DAYTON, Texas ― On a recent field day with the New Holland folks, I saw a large square baler with sensors ― kind of like the ones on your garage door that keep the door from coming down on your car, but much more sophisticated. They gauge the flow pattern of material coming into the machine and tell the operator to turn slightly one way or another to improve the quality of the bale.

I also got to ride in a tractor and it seemed the tractor could pretty much drive itself with all of the sophisticated GPS and auto-guidance features. Yes, the tractor can be programmed to pretty much operate on its own, but there are instances ― such as turning at the end of the row ― when it’s good to have someone there. And, of course, someone needs to turn the equipment on.  

“Technically speaking, I suppose (the tractors can drive themselves),” Abe Hughes, vice president of New Holland North America, says in the video above. “Given all the precision land management technology ― that’s our GPS system that we’ve now put into these tractors ― the experience is very electronic and it is very autonomous, let’s put it that way.”

With “precision agriculture” becoming the norm, it all makes sense.

Not only do you increase the volume of the harvest with these machines, you improve the quality.

“We’re cutting the bales, pre-cutting the bales as they are being made… so that each cow has the right amount that fits into its mouth,” Hughes says. “By slicing that bale up the way we do, everybody is going to get the right amount of ration.”

People can now identify bales of hay with RFID tags, telling which field the bale came from, the time it was baled, bale weight, and the moisture content.

I had to step back a moment and look at the big picture ― of what technology is doing in all aspects of our lives. More and more, we are being exposed to the problems of increased computer technology and the lack of privacy that brings, especially with revelations of government-spying programs. Our cars can now track our every move, including brief forays over the speed limit.

But I have to say, last week while seeing the farm machinery being demonstrated, I was reminded ― in a good way ― just how important technology has become in the farm sector.