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Technology of self-reliance

by on ‎07-17-2013 03:21 PM

Generations ago, families who had already made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe loaded up their often meager belongings and headed west to eventually settle the land that today makes up the farms and small towns of the Midwest and Plains. Many were motivated by an intensely independent nature. They'd lived in cities in their former locations and moved west to satiate the urge for wide-open space and self-reliance. 

Wait...this is a blog about the future, not the past, right? But, to understand where technology may be taking agriculture, we have to look at our past. Think of that strong impulse of self-reliance in the early European settlers of the nation's center. They had next to nothing. They built homes, tilled the soil, raised crops, formed communities, all on their own. 


But, as the decades ticked away, farmers were forced into a less independent role. Reliance upon machinery technicians, seed and chemical reps, crop consultants and today, precision ag technicians, has taken away some of farmers' ability to operate in the way of that settling generation. Fierce independence has been replaced by the practical necessity to rely on others to get the job done on the farm, and rightfully so.


That's just the context to look at some of the new technology making its way to the farm. Take 3D printing, for example. How about printing your own parts instead of having to run to the dealership to pick them up? Or, a wearable computer and augmented reality: When combined, you can use the tools to not just have access to your field-level crop condition, weather and soil moisture data, for example, but you can also make your own decisions based on that data without a crop consultant. With a drone, you might be able to get a glimpse at a weed infestation in part of your farm without needing a crop scout to find it for you. 


It all adds up to the technology of self-reliance. These new tools -- while they'll never replace the human element of service on your farm -- help make you the primary decision-maker. They help you become more self-reliant.


"To me, these are some of the biggest evolutions in ag and industry in general. It's a new core business model with a focus to do the things that actually get things done yourself. The business model of total self-reliance," says John George, president and chief engineer at Agricultural Engineering Associates in Uniontown, Kansas. "Most farmers have migrated to a more core business where they farm out inputs, accessories, etc. What is the ability of this new technology to integrate into core business, to allow farmers to build their own parts or tools? It's a dynamic learning curve."


So, what are some ways you see some of the latest technology has made you more "self-reliant and independent" on your farm?