Agriculture This Week - Using information takes computing capacity

Regular readers will know that technology advancement in agriculture is a favoured topic of mine.

It is the area which holds out the greatest potential for advancements in crop production, at least in the short to mid-term.

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Varietal development, whether through traditional means or through more advanced techniques that may be controversial for some, will ultimately impact production on a grander scale perhaps, but those steps in breeding take time.

Technology, as we know from almost every facet of our lives, is leaping ever-forward at a rapid pace. The computing power of the cellphone, and the vast array of apps which are specific tools to almost anything we can imagine these days being a microcosm of that tech progress.

It stands to reason that farming too will change as new technology comes on stream.

Sit in the cab of a new high clearance sprayer or combine and the array of technology in its monitors is something that frankly reminds of the bridge of some sci-fi spaceship bridge.

The key in all the monitors is that a massive amount of data is being collected as the machine traverses a field.

But, data only becomes truly useful once it is fully analyzed, and in that process compared and gauged against established norms created from a vast cross section of material gathered over time and over a number of fields.

The process of analyzing data takes massive amounts of computing power, and immediate access to varied databases, which has been something of a sticking point for on-the-fly analysis of field gathered data.

Accessing the Internet, the highway to information, and uploading data to the computing power needed is not easy, if possible at all, when the combine, sprayer, or air-drill is in the middle of a farm field which can be a long way from hotspots.

Many in rural Saskatchewan are still struggling to find a way to have ‘Net access that allows easy downloads of YouTube videos, let alone analyzing real-time spray applications as their machine floats across a field.

Ultimately, agriculture on the move requires access to the Ethernet as a way of connecting computers together. Multiple computers have access to the ethernet and can send data at any time. Today’s ethernet supports speeds up to 1,000 Mbps, and businesses on the cutting edge of the tech will soon access speeds up to 10,000 Mbps. That massive flow of data means it can be used to allow a machine in a field to make decisions as it goes. Like the potential to only spray a weed identified by a camera on the unit, leaving surrounding crop plants not sprayed. Imagine the cost-savings and the in-field benefits of such tech.

Technology is growing, farming can benefit, but it will need connectivity to work, and that is just now starting to really come on stream for the sector.

Calvin Daniels is Editor with Yorkton This Week.

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