Smart farming: a leader in purpose-driven tech innovation

Another in a Fierce Electronics series from speakers at Sensors Converge 2023. running June 20-22 in Santa Clara, California 

We live in a world flooded with technological innovation. It is exciting and sometimes mind-blowing, but what purpose does it serve?

In agriculture, the purpose of technology equips farmers to do more with less. To put this into context, imagine if you could send emails, take a work meeting, and tend to your latest home renovation project while also running to the grocery store and doing laundry. You'd get the most out of your day and have more time to spend with family and friends.

But imagine if your workday was 18 hours instead of eight. Or if you had to miss your son's basketball game to get your work done before an incoming storm. For centuries, this has been a farmer's reality. And the stakes aren’t getting any easier. Over the next 30 years, farmers need to double food production to feed our rapidly growing population, expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050. Farmers are also up against environmental variability across the different fields they’re working in, complicated and time-sensitive decisions, and a shrinking labor pool.

However, with advanced technology like computer vision, machine learning, sensors, robotics, GPS, and connectivity, agriculture machines are now automated and sometimes even autonomous “factories on wheels.” These machines capture and compute data in real time, execute precise tasks at scale, and use the data they gather to inform current and future seasons for improved results.

Decades of innovation centered around one purpose

It may surprise you, but farmers have always been early adopters of technology. For decades, they’ve used GPS connectivity to steer their machines and collect in-the-moment data for better decision-making. They use computer vision and machine learning to identify plants versus weeds and treat them accordingly, providing only what is needed and doing so with exacting precision. With sensors and robotics, machines work at a speed and scale beyond human capacity to precisely plant thousands of seeds in seconds. Farmers have even stepped out of the cab entirely, leveraging automation and autonomy so their machines can complete simple, routine tasks while they attend to more complex and pressing needs on the farm.

But the agriculture industry won’t stop there. The future of farming is one where all machines can work autonomously in the field to help produce more food for our growing population. They will extend farmers’ senses and capacity for environmentally and economically sustainable operations.

All technology can be purpose-driven

Consider how these purpose-driven technologies start with one seed and end with feeding the world. Think about how automation and autonomy means more than just getting from point A to point B. It means performing hundreds of tasks along the way. Incorporating technology into a farmer’s day means more time to plan for future seasons and to enjoy life’s everyday moments.

Agriculture sits at the intersection of technology and purpose. Everything we do in the technology industry needs to start with the goal of meeting a greater, universal need. How can you apply purpose-driven innovation to your industry?

Willy Pell is Chief Executive Officer at Blue River Technology (a John Deere company). He carries an impressive software background and is passionate about building systems that create a positive impact on the world.

To learn more, attend Willy’s conference session, “Smart Farming: The Future of Agriculture” at Sensors Converge on June 21 at 4:05 pm PT. Register for the event here.