Monday, March 7, 2016

Technology Innovations are Changing Agriculture for the Better

By Isabella Chism

As we celebrate National Agriculture Week and near the first day of spring, it’s only natural to think about how far this industry has come and the innovations that continue to change agriculture for the better.

On our farm we are embracing innovation as we use global positioning satellites (GPS) and auto-steer guidance systems to prepare the soil, plant and harvest our crops. This technology benefits the soil and the environment and it can help increase crop yields while lowering input costs.

Additional innovations for agriculture will include the development of hypoallergenic foods such as peanuts and tree nuts, along with new modified seeds to help farmers in developing countries grow better crops without pesticides.

Dairy farmers continue to face the challenge of hiring willing workers in a labor intensive business. Finding people to work on dairies can be difficult because the hours are long and the job is tedious. Robotic milking systems for dairy cattle can help as the robotic arms attach milking machines to cows and automatic take-off units reduce the number of workers needed. The advanced software that runs the system also collects useful data on each cow for the farmer, including how much milk she is producing, feed intake and changes in her body condition to monitor health.

Farmers are increasingly interested in illustrating how they live their commitment to care when producing food, and technology plays an important role in their efforts. For example, spring means the birth of new life on the farm and ranch and  many modern day farmers have installed web cameras to provide  live streaming of  their  the livestock in the barns, corrals and pastures.

Social media is another area where farmers have made great strides in connecting with consumers and providing a feel for farm life. Farmers and ranchers, like other Americans, are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms in record numbers and finding common ground in conversations about food. 

As we celebrate the bounty of the land and our livestock, I encourage you to take a moment and connect with a local farmer, rancher or a consumer. Share your story and answer their questions. Farmers and ranchers continue to feed and fuel our lives and consumers are a vital partner.

Isabella Chism, an Indiana farmer, is vice chair of the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee.