Science & Technology in Action

13th Edition

Digital technology in agriculture

Teagasc

Many new and emerging technologies will revolutionise farming in Ireland. These include the use of advanced sensors for data collection, further development of precision agriculture, expanded use of robotics and automation and greater use of biotechnology and bioengineering in farming.
Download Lesson Kit

Contains the full lesson along with a supporting toolkit, including teachers’ notes.

Lesson excerpt

Emerging technologies

Many new and emerging technologies will revolutionise farming in Ireland. These include the use of advanced sensors for data collection, further development of precision agriculture, expanded use of robotics and automation and greater use of biotechnology and bioengineering in farming.

Sensors

A sensor is an electronic device that detects or measures a change in the physical environment (such as temperature or light intensity), converts this measurement into a signal and, in general, sends that information to a computer or mobile app. Your mobile phone, for example, may have motion sensors, pressure sensors (on the screen), light sensors, GPS (Global Positioning System) and many more. Below are some examples of sensor technologies used today on Irish farms.

GPS & GIS Sensors

GPS, or Global Positioning System, is a technology widely used to help identify one’s exact position and speed. GPS satellites orbiting the Earth continuously transmit their own location and the exact time. Using the signals from three or four satellites a GPS receiver (as used in some smart phones) calculates its own position. GIS (Geographic Information Systems) is a similar technology which maps the surface of the Earth and can be used to monitor crop growth. Using these technologies in precision agriculture farmers can vary the sowing rate, fertiliser application, pesticide use etc. to suit different fields or even parts of a field. GPS may be used in automated farming, in which driverless vehicles are used to harvest crops. GPS also facilitates more accurate soil sampling and better farm planning. It allows farmers work when there is poor visibility — at night or during fog.

True or False?

  1. Precision farming uses sensor technology and automated vehicles to improve yields. true
  2. The MooMonitor is used to measure crop yields during harvesting. false
  3. GPS is a system for mapping the Earth’s surface. false
  4. Genetic engineering is the manipulation of genetic information in an organism. true
  5. Crop yield is not affected by fertiliser use. false
  6. Farming can have a negative impact on the environment. true
  7. Biometric sensors can help detect fertility in cows. true
  8. Automated and self driving farm machinery can only work during the day. false
  9. Agricultural drones are used for aerial photography on farms. true
  10. Crop yield is not dependent on the soil. false
  11. Genetic engineering of animals is banned in the US. false

Glossary of terms

Bioengineering
the use of biological process to manufacture materials or solve problems
Biotechnology
any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify useful products
Cloud
refers to online computer resources
Crop yield
the amount of a crop produced per hectare
Drones
an unmanned aircraft; often remotely controlled
Dry matter
what is left when all moisture has been removed
Genes
a unit of heredity in a chromosome; a gene controls a particular inherited characteristic of an individual
Genetically modified
having had its genes changed by artificial means; genetically engineered
Genomics
study of the genome and the interactions of the genes it contains
GIS
geographic information system; an integrated system to, for example, store, analyse and display geographic information
GPS
global positioning system; GPS receivers compute the coordinates of their location using data from GPS satellites.
HarvestLab
a proprietary system that automatically measure the dry matter content of a crop while it is being harvested
Herbicide
a poison that kills plants; also called weed killer
Internet of Things
networking of physical devices such as domestic devices by using smart electronics
Lactose
a disaccharide sugar found in milk; it is composed of galactose and glucose
Lime
Calcium oxide (CaO) produced by burning limestone in a kiln.
Microcomputer
a miniature computer, often built into other devices
MooMonitor+
MooMonitor+ is a wireless sensor that allows farmers to remotely monitor a cow's key biological functions
pH
a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution; pH values are generally in the range 0 to 14, where 0 is a strong acid, 7 is neutral and 14 is a strong base. Negative values are possible; commercial HCl has a pH of about -1.1. Saturated NaOH has a pH of about 15.
Precision agriculture
agriculture that used satellite navigation systems for location and measurement
Real-time data
data that are delivered as soon as collected
Reproductive efficiency
measure of how easily and frequently a cow calves
Rumination
chewing the cud'; some animals, such as cows and sheep, regurgitate and chew vegetation they have previously eaten; this help the breakdown of the fibrous tissue it contains
Soil fertility
soil to support plant growth