots and march through fields shooting pesticides out of spray guns.
In fact, these new robots work in conjunction with a traditional tractor. That’s part of their appeal for a company like John Deere — the smart machines aren’t making tractors obsolete but, rather, their addition makes the farming tools more advanced, and more appealing to potential consumers.
Now, this isn’t exactly farming’s first foray into tech. It’s worth remembering that tractors themselves were advanced technology for their time. Their invention revolutionized agriculture with an unprecedented leap in efficiency, as one machine was able to do the job of multiple farmhands.
Naturally, as our technological capabilities have evolved, agricultural tools have, as well.
“People assume that farmers don’t use technology,” says Saskatchewan-based farmer Kim Keller.
“In fact, farmers are often on the forefront of using technology, and we use a lot of technology in our day-to-day operations,” says Keller says, creator of an app called Farm at Hand, which was designed to keep track of everything from seeding and harvesting schedules to equipment, stock and sales (it…