Agricultural machinery relates to the mechanical structures and devices used in farming or other agriculture. Farm machines include a great variety of devices with a wide range of complexity: from simple hand-held implements used since prehistoric times to the complex harvesters of modern mechanized agriculture. These last decades it has involved the partial or full replacement of human energy and animal-powered equipment (e.g. plows, seeders and harvesters) by engine-driven equipment. Most of this is tractor driven and to a lesser extent self-propelled equipment (including harvesters, sprayers, fertilizer applicators, planters and seeders). U.S. agriculture was transformed by waves of innovation with mechanical, biological, chemical, and information technologies. Compared with a few decades ago, today’s agriculture is much less labor intensive and farms are much larger and more specialized, supplying a much-evolved market for farm products. The progressive introduction and adoption of a host of technological innovations and other farming improvements enabled much more to be produced with less land and a lot less labor; farms became many fewer, much larger, and more specialized.
The digitization of agriculture holds promise for meeting demands of increased food production, addressing social concerns about animal welfare, enabling livestock traceability, and minimizing the environmental impact of livestock production while building resilience and adaption to climate change. Also it is worth noting that mechanization of agriculture is fundamental to reducing poverty and improving lifestyle and food security in the developing world.
In this article you will be able to explore some of the benefits and objectives of agricultural mechanization. Also this article provides a detailed list of farm equipment innovation which are emerging and creating multiple pathways to a smart farming future. During this analysis, five trends were identified linked to the megatrends digitization and sustainability that, are going to help agriculture in the coming years:
Farm Management Platforms
Spraying & Data Gathering Drones
Agricultural Water Management Technology
and lastly IOT systems.
Objectives & Benefits of agricultural mechanization
There has been a substantial global investment in agricultural mechanization and automation by governments, industry, farmers and international agencies. In general, the return on investment has been spectacular.
The primary objective of agricultural mechanization as summarized by Pellizzi (1992), include:
Minimization of production costs,
Optimization of product quality,
Protection of workplace and environment and
Minimization of farm production flexibility.
Referring to Segun R. Bello's book entitled Agricultural Machinery and Mechanization other agricultural mechanization objectives include:
Improvement in timeliness of agricultural operation and its increased efficiency,
Preservation and improvement of quality of agricultural production e.g. the use of combines in crop harvest and processing,
Achievement of a better utilization of natural resources and increased raw material supply for industrial use,
Provision of off- farm employment and increased human labour availability in other sectors,
Enhancement and stabilization of high commodity price through improved inputs and food supply,
Increase in foreign exchange earnings through massive agricultural products exportation and diversification of economic base,
Improvement in water supply and living standard of rural dwellers.
Benefits of mechanization
Beside reduction in human drudgery and costs of farm operations, mechanization offers potential benefit of increased returns from agricultural inputs. As Segun R. Bello has elaborated in his book entitled Agricultural Machinery and Mechanization, increased returns from agricultural input can be achieved in the following ways:
a) Improvement in crop yield per hectare and quality
b) Extension of cultivated area
c) Possibility of raising new crops and livestock which were not initially possible
d) Improvement in timeliness of farming operations, timely provision of suitable conditions and environment for plant and animal growth.
The most obvious benefit of mechanization is the work potential of the agricultural tractors utilized versus hand labour and animal traction involvement. This is most advantageous in communities where labour is scarce or expensive. The labour requirements for preparing one hectare of land for planting using draught animal power are only 12% of that required when using hand labour. When using a tractor with a plough, this falls to less than 1%, increasing labour productivity tremendously. As labour is a constraint in many farming communities, the use of animal traction and tractors brings the opportunity to expand the acreage. Motorization is likely to have an even greater potential for area expansion as long as land is available. Labour productivity will increase considerably. A farmer owning a tractor would normally be able to increase his income through increased production and by doing contract work for other farmers.
