A long time ago in a barn far, far away, farmers yearned to learn more about their crops and livestock while also saving some time and money.
That moment of technological advancement has arrived, with precision agriculture delivering sensors, robots and monitors that rival those out of the science fiction classic Star Wars. It's as if we've left the days of guessing and backbreaking labor for a more automated and accurate era.
During the last week of June, I visited farms and learned about the latest technology in the galaxy at the Precision Dairy Conference in Rochester, Minn. While Minnesota isn't exactly the same as Tatooine, the desert planet that farm boy Luke Skywalker calls home, it is eerily similar how agriculture has entered a new frontier.
Robotic milkers were all the rage at the conference and it is easy to see why. With the savings in labor and the data received from this technology it is hard to argue against purchasing a unit. Having C-3PO milk your cows may have seemed farfetched in 1977 when Star Wars: A New Hope was released, but now it is a reality.
I even got to witness a robot in action that was comparable in movement and shape to R2-D2. The Lely Juno feed pusher won't be able help the Rebel Alliance in their cause to defeat the Galactic Empire, but it does supply a helpful task for farmers in feed management.
John Deere exhibited the Millennium Falcon of silage pickers at one of my other farm stops. The 7780 Forage Harvester was equipped with the latest technology in automatic steering, field mapping, silage quality monitors, yield monitors and moisture monitors. It may not be able to help you make the jump to hyperspace, however it could put you light years ahead of producers not utilizing this type of technology.
My final stop in Minnesota led me to Feedlogic, a company that specializes in intelligent feeding solutions for pork and poultry operations. Utilizing their wireless-based technology allows producers to not only better manage feed and water usage, but also aids in monitoring humidity, temperature and ammonia levels within barns. Feedlogic's tools might be the lightsaber farmers have been looking for to cut feed costs.
Looking to the stars has led to many innovative and helpful tools. In order to progress and meet the future demand of a growing population, producers across the United States really don't have to look that far off because the technology is already in place. We just need to use it.
May the Force be with you.