The Next Evolution of Agriculture Technology

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The Next Evolution of Agriculture Technology

Alyson Powell
June 29, 2015
Georgia Tech’s Wearable Computing Center, along with the University of Georgia, and agriculture tech startup TekWear have received a grant to study the use of drones and wearable technology in farming. The first-of-its-kind grant from the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the USDA evaluates how farmers and crop consultants can use these technologies to improve production in specialty crops such as pecans.

While some may not think of farming as a high-tech industry, farmers are early adopters of technology that we now take for granted such as GPS.

“They think we all have pitchforks and a cow,” said Bruce Rasa, CEO of TekWear. “But the GPS technology that was offered up to the civilian market out of the military market in the early nineties has been a foundation of agriculture for the last 30 years.”

Rasa’s family, who farms full time in the Midwest, has used self-driving, satellite-guided tractors for a decade. And Farm Journal projects 87% of farmers will use a smartphone by next year.

Dr. Lenny Wells crop scouts pecans using Google Glass
“We see wearables as the next step in evolution of the smartphone,” said Rasa.

Currently, farmers use their smartphone or a pen and paper in the field to record crop disease, moisture, and nutrient levels. Smart glasses give farmers a hands-free way to take notes and easily access previous years’ notes while in the field.

“Instead of going through the stack of papers that a farmer may have kept from years past, we’re developing a system whereby these notes may be kept automatically, “ said Peter Presti, co-director of the Wearable Computing Center.

Presti, Rasa, and Dr. Lenny Wells of the University of Georgia College of Agriculture are also incorporating drones into their study. The drone follows a farmer’s position and takes photos of crops from above.

“Ag drones are becoming a big part of the industry now that the FAA is considering rules to allow farmers to run their own drones on their own fields,” said Presti.

In March, Presti attended the Annual Georgia Pecan Growers Educational Conference & Trade Show in Perry to demo wearable tech. Feedback from farmers was positive. “Anything to help them increase their yields they would be thrilled to work with,” he said.

Although smart glasses have not been popular with consumers, industries like healthcare, shipping, and construction have embraced the technology. Farming could be next.

“They want better a battery, for it to be smaller, sleeker, and to make sure it’s secure,” said Rasa.

Researchers will travel to Cordele this month to continue their study. The goal is to eventually collaborate with industry to develop a crop scouting application.

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