Al Savage is Manager of the StarFire Network within the John Deere Intelligent Solutions Group (ISG).He contributed this article to Space.com’s Voices of the Experts: Columns and Insights.
Our world is already steeped in GPS in everything from mobile devices and cars to how farmers work and grow our food. Even for those of us old enough to remember the time before GPS became widespread, it’s hard to imagine a world without it these days.
In 1957, the first satellite to successfully orbit the Earth was launched.The world almost does not know the name artificial satellite, will unlock decades of technological advancement. In the early 1960s, the US Navy developed the first satellite navigation system so ballistic missile submarines could obtain accurate position information.The technology was more accessible to the public in the 1980s, and by 1996 the Department of Defense officially named the system the Global Positioning System (Global Positioning System). It wasn’t until the late 1990s that farmers adopted GPS, but once it did, it revolutionized farming.
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GPS in Agriculture: An Evolving Technology
The average consumer uses GPS as a navigation system smart phone Or in a vehicle, but for agriculture, GPS offers more. While most people think of agriculture as using outdated practices that haven’t changed in decades, agriculture today embraces technology in transformative ways.
The agricultural industry uses a wide range of technologies, including sensors, IoT (Internet of Things), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML), all of which work with GPS.The world’s population is projected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050, and the consequent higher demand for food coupled with ongoing impacts climate changemeaning farmers will be challenged to increase production by improving their operations year by year.
Trying new practices or making mistakes can have a direct impact on results and can mean lower yields at the end of the season or even the loss of an entire crop that year.However, the Internet of Things and satellite Technology enables farmers to analyze data from previous years and make actionable decisions that can positively impact the current season. For example, data can help farmers determine the best places to plant seeds based on past trends of success and failure. Ultimately, the combination of technology and data can help farmers make accurate forecasts that lead to better-informed decisions, optimize crop yields, and reduce waste, making farmers’ operations more economically and environmentally sustainable in the future.
When planting, farmers lay a year-round foundation for their fields. Using sensors, farmers can strategically plant seeds evenly spaced from each other, giving each seed the best chance to reach its full potential without competing with other seeds for resources like sunlight, water and nutrients. By using data, farmers can better understand what their crops need because they have an accurate picture of what their crops have been in the past few years. The ability to precisely sow seeds — with no overlap — and then know where each seed is, year after year, is just one reason why the combination of satellites and sensors is so important in precision farming.
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From crop yields to self-guided tractors, GPS at work
In the mid-1990s, when the rest of the world was obsessed with the first cell phone, the agricultural industry started using GPS for precision farming. By combining GPS location data with readings from sensors on the combine, farmers are able to determine crop yields in different areas of their fields. By 2003, the first self-guided system had been developed to within an inch of accuracy. This level of precision keeps farm equipment moving in a straight line across the field and avoids running over crops on subsequent passes. Fast forward to today and GPS can achieve sub-inch accuracy in the field, giving farmers the opportunity to build technologies like AI and autonomy and bring precision to all production steps.
GPS is integral in bringing new technologies to the farm, such as autonomous tractors, smart sprayers with artificial intelligence, and better data collection tools. Using GPS, farmers can easily calculate the best route for the tractor to travel autonomously in the field, giving farmers the time they need to tackle other tasks or spend valuable time with friends and family.
GPS continues to help meet demand for higher yields and more food
Collecting and processing more data at higher speeds requires evolving satellite technology combined with other agricultural technologies. As demand for food increases, farmers will need to change the way they manage to grow more crops while maintaining economic and environmental sustainability. In the future, satellite technology will provide the ability to scan larger and larger areas in less time, including non-contiguous acreage, to help farmers precisely manage their operations down to the plant level.
As the global population continues to grow, the development of agricultural technology and GPS will become more necessary to build new smart agricultural systems. These developments will allow farmers to make the most of their time while providing the world with the food, fuel and fiber it needs.
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