The Connected Farm: 3 Areas Where Modern Farms are going Digital
1. Internet and Mobile Technology
The percentage of farms that use the internet for farm business increased significantly between 2006 and 2011. In the previous census year, 34.9 per cent of farms used the internet, but in 2011, 55.6 per cent took advantage of this technology.66 Farmers may use the internet for activities such as reading news, checking market prices, or connecting with a consultant (e.g. livestock nutritionist).
Smart phones have also proven to be useful tools to manage different aspects of the farm. For example, farmers use their phones to pinpoint GPS points on their fields that could indicate soil nutrient or pest problems. Video cameras linked to phones allow farmers to check on calving pens and the barn yard. Producers can even use their smart-phones to operate robotic dairy milking machines, or wind machines that are used to churn up air to combat extreme weather in vineyards.67
Advances in technology mean farmers can manage various aspects of their businesses more efficiently, which helps keep costs low for consumers. Additionally, animal welfare is enhanced because farmers can use technology to monitor animal well-being and treat sick livestock more effectively. 68
2. Social Media
Farmers are connecting directly with Canadians to bring more information from farm to table. They are responding to Canadians’ desire for more information about where their food comes from and the people who produce it. Some farmers use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to provide information to their consumers about how they farm. On the business end, tools like Twitter can be used to follow market production, commodity prices, crop information as well as to stay connected with other farmers. Farmers are better able to provide a political voice and communicate on issues affecting them without having to be physically present in a group forum. 69
3. Efficiency in Machinery
Below are some examples of technology that help farmers improve productivity and animal welfare while benefiting the environment.
- Robotic Milking Machine: Robotic machines track milk production of cows and identify any illness or issues at early stages through individual tracking and testing.
- Global Positioning Systems/ Precision Agriculture: Fields are mapped and analysed for levels of nutrients, moisture, etc. through special software. Tools like auto-steer ensure there is no overlap when planting and/or spraying, which prevents wasted resources.
- Soil Probes: Vineyard and orchard managers can know exactly how much moisture is in their soil, so that they can irrigate more efficiently.
Application development: The use of smart phones is increasing, and along with it is the need for applications. Some companies are hiring people to design applications for their products. For example, someone working for a seed company may develop an application which lets farmers plug in their personal information to receive recommendations on which seeds to purchase for their farms.
Robotic, GPS and soil probe companies each employ many different people for their work. Jobs exist to design the technology, sell and market to farmers, install the machines and maintain and service them.