New technology is being developed to help increase the efficiency of farming at an alarming rate; but one concern is whether farmers can embrace these new innovations before another new wave is introduced.
If farmers are to be capable of feeding the estimated 9 billion people in the world by 2050 then they must become smarter, leaner and cleaner.
Technology has a major role to play in farming sector
As the availability of land and labour shrinks through time, technology must play a major part in making farming as efficient as it can be, and then some.
Robotics and innovative technology are emerging as key players in the global battle to improve agriculture and already exists in various formats.
Cows are already being milked by robots, sensors are already improving feeding regimes and identifying diseases, and drones are already helping with crop management; but what does the next wave of ingenious innovation have in store.
Poultry farmer key advocate of technology
One key advocate of technology is poultry expert David Speller who not only runs his own broiler unit but contract manages poultry farms across the world.
David farms 180,000 broilers on his own farm in Derbyshire, England, plus contract manages 10 other global sites with 3 million birds producing 20 million birds per year.
David is a real advocate of new technologies and has installed numerous pieces of advanced kit on his farm. He said while there is a concern that technology is being developed quicker than farmers can understand it there is room for good technology that can improve the margins of a flock.
In the past 6 years Speller has invested £2.5m (€2.88 m) on new technologies and says he benefits to the tune of £35,000 to £40,000 per year (€40,409 to €46,176) from this.
Finding the balance between labour and technology
He said: “Recruiting staff these days is a huge problem. We can get good staff that are good with animals but are poor with technology.
“And those that are good with technology can be poor with livestock. Some farm managers these days don’t even have cameras on their telephones.”
With specific reference to the poultry industry David said: “New technology certainly has a place within poultry units and we are already witnessing huge advantages from using it.
Opportunities for more technology
“We need to become more involved with immersive technology and robots with mobile sensors in poultry units and other applications.
“Other things like electronic water regulators would be a huge benefit. Plus I would like to see more autonomous computer control of heating the sheds too.
“All too often we spend a lot of money heating sheds and the heat seems to be high up in the air rather than on the floor where the birds need it.
“There are other cases where certain areas of the sheds are warmer than others. This all affects the production of the birds and it is another factor that could be easily managed with an automated system,” he said.
However, the adoption of new technology can bring with it some challenges.
David said: “Initial capital outlay is a major factor, as is the recruitment of staff that can see the vision. Staff that are good with animals normally means poor with technology. “Some of the new equipment cannot stand up to the demands of high pressure cleaning and harsh detergents and disinfectants in the houses. “Another major challenge is poor internet speeds on farm and the cost of continual development of technology,” he added.