These Technologies Are Changing Farms in Some Surprising Ways

Combines harvest wheat in Alberta in 2011.Todd Korol / Reuters file Just as self-driving cars are poised to change the way we get around, smart technology on the farm is set to revolutionize the way we cultivate the food we eat. Farmers already plant, weed, and harvest crops with the help of sophisticated machinery. But these machines — including huge tractors and combines guided by Earth-orbiting satellites — are about to become a lot smarter and more capable. For one thing, these machines will be able to work autonomously. Eliminating the driver cuts labor costs, of course. But it also helps ensure that crops aren’t left to rot in the field because no one is available to pick them at prices farmers are able to pay. “In tens of millions of acres in the U.S., there’s not really people who want to go out and pull weeds in the 100-degree heat,” says Ben Chostner, an executive with Blue River Technology, a Sunnyvale, California-based startup that is developing automated farm machines to apply fertilizer and weedkiller. And since plants give off greenhouse gases as they deteriorate, getting everything harvested helps protect the environment, too. Farm machinery is becoming even smarter and…


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