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04.15.2013

Three Reasons Now is the Time for Automated Agriculture

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Related topics: Farming
AUVSI's Brett Davis captured insights from academic and industry professionals at the AUVSI Atlanta Chapter's Conference on Unmanned Systems in Agriculture. His article, Ag Industry Warms to Robotic Technology, Speakers Say, focuses on the benefits of unmanned technologies in agriculture. While the article highlights the impact of unmanned aerial vehicles, farmers can also reap significant benefits from using unmanned ground technologies like vehicle automation, GPS path planning, automated dispatching, multi-vehicle coordination, 3D obstacle sensing, and more. The growing consensus is that agriculture is ready to adopt automated technology on a broader scale. From the Atlanta Chapter Conference speakers, the following emphasizes three reasons now is the time for automated agriculture:

Technology Availability:
"There is a nice selection of vehicles and a nice selection of automated technologies," said Dr. Eric Corban, Chief Technology Officer of Guided Systems Technologies, Inc., a manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles. "I believe now is the time, and we need to all oin together and redouble our efforts to solve the regulatory problems and bring this vision that's been around a long time to a reality."

Unmanned technologies are no longer research and development projects. Automated agriculture is now much less expensive, more refined and reliable, and available for a wider range of agricultural vehicles than in previous years.


Greater Need for Efficiency in Farming:
"As an example," Davis recalls from John Beasley, Professor of Crop Physiology and Management at the University of Georgia, "in 1986, about 14,500 active peanut producers planted 675,000 acres. In 2012, about 4,500 active producers planted 735,000 acres. Most of today's producers are strung out with too much acreage and too little time."

The statistics show that farming has become much more efficient today than in 1986, but even with technology advances farmers are still under greater pressure to yield a larger harvest, faster, and with the same or fewer resources. Vehicle automation has the capacity to help overstretched producers meet the challenges of 2013 farming.

Greater Impact and Simplicity:
Part of refining automation technology for farming is providing simplification along with results. "Farmers don't want data," said Gary McMurray, Chief of Georgia Tech Research Institute's Food Processing Technology Division. "They want information. They want action." This type of action can only be achieved if 1) the technology is simple enough for farmers to use, and 2) the technology has the capability to make the job more efficient or more productive. Companies specializing in automated agriculture continually work toward achieving both of these goals in today's products. Interfaces specifically target end users and provide them with valuable information and tools that make large scale farming less challenging and more fruitful.