Think farming is a simple profession? Think again. While planting crops and raising animals to feed the population may be basic in concept, it’s much more complex in practice. CNBC.com claims, “From the invention of hoes, scythes, and plows to the introduction of tractors, innovation is at the heart of agriculture.” Factor in the advent of the digital age and the emergence of many more technologies, and the farming industry is ripe for transformation.
Here’s a closer look at several developments changing the sector, along with one school at the forefront of this exciting agricultural revolution.
What’s New in Agricultural Engineering?
The face of agricultural engineering is rapidly evolving, with many new, game-changing technologies on the horizon. It is an exciting career in constant flux due to rapid technological changes, meaning people working in it are likely to learn something new every day. In 2014, Business Insider highlighted 15 up-and-coming agricultural technologies based on a report from Policy Horizons Canada, including the following:
● Agricultural robots, or ‘agbots’, and robotic/driverless tractors used for everything from harvesting to irrigation.
● Closed ecological systems, which “do not rely on matter exchange outside the system” an instead transform waste products from within in order to support the life-forms which inhabit the system.
● Gene editing, through which new strains of foods are created, such as mushrooms that do not brown and peach-flavored strawberries. Unlike genetically modified foods, these are wholly engineered.
Five years since on, some of these developments have entered the mainstream, while others have become increasingly scientifically and financially viable. And they are more important than ever given the many challenges the industry is facing. Agricultural engineering ensures farming is conducted smartly and efficiently, to meet the needs of the globe’s growing population.
The UK’s Centre for Process Innovation asserts, “Traditional agricultural methods are simply not sustainable enough for us to achieve food security for a rapidly growing population, lower our carbon footprint, and maintain the health of our livestock. In order to tackle these challenges, innovation is essential and can be achieved through investing in agri-tech.”
Leading the way
For example, Australia’s University of Southern Queensland's (USQ) progress with driverless tractor technology has the potential to maximize on-farm operations while providing safer and less stressful working environments for farmers, while agricultural modeling developments promise to boost profitability while minimizing the environmental impact of farmers. And these are just two ways USQ is working to make the world a better place through agricultural engineering. Other projects underway include improving water use and food security for farmers in South Asia; integrating management of nematodes for grain growers; genetic detection against wheat crown rot; and smart farming used to identify plants as weeds or crops.