Thursday, December 20, 2012

Farmers still get their hands dirty, but increasingly rely on technology; Gannett papers give glimpses

Cori Natoli of The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., saw a story in farmers' reliance on technology in an industry that may be more often known for manual labor. Her editors agreed, and its big Gannett Co. sister, USA Today, also ran it, giving a large national audience glimpses of today's agriculture. As her object example she cited fifth-generation farmer Brandon Bonk, 28, who uses satellites and microchips to guide his equipment over 3,000 acres. (N-J photo by Jennifer Corbett: Bonk adjusts self-driving tractor)

"In so many respects, the farming life may never change," Natoli wrote. "Farmers get their hands dirty, work their fingers until they swell and then work some more. They get around their fields in pickups, working an industry with notoriously narrow profit margins." But today's farms are "driven by technology that raises yields, limits runoff and adjusts to changing weather, pests and commodity prices," and such agriculture is known as "precision farming."

Bonk's seeds are genetically modified to resist drought and pests, and his fertilizer is rationed by sensors and software. His biotechnology and agriculture-systems degree from Iowa State University helps him make the most of such technology, and "The reward is handsome," Natoli wrote. The technology "results in higher yields, less waste, higher profits, less environmental impact, higher growth and a priceless perk: less time away from the family." (Read more)

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

It's harder for farmers now to use disruptive innovations that, while offering large rewards, also create a substantial risk of destroying the business. So farms now have turned to innovations like technology that, while they may not offer as large rewards, also have significantly less risk.