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Where's Precision Ag Heading?

Drones and driverless tractors may seem high tech now, but they may be just the beginning of a new agricultural revolution.

Precision ag technology is pretty amazing. Auto steer, driverless tractors for grain carts and unmanned aerial drones are the stuff of Star Wars movies. But what if this is just the beginning of what’s possible, and not the culmination of ag mechanization?

“What if,” asks David Hunt, an ag technology visionary who spoke at the recent Alltech International Symposium, “we were a little more imaginative?”

Instead of a traditional combine that runs itself, Hunt imagines that one day you might have robotic combines that look and act like birds. Birds are nature’s most efficient grain harvesters, he says. Hundreds, if not thousands, might be employed on a farm to harvest grain.

Rather than flying fixed wing or helicopter drones over a field to take pictures of a crop you might deploy drones that hover over a field all season long. They would constantly gather and transmit data as the crop grows.

Instead of periodically taking soil sampling to measure nutrient levels, Hunt sees farmers analyzing a continuous stream of data coming from a network of permanent soil sensors.

“The sensors, software, drones and robotics will create a new agricultural revolution,” Hunt predicts.

See what a drone that could hover over a field might look like in this video.

Hunt is managing director of Comex McKinnon, Dublin, Ireland, an import-export grain and supply company.

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