High Tech Farming: Apitronics, Farm Hack & John Deere

Farming is getting more and more high tech. Technology innovation creates opportunities to increase farming efficiencies, particularly related to energy and water usage, which is good for producing climate-resilient farming. Forbes notes that investors are becoming interested in “Ag Tech” as a fast-growing new investment sector. However, technology and farming must be united with nature and community in order to serve the farm, the planet and production, rather than the tools provider.

Here are a few different approaches: John Deere's MyJohnDeere Operation Center, Farm Hack and Apitronics.

First, the proprietary system: From Precision Ag: “John Deere has introduced the MyJohnDeere Opera­tions Center. According to the company, this will allow data to be uploaded securely using back-up tools or right from the field using JDLink. Some of the many current tools on the Operations Center are Field Analyzer, online Documentation Analysis and Reporting tool and Data Sharing.

‘The MyJohnDeere Operations Center provides customers with tools to improve machine uptime, logistics management and agronomic analysis in a secure, accessible way,’ says Chris Batdorf, product marketing manager, John Deere Intelligent Solutions Group. ‘The customer is in control of the data and can share with dealers, crop consultants and anyone in their network of trusted advisers; securely, from any Internet-enabled device.’"

Next, the DIY Version: Open Source Tools Community Farm Hack, as described in Wired: "Instead of wrestling with proprietary systems, other farmers are starting to go open source. Dorn Cox has been working the land most of his life. After a break to work in tech start-ups, he took over a 250-acre farm in Lee, New Hampshire. In 2010, he co-founded Farm Hack, an online community of farmers, designers, developers, and engineers “helping our community of farmers to be better inventors, developing tools that fit the scale and their ethics of our sustainable family farms.”

‘Knowledge wants to be free,’ Cox told me. So Farm Hack is setting it free. Together, members are building an open-source library of farming tools and knowledge. They hack together solutions that work for them. Projects range from the classically low-tech (a farm bicycle that lets users pick ground crops like strawberries without destroying their backs) to the decidedly tech-savvy (a remote-controlled, Arduino-powered compost monitor)."

And finally, an example of a promising technology that incorporates an open source technology principles and what the company calls a "nature-based approach": Apitronics.

From the company website: "We think quantitative data can transform agriculture. We have the opportunity to turn a food system that damages our environment into one that restores ecosystems, from polluting water to growing clean water, from producing GHGs to sequestering carbon, from losing biodiversity to regenerating the life that teems within our soil. We improve what we measure.

Today, mid-sized farmers often manage their farms without the support of quantitative data. Agriculture accounts for 70% of worldwide water use, while less than 10% of farms use sensors to make smart irrigation decisions, wasting precious resources and money."

Technology for agriculture is as old as farming. Resilient agriculture that serves the planet, production and people is best built on open source community collaboration of the kind represented by Farm Hack and its community. 

By Margaret Gifford, Watervine Impact, including quoted content from Forbes and Wired (content linked in the article)

No reproduction without permission from the author. © 2015

References

Forbes: www.forbes.com/sites/daniellegould/2014/05/22/kauffman-report-makes-the-case-for-agtech-innovation-investment/

Precision Ag Product Review: www.precisionag.com/guidance/2015-precision-ag-product-review/3/

Wired: www.wired.com/2015/02/new-high-tech-farm-equipment-nightmare-farmers/ 

Apitronics: www.apitronics.com