The digital farm of the (very near) future
New technologies make it possible to collect continuous streams of environmental
data. Scientists are helping farmers apply these new tools to manage soil, water,
and crops in ever-changing weather and climate.
The digital farm of the future uses all kinds of sensors—drones, fiber-optic cables,
radio-frequencies—to collect all kinds of sensory information. But what does a farmer
do with all this information? Chad Higgins, an environmental engineer at Oregon State,
helps make sense of sensory data. “We turn mountains of data into pearls of wisdom,”
Higgins heads the NEWAg Lab (Nexus of Energy, Water, and Agriculture) in OSU’s
Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering, a laboratory for precision
agriculture. “New sensors make it possible to measure more things than the human
brain can comprehend. We need new ways to process this information to sort out what
is important,” Higgins says.
In the digital farm of the future, sensory data are streamed into models that compare
incoming information over time to offer a picture of environmental conditions as
they change, over hours, days, or years. Computerized adaptive neural networks help
farmers make the best decisions possible, with the best data available, adapted to
specific in-field conditions…delivered to your smart phone.