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Technology has had a big impact on many parts of our lives, but it’s the way we cultivate our land, and educate and support the next generation of farmers, that its potency could be most felt.

Scottish Farmland
Copyright Scotland Food & Drink

There’s a growing lexicon of new terms in today’s agricultural world showing the increasing influence of tech on the industry. Terms such as smart farming, intelligent farming, digital farming, agri-tech, agri-drones, automated machinery, GPS guidance systems, are all part of this new farming language. 

The industry is living through innovative change, as technological advances seek to influence land sustainability and crop yields. 

With an increasing number of mouths to feed on the planet, technology seems, for many, to be the way towards sustainability and harmony.

A focus on machinery 

Currently there are more than seven billion of us in the world. If we are to meet the needs of this growing global population, agricultural innovations are essential. 

On a practical level farming machinery such as tractors and harvesters have reached their maximum size and can’t get any bigger to improve productivity.  

Big machinery uses a lot of energy and increasingly damages the soil. In fact 90% of the energy going into cultivation is focused on repairing the damage large machinery does to the land. 

Precision farming or automated technologies in agriculture lead to significant reductions in production and energy costs, preserve resources, and increase productivity. 

It’s estimated that by 2025 the global precision agriculture market will be worth £35.7bn. 

Precise picking 

Currently 20% - 60% of crops harvested all at once are wasted because they’re not ready for sale or they’re over-ripe. Agricultural engineering is focusing on farming waste issues like this. A robot that eradicates inedible vegetables and harvests only ripe ones is planned to reach the market by 2020. 

Also, in the field of robotic crop engineering, is leading agricultural education provider, Harper Adams University in Shropshire. Under the leadership of head of agricultural robotics, Professor Simon Blackmore, the university is developing a completely new agricultural mechanisation system based on small smart machines.

This machine will be able to plant seeds, laser weeds, spray specific amounts of water and fertilisers on individual plants, and harvest selectively. 

All this technological invention is leading to: 

  • Reducing production costs 
  • Saving energy 
  • Reducing waste 
  • Improving sustainability 
  • Increasing yields and productivity for small farms 
  • Offering selective harvesting, independent of weather conditions 

For these reasons precision farming and agri-tech looks set to continue and develop as a force in the industry, but what about the farmer? 

Support for future innovators 

For young farmers the future landscape is bright. This year the Scottish Government funded a new £2.5 million initiative to support new entrants into farming. 

They're also keen to support young farmers interested in using new technologies, who can lead the way on innovation, and introduce better agricultural methods. 

As well as support from government, there are other initiatives that are focused on developing new tech talent in farming.

The Agri Innovation Den, a kind of dragon’s den for farmers, also search and support the new crop of agricultural talent. 

They look for entrepreneurs, farmers, or students with a great product or concept which could help farmers.  

A few of this year’s finalists include: 

  • Agronomex, an online food supply chain business that helps farmers turn surplus into income.
  • Agricision Ltd, a high impact precision technology business 
  • Ubiqutek, a company that develops weed-killing technology using electricity 
  • Farm-r, a farmer to farmer rental portal for traditional and agri-tech machinery 

So Innovations in the agricultural industry, like all innovations in the food and drink sector, come in many guises. 

Innovation support for everyone 

Want to understand more about farming innovations? Looking for support to become more innovative? Working on something new or different that will add value to your business? 

Whether it involves product development, processes or employees, our Make Innovation Happen service can help you explore your ideas and develop them all the way through to market. 

Together with our partners at Scotland Food & Drink we can really help you deliver innovative change in your organisation. 

Connect with one of innovation experts today