The Agri-Tech Rundown: 3 Innovations To Watch For

From startups to industry behemoths, there is a lot of buzz going around about agricultural technology. Since farming began, the drive to produce a better harvest has been constant. These emerging innovations are promising to accelerate us down that trajectory.

We have the latest on some of tech’s latest agricultural announcements, including autonomous robots and precision-managed hydroponics. It’s time to visit the farm of the future.

Supplied From The Sky

Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) have been growing increasingly important to agriculture, and their prominence is still on the rise. These robots can handle monotonous tasks quickly and minimize costly manual labor. Their potential seems almost limitless, except for one problem — how do you keep them going?

To increase run time and mobility, these machines can’t be overly large. And that makes capacity a challenge, particular for jobs like sowing.

That’s where Prof. Santosh Pitla’s team comes in. They’re developing drones capable of re-filling seed reservoirs on the go, significantly improving efficiency and precision. The project is set to kick off in July 2021, with nearly a half million dollars in funding coming from a U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant.

This isn’t the first robotic innovation Prof. Pitla has worked on in agriculture, though. You can check out his faculty page at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to learn more about his work.

Sow A Better Soybean

With global demand for soybean oil continuing to climb, improving yields from soybean crops is front of mind for producers. While it still won’t be on the market for a few more years, ZeaKal’s cutting edge PhotoSeed technology is promising to:

  • Improve soybean oil
  • Increase the amount of protein in soybeans
  • Improve the sustainability of soybeans

That all sounds pretty tantalizing. But how will it work?

According to ZeaKal, PhotoSeed increases the amount of carbon and sunlight the plant can use. This lets it store more energy for higher production. The company recently released data revealing oil composition improved by 17%, and protein by 7% on a dry weight basis. All this with no loss in yield.

At the moment, the hope is to have PhotoSeed soybeans available in 2024.

The Hype About Hydroponics

Major urban hydroponic farms are seeing a boost in interest lately. Brightly lit, climate-controlled rooms filled with towering vertical planters might just be the most futuristic-looking thing in agriculture right now. But at its core, modern hydroponics isn’t new. The term was coined a hundred years ago, and the basic principles haven’t changed much since then.

So then, what has changed? What about these new facilities is so high-tech? Much of it is tied to sustainability metrics. Many of these operations:

  • Use 95% less water
  • Use no pesticides
  • Use upcycled building materials

They also feature innovations in automation and control. Conditions are monitored and tweaked 24/7. Changes to lighting, moisture, temperature and airflow are all completely automated in the most advanced set-ups. The shipping process has also received a high-tech upgrade, with software to improve traceability and profitability.

It remains to be seen just how much high-tech hydroponics will take off. One thing’s already crystal clear, though. The world of agriculture is paying close attention.

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