Society as a whole, including agriculture, is experiencing a trend toward the use of more autonomous machines that can communicate amongst themselves and optimize their own activity using “big data” analytics.
That might sound like a whole lot of high-level tech lingo, but it raises serious questions for farmers on the ground: will there come a day when farmers no longer have to physically go out to the field or pasture? Will “farmers” simply sit in front of a dashboard that monitors activity in a food-producing operation?
“I’m so excited about that. The future is going to be about working smarter, not harder in the future for all kinds of operations on the farm,” says Nik Badminton, a Vancouver-based futurist and columnist who focuses on how technology impacts workplaces and the economy.
Robots, implantables, open data, virtual reality, vertical farming — these are some of the topics Badminton will be discussing at the Agricultural Excellence Conference in Regina November 25-27.
As he explains in the interview below, he sees many of these innovations having a major impact in the farming community.
For example, the term “Internet of Things” was first used a few years ago to describe how household and retail machines — TVs, computers, thermostats, cars and so on — are designed to communicate with each other and process information to optimize themselves while being monitored centrally. Badminton uses the term “Internet of Agricultural Things” to describe what he sees developing in the world of agriculture, with increased use of sensors and automation.
“Sensors in the field, sensors on cattle, even moving toward the ideas of vertical farming, home farming, the Internet of Things means you don’t have to be there tending day in, day out. You can actually optimize these things from afar,” he explains. “It means there’s going to be something really exciting in the future around being very autonomous and small groups of people running very large operations.”
That sounds both scary and exciting. Will farmers lose control? How can farms position themselves to use this technology to their benefit? Badminton shares his perspective: