If you visit a modern farm today, you get a good idea of how sophisticated the work life of farmers has become. As if by magic, machines are increasingly operating completely independently. Tractors move through fields autonomously, cows seek out their milking robots on their own, and robots mix animal feed based on the farmer’s instructions. Then the robots bring the feed to the stalls and distribute it. It is even possible to prepare a customized mix for particular cows. Farmers use their computers to keep an eye on these processes and control them using smartphone apps. Even if they continue to put their faith in their long-standing skills in raising livestock and growing crops, the new technologies will still make their lives easier.
Farming Needs New Technology
It’s only logical that Agriculture 4.0 is picking up speed. After all, fewer and fewer farmers are cultivating larger and larger acreages and raising livestock in ever-greater numbers. Over the last forty years in Germany, the number of farms fell from 900,000 to just 270,000. On the other hand, productivity has soared. Simple stables have given way to large, air-conditioned halls. Farming on a massive scale has displaced small individual parcels. This has led to ever-larger tractors while bringing a breakthrough in farming automation – everything from electronically controlled continuously variable transmissions in tractors, to fleet management, all the way to automatic milking systems.
More Options, Greater Efficiency
Other advantages arrived with the new millennium, including automatic tractor steering systems based on satellite technology and sensor-supported fertilization and irrigation of crops. They are helping to conserve resources and costs while reducing stresses on the environment. On the other hand, autonomous fodder mixing vehicles and stable-cleaning robots are facilitating care for animals. More than half of all German farmers are now said to use digital technologies with crops and livestock. The most widespread are GPS technologies and smart machines that communicate with one another.
When Cows Communicate Wirelessly
Small chips help to keep an eye on things in the stalls. Mounted on the necks of dairy cows, they monitor chewing behavior and the quantity of fodder ingested. From their legs, the movements of the animals are recorded. Farmers can also display the quantities of milk and its composition on their smartphones. All of this makes it possible to draw conclusions about the cows’ welfare and investigate potential illnesses early – and to reduce the farmers’ risk of economic losses. Today’s they are becoming data managers who have to monitor and interpret the steadily accumulating information correctly in order to operate their farms more efficiently.
Benefits for Small Parcels, Farmers in Africa
It is the large farming operations that often benefit from innovations first. But relatively small farms are increasingly adopting new techniques, aided by startups that are introducing their own economical innovations. In Africa, there is growing hope that digital measures can optimize domestic agriculture. This is urgently needed in light of the continent’s growing population and difficult climate. Startups in countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya are trying to promote this process by making analytical tools available to farmers. They are expected to help increase harvests. There is also the hope that the use of advanced technology will make agriculture more attractive to younger people. After all, one of the world’s oldest professions has kept up with the times — across a range of countries.
Our current focus is on how digitalization is changing our world and how Freudenberg Sealing Technologies is capitalizing on the trend. Find more on digitalization in our coming edition of ESSENTIAL magazine, entitled “One. Zero. One.”