Latest Farm Equipment Innovations
In a world of 9.5 billion people, global demand for food, fiber, and biofuels has to be met with minimal possible increases in land, water, fossil fuels, and the minerals used to produce fertilizers. Agricultural innovation is essential to address environmental problems in a world that must support an ever-growing population. To this end, much agricultural research continues to focus on how to increase productivity on this existing farm land. Improved efficiency in the use of land and agricultural inputs is already contributing to environmental goals. Agriculture is quickly becoming an exciting high-tech industry, drawing new professionals, new companies and new investors. The technology is developing rapidly, not only advancing the production capabilities of farmers but also advancing robotics and automation technology as we know it. As follows, you can explore a detailed list of the 5 latest farm equipment innovations which have the ability to make the farming process easier, and are able to offer solutions for farming problems.
1. Field Robots
Agricultural robots are increasing production yields for farmers in various ways. From drones to autonomous tractors to robotic arms, the technology is being deployed in creative and innovative applications.
Agricultural robots automate slow, repetitive and dull tasks for farmers, allowing them to focus more on improving overall production yields.
Some of the most common robots in agriculture are used for:
a) Harvesting and picking
b) Weed control
c) Autonomous mowing, pruning, seeding, spraying and thinning
e) Sorting and packing
f) Utility platforms
Harvesting and picking is one of the most popular robotic applications in agriculture due to the accuracy and speed that robots can achieve to improve the size of yields and reduce waste from crops being left in the field.
From nursery planting to shepherding and herding, here are some of the robots already in agriculture:
Ecorobotix which has the ability to use its solar power to run all day. The robot uses its complex camera system to target and spray weeds.
Naio Technologies - The robots have the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting.
Energid Citrus Picking System - Perfect for those in the citrus fruit business, the Energid systems are fast and efficient harvesting systems. The systems can pick a fruit every 2 to 3 seconds. Even more so, the robot is cheap to build, making it significantly cheaper than human labor.
Agrobot E-Series - With its twenty-four robotic arms working wirelessly and an advanced AI system, the E-series cannot only pick strawberries really fast but it can identify the ripeness of a strawberry in the field.
Blue River LettuceBot2 - With its imaging system, it is a popular tool in the agriculture world that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds.
RoBoPlant - This robot has both semi and fully automatic machinery for greenhouse management or protected horticulture. The artificially intelligent robot is able to take flats of peat seedlings to separate them and plant them in optimal patterns.
2. Farm Management Platforms
Farm management software centralizes, manages, and optimizes the production activities and operations of farms. With farm management software, farmers can become strategic and efficient in their daily farm-related tasks and responsibilities. Farm management software automates the recording and storage of farm data, monitors and analyzes farm activities and consumption, and tracks business expenses and farm budgets. Additionally, the software can support farm financial management with accounting programs, farm planning and procurement functionality, and marketing and budgeting tools.
The purpose of developing a monitoring and control process is to take advantage of opportunities to improve a situation; that is, to make changes when alternatives are available, and to avoid crisis management. In farming, a goal of monitoring could be: being prepared to make necessary changes during the production season, rather than between production seasons.
Every farm manager should identify the factors that are most important in reaching their long-term goals. It might be level of production, price of commodities, cost of inputs, rate of interest on loans, or amount spent on family living. Other operators may find that their tillage practices, the amount of feed used, or the calving rate have the greatest impact on their farm's bottom line. Other examples of factors to monitor could include rate of gain, level of weed infestation, number of hours it takes to complete a task, conception rate, disease control, the financing of major purchases, or marketing strategies.
3. Utilization of drones
The farming operations of today look quite different than even a few decades ago. New technology has allowed the growers of today to optimize each part of their operations — from field spraying to grow cycles and crop health. A big part of that transformation can be attributed to drones and other types of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). With an agriculture drone, farmers get in-depth data analysis and mission planning as well as new tools capable of handling physical work. Agriculture drones can be used to do anything from precision agriculture, to efficiently dispersing weed control or fertilizers, to optimizing field management. The results include reduced operation costs, improved crop quality, and increased yield rate.
Spraying drones can help precisely deliver the following:
The efficient application of the above is a persistent challenge for any grower. If you spray too much concentrated in one place, you run up extra costs and potentially decrease the quality of your produce.
