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Emerging tech, farming and the impact on job skills in agriculture

Posted 4 months ago by Rebekah Shields

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There is a huge push on advancing farming technology, as it is seen as the solution to the world population crisis and the growing gap in global food provision.

However, emerging agricultural tech is not all about global visions and far-reaching needs. It is changing the face of grassroots farming every day.

This is a sector based on traditional skills, systems and working practices – often handed down through generations. Yet, there is strong evidence that new inventions and techniques are being willingly embraced. Not least as agricultural enterprises large and small can use emerging tech to do things faster, better and with less waste. This provides the economies needed to carve profit in a competitive marketplace.

Pathways to managing energy and water better within modern farming also make the industry more sustainable.

The increasing role of technology in farming is clearly having an impact on agricultural recruitment too. The skills needed to secure posts – especially in senior roles – have undergone a radical shift in recent years. Alongside such credentials as resource and time management abilities comes a need for applicants to have data management competencies.

Let’s look at emerging tech in farming in more detail, and the likely long term ramifications to agricultural job vacancies and recruitment aims.

Control at a micro level

Through all sectors of industry and commerce, technology is creating incredible levels of connectivity and control.

In farming, this comes in the form of being able to monitor and measure crops and livestock on a micro level.

The perfect example of this is soil sensor systems, that can monitor the conditions of roots for food and fodder crops. This data can inform the farmer when to irrigate, and to what level. In areas of the world where water is scarce, such accuracy and control could be pivotal. In some cases, it can save the farmer substantial costs. Also, soil nutrition and density won't be eroded by over-watering.

To be effective, this technology needs to be employed by someone confident in their use of integrated equipment and software. It usually relies on careful testing of the required soil moisture threshold and then calibration of sensors during insertion.

There are soil sensors that don’t require intricate calibration – and that measure energy readings from the plant rather than soil construction.

Crop imagery

Emerging tech in agriculture is also changing the way surface areas of fields can be monitored.

One of the biggest challenges in farming has always been having sufficient time to oversee all areas of operations and monitor the condition of all livestock and crops constantly.

Technology has made it possible for farmers to use satellite imaging to “be” everywhere at once. Crop imagery can be captured from across the site, to be examined at a central location.

It brings significant savings in time and money. Not least as soil sensors and crop imagery provide a quick warning system for adverse conditions that could affect yield. Corrective measures for such things as disease, nutrient deficiencies and pests can be activated quickly to contain issues.

This level of technological control of crops relies on data analysis skills too. Multi-spectral remote sensing – using satellites – relies on having clear parameters on optimum crop growth and condition. The constant measurement of photosynthesis and evapotranspiration often hinges on applying the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI).

This leads to the basic fact that it is not machinery and software driving change in farming, but the data it relies on and makes possible!

Big Data and agriculture


The huge and unfathomable upsurge in available information made possible by new technology is referred to as Big Data. These vast data sets have enabled scientists to develop plants that are more resistant to the environment and disease. However, each individual farmer has opportunities to unleash the power of Big Data to increase their yield and profitability

On a rural recruitment front, it means farms must compete with urban employment sectors to attract people with the necessary skills to gather and use data.

For example, sensors in soil and crop imaging equipment provide information that can help farmers to make reliable predictions. This is a vital new 'super power'!

Predictive analytics are possibly the most influential of all emerging tech benefits.

As more work is done to combine multi-spectral remote sensing with historic data, the accuracy of farming predictions can be even more assured.

By way of illustration, it is possible to sow seed with far greater insights into likely weather patterns, current soil status and potential return on investment. Harvesting can be timed to pinpoint accuracy using the insights that data analytics provides.

Farming automation

From Big Data comes an ability for farming to continually expand its use of automation. Smart farms passed from science fiction to a concept only accessible through heavy investment. They are rapidly becoming a reality for all levels of agriculture.

New connectivity and mobile technology solutions make it possible for agricultural enterprises to employ drones and auto-sprinklers, for example, and even autonomous “farm-bots” to carry out menial and repetitive tasks.

Does this level of automation reduce the number of farming jobs available? At some levels yes, but it means agricultural recruitment now relies on engineering and computing skills to develop, programme and run this level of automation.

Compliance and public perception

There is another important skill demand that emerging tech is imposing on agriculture. With new system integration and connectivity – and especially Big Data - comes big regulatory burdens.

Agricultural business owners and leaders need to stay ahead of compliance issues, not least to help foster good community relationships and manage any negative repercussions to their reputation.

It is easy to get “sucked in” to investing in new tech for farming, without addressing any of the residual issues in terms of ethics, insurance, standards and data protection, for example.

Plus, there is still a lingering public perception that technology somehow “devalues” farming output, and crop management gets brushed into concerns about heavily modified food stuffs. The public also worry about the environmental impact from technology on farms and the effect on pricing.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to be crossed in terms of public perception is when technology is used around animals, leading to loss of livestock jobs, less human interaction and greater levels of "factory farming".

This all means that farming businesses using emerging tech must consider the skill sets of senior staff very carefully. They need to have the ability to harness the power of technology (and Big Data), and they also need to have an understanding of all the ramifications and the best ways to address compliance and public perception.

Sources:
https://www.agritechtomorrow.com/article/2017/07/emerging-agricultural-technologies/10116/
https://techwireasia.com/2019/03/how-big-data-is-revolutionizing-the-agriculture-industry/
https://www.crookwellgazette.com.au/story/5964584/the-glass-ceiling-of-the-future-agriculture-technologies/

If you are looking for a new job or to progress your career, Agricultural Recruitment Specialists are worldwide recruitment experts in agricultural, food, farming and rural recruitment and have a variety of executive and management positions available within agriculture, horticulture and the food and rural sectors throughout the UK and the rest of the world. To find out more about our agricultural job vacancies and discuss your future career, contact our team of agricultural recruitment professionals. You can visit our website here: www.agriRS.co.uk or call our team on: 01905 345 155 or email us at: info@agriRS.co.uk

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