Technology Solves Agriculture Labor Problems

Technology moves quickly in agriculture and annual shows lets innovators show off the future of farming. At the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa a technological highlight this year is automation. Farmers and researchers are looking for ways to make farming a little easier.

On a demonstration field at Farm Progress, Smart Ag shows their driver-less tractor, which is already on the market. It’s a piece of equipment a farmer can install in different tractors to reduce labor for grain cart hauling.

Mark Barglof with Smart Ag says, “Up to this point, our response to labor issues has been with larger equipment. And that equipment has made it really complicated and it makes it so you have somebody who is very well versed in how to use that equipment. So, this technology allows you to flip a switch, bring the vehicle to the field flip a switch then be underneath the supervision of the farmer.”

The cart will let a farmer deliver grain from combine to semi without a third worker.

Ringgold County farmer Gary Petersohn is visiting the show and says, “I think that’d be fantastic. Cause labor is hard to come by especially part-time harvest labor.”

Petersohn is at the Iowa State University tent at Farm Progress. He is interested in water quality and cover crops here, but says technological advancement like automatic steering has helped on his farm.

Another advancement in automation involves an inter-disciplinary project of agronomists and engineers at Iowa State University trying to improve scouting.

A demonstration robot with a camera moves along rows of example soybeans, it can pinpoint stress in crops.

Arti Singh with Iowa State University Agronomy says, “Till now, farmers were doing scouting maybe once a week or once a month, but with this technology, you can do scouting like every day. And in some cases, these UAVs can fly. Push a button and they can fly over your field and can tell which stress it is and where you are seeing this stress.”

Artificial Intelligence is a lot better and quicker at scanning through pictures and can alert farmers to areas of the field that need attention.

Catching struggling areas of crops means more efficiency, farmers can precisely decide to add fertilizer or pesticides in areas of need, helping water quality and crop resistance.

Once again, technology touches on a critical need of labor in agriculture.

Soumik Sarkar with Iowa State University Mechanical Engineering says, “So we want to involve autonomous systems to improve productivity, improve efficiency and essentially get to higher yield in a way without too much human capital.”