However, the right farming drones and spraying payloads can distribute chemicals evenly and efficiently. -The results? Improved crop quality and a higher yield rate without intense manual labor. Drones can be used on nearly any kind of crop, including rice, wheat, corn, citrus trees, cotton, and much more. In addition to covering more land at a lower price, drone spraying can offer major environmental benefits. Drones can more efficiently distribute pesticides so that you use less for the same overall effect. Seeding drones can also help maximize the efficient use of your land. With climate change and development expected to eat into the total amount of land globally available for farming, effective land use will be key to maintaining successful results in the years ahead.
Drones used to gather data for precision agriculture
Smart spraying and seeding aren’t the only ways to increase overall agricultural efficiency, cut costs, or increase yields. Drones can also be used to map out an area and create new insights — taking the guesswork out of much of the growing process.
Multispectral data from drones reveals field variability invisible to the naked eye, which helps you catch diseases early, respond, and improve your yields. They stream real-time data directly to the decision-making persons for quick action. Alternatively, the data is saved in a microchip inside the drone.
4. Agricultural Water Management Technology
Although Agricultural Water Management (AWM) includes irrigation, it is not simply about applying water. It includes soil, land, and ecosystem conservation practices, such as drainage and watershed management; fisheries management; and technologies for lifting, storing, and conveying water. Traditional AWM was concerned with improving the efficiency of water use in large-scale irrigation schemes in which the objective was to control, not manage, water. As larger numbers of farmers are investing in small-scale irrigation systems, and regulation is either absent or uncoordinated, there is a need for improved practices. AWM has the potential to improve incomes and food security for poor farmers in priority countries.
Water is one of the most important resources for agriculture and the decisions about irrigation are crucial for growers. Therefore, getting more information and controlling tools for water can be strategic elements for a good growing process.
SmartWatering wants to leverage sensor to automate the irrigation process and decisions, based on soil and climate conditions. HydroPoint also provides a system, able to give insights on water flows and leaks. Instead, a solution that wants the plants to take the lead of watering decisions is CommonSensors, which makes irrigation activities be based on specific valves, controlled by the plants.
Such smart irrigation systems are a combination of an advanced technology of sprinklers with nozzles that improve coverage and irrigation controllers that are watering and water conservation systems that monitor moisture-related conditions on your property and automatically adjust watering to optimal levels.
5. IOT systems
IoT systems in agriculture can leverage soil and weather sensors to provide valuable insights. Smart farming based on IoT technologies enables growers and farmers to reduce waste and enhance productivity ranging from the quantity of fertilizer utilized to the number of journeys the farm vehicles have made, and enabling efficient utilization of resources such as water, electricity, etc. IoT smart farming solutions is a system that is built for monitoring the crop field with the help of sensors (light, humidity, temperature, soil moisture, crop health, etc.) and automating the irrigation system. The farmers can monitor the field conditions from anywhere. They can also select between manual and automated options for taking necessary actions based on this data. For example, if the soil moisture level decreases, the farmer can deploy sensors to start the irrigation. Smart farming is highly efficient when compared with the conventional approach.
IoT solutions are focused on helping farmers close the supply demand gap, by ensuring high yields, profitability, and protection of the environment. The approach of using IoT technology to ensure optimum application of resources to achieve high crop yields and reduce operational costs is called precision agriculture. IoT in agriculture technologies comprise specialized equipment, wireless connectivity, software and IT services.
Agricultural production methods have changed significantly. This new frontier of innovation in farming, becoming known as the smart farming future, is made possible through technological change involving continuous improvement in sensors, information and communications technologies (ICT), advances in data storage and analytics made possible with the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud-based systems and ultimately the acceptance by farmers of digital technology tools for use on their farms. As mentioned before, digital technologies create new possibilities for innovation, making it possible for today’s farmers to be more efficient, effective and economically successful than ever before while providing a new way of addressing persistent problems in commercial agriculture.
The purpose of this article was to identify farm equipment associated with innovations in smart farming technologies. Innovations in smart farming technologies can, and should be, framed as a solution to farmer’s problems if the goals for increasing food supply through the use of new digital technologies are to be realized.
Throughout the article it was elaborated a detailed list of the 5 latest farm equipment where included: field robots, farm management platforms, spraying & data gathering drones, agricultural water management technology and lastly IOT systems.