How Has Technology Changed Farming in the 21st Century?

farming | How Has Technology Changed Farming in the 21st Century? What are the agriculture technology trends prominent today? How has technology changed farming in the past 20 years? Find out now.

In the early 1800s, 90% of Americans lived on farms and produced their own food to eat.

By 1900, 41% of Americans lived or worked on farms. By the year 2000, that figure dropped to a mere 1.9% of the population.

What’s enabled this dramatic change in the way we live, work, and produce food? Modern technology has enabled us to grow crops and breed livestock more efficiently (and abundantly) than ever before.

How has technology changed farming in the 21st century? Here are some fascinating developments that have transformed the world of agriculture forever. 

  1. GPS Technology

Farming used to involve a lot of guesswork, hunches, and “eyeballing.” Today, GPS technology is giving farmers unprecedented insight.

GPS allows farmers to guide tractors and other equipment, as well as position irrigators for maximum water distribution. GPS-enabled tractors use millimeter-precision to make furrows in a field and place seeds exactly where they need to be.

Famers are also using GPS technology advances to accurately map out the boundaries of their land. There are even GPS-guided drones that can spray crops, monitor livestock, and produce 3D maps.

  1. Livestock Genetics & Breeding Methods

People have been selectively breeding livestock for thousands of years. But new farming technology has taken this process to a whole new level.

Scientists study animals to identify which genetic elements enhance their health, growth, and ability to use nutrients. Using this information, they can increase production while lessening the impact on the environment.

Agriculture technology such as artificial insemination has also revolutionized the way we breed livestock. Cattle and pig farmers can buy semen from superior animals and use it impregnate their female livestock. Embryo transfer in cattle can exponentially increase the reproductive potential of each animal.

  1. Sensor Technology

Just like there’s an app for everything on your mobile device, there’s a sensor for everything in modern farming.

Sensor technology has removed most of the guesswork from farming and made it more sustainable. Today, farmers use sensor technology for:

  • soil conditions
  • stage of development (plant ripeness)
  • yield quality
  • humidity levels in grain silos
  • plant water potential
  • presence of pests or disease
  • nutrient and nitrogen levels
  • crop biomass density

Sensor technology is also helping farmers to monitor (and reduce) their water usage. By monitoring moisture levels in the soil, they can strategically use irrigators where and when necessary.

  1. Genetic Engineering for Crops

In 1960, the average farmer could feed 26 people. Today, one farmer can feed 155 people!

Of all the technological advancements surrounding agriculture, this one perhaps is having the most impact on the world’s food. By improving germplasm, plant breeders can develop seeds that will thrive in specific weather and soil conditions.

Marker-assisted breeding is a new technology that reduces the time it takes to get the desired changes in plant structure. GE, or genetic engineering, has also revolutionized our ability to mass-produce food. We’re able to grow crops that are resistant to disease and insects and tolerant of droughts and herbicides.

As a result, annual crop yields are soaring around the world.

  1. “Smart” Farming with Devices & Apps

Back in the good old days, farmers had to pass on their hard-earned knowledge to the next generation. Now, we have the ability to look up a farming guide on anything and everything related to agriculture.

Online farming resources are endless, from planning and production tools to researching commodity markets. Apps use NIR values to detect plant health and advise farmers on the best way to improve it.

What if a farmer is trying to identify and unknown pest? He can snap a photo with his smartphone and load it onto a specialty app, and the app will identify the pest (and tell him all about it).

All these smart devices are also enabling “precision agriculture.” Using the data they collect, farmers can make informed decisions about how to use water and fertilizers more effectively. This also dramatically cuts down on waste!

  1. Agricultural Robots

“Agribots” are no longer characters in science fiction movies—they’ve arrived.

In areas where there’s a shortage of human labor, robots are picking up the slack. Some of these robots can do the work of dozens of human laborers while reducing costs for the farmer.

Scientists have also developed agribots that can plant and harvest a variety of crops, including corn and grapes. One such vehicle can harvest up to 20 tons of grapes every hour!

Other technologies are being used in livestock care and production. Modern barns are equipped with automatic feeders and waterers for the animals. We even have robotic milking machines that can milk our cows for us.

  1. Improved Livestock Facilities

Once upon a time, our animals were subject to the rigors of the climate where they lived. A severe windstorm or blizzard could be disastrous for a farmer (and his herds).

These days, most of our livestock is raised in a climate-controlled, enclosed environment. This spares them not only from extreme weather but also from natural predators.

With WiFi-enabled barns, farmers can monitor their livestock and adjust conditions with the touch of a button. They can watch a cow while it’s in labor or turn up the heat as the outside temperature drops.

All of this contributes to better care and improved health for the animals. 

How Has Technology Changed Farming? Now You Know

New farming technology allows us to do things our parents and grandparents never could have imagined.

While our ancestors toiled hard in the dirt, today we have machines and even robots that do a lot of the work for us. Mobile devices and monitoring apps give farmers valuable insights into managing their land and resources.

Behind the scenes, scientists are working hard to improve plants and animals through selective genetic engineering. And each year we improve our ability to build better facilities and farming equipment.

So, how has technology changed farming? It’s changed everything about it—for the better!

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