This winter I've been noticing a big change in agricultural thinking. Or perhaps it's a small change? Its such a paradigm shift that I wonder if a lot of the reaction is - that's cool, but it'll never catch on.
Take for example SwarmBot mini driverless tractors [Croping robots move closer to reality]. The trend in agricultural equipment has been to get bigger. But what if you have many fields in a large area with narrow roads? The other fascinating part to this story is looking at leasing them. Why own when you can pay for technology, and let the company take care of upgrades and maintenance?
Right here in western Canada there's similar innovation. Instead of a fleet of small tractors the DOT Power Platform re-imagines the tractor [Norbert Beaujot’s vision for DOT]. Its at a scale that machinery works well at and is more nimble than the large machines of today. Although the parent company could have tried to be the exclusive supplier of implements they decided right from the beginning that the platform is open source. They want to attract other manufacturers to come up with implements that could fit the system.
Drones have been the hot new technology for past few years. In my job, they've provided a new look at the crop and the ability to map out fields in high resolution. But what if they could perform the tasks in the field? Similar the swarmbots and the power platform, instead of thinking bigger, its thinking smaller and more nimble.
Here's a story about how drones can spray agricultural fields at a fraction of the cost (at least by company claims): [Crop Protection Application by Drone]. Here's another story about drones but its with seeding: [These drones plant trees by firing seed pods at the ground]. They are looking at forests but its easy to think of shifting this to agriculture.
I think its possible we'll see a technology leapfrog. I first heard of this idea from a CBC Spark episode earlier this year: [Want to see the future of shopping? Look to China]. In China, many people never owned a desktop computer. Their first experience of internet was mobile. What if developing parts of the world latch onto this new technology in agriculture in the same way? Or maybe its new farmers starting out right here in Canada. They never own the large equipment. They go straight to driverless tractors on the ground and drones from above.