John Deere Australia and New Zealand, Precision Agriculture Manager, Benji Blevin, shared a vision of the technology-driven, automated and connected fleet of farm equipment that will drive the future of horticulture when speaking at Hort Connections 2021 on Tuesday in Brisbane.
Mr Blevin said the agriculture sector was in the midst of a paradigm shift away from bigger and stronger machines to smarter, easier-to-use and technologically-advanced equipment, which will lead to productivity gains and be at the heart of the long-term sustainability of the industry. Mr Blevin said:
“This transition is well underway, as many growers are already using their technology and farm data to make management decisions that are yielding positive economic and environmental outcomes.”
“Excitingly, there is still room for growth and with further adoption of precision agriculture technology, farmers will have increasingly seamless and more precise control of their data and equipment.”
Mr Blevin broke down the key technologies which would propel rapid advancement into five categories: connectivity, sensors, data, artificial intelligence and robotics. He said:
“The next wave of technology will allow farmers to have the ability to manage on a plant-by-plant basis, and drive down much deeper into their farm data.”
“Not only will this allow farmers to reduce their input costs, as applications will be monitored and precise to the plant level, it also means the environmental footprint of agriculture can be significantly reduced as less chemicals are being applied on farms.”
For horticulture, Mr Blevin said John Deere’s Machine Sync, which allows harvesting equipment to control the speed of its chaser bin, was technology well positioned for adoption within the sector. He said:
“Machine Sync brings powerful efficiency gains as the chaser bin is working at the optimal location and speed in relation to the harvester, which reduces the potential for crop loss and enables the harvester to operate at maximum capacity while unloading, improving harvesting efficiency.”
“Working alongside this, there is also the Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) feature which allows equipment operating under Machine Sync to stay on the CTF track when unloading. This helps prevent soil compaction and reduces the possibility of human error.”
Mr Blevin said the Smart-Apply Intelligent Spray Control System, which is an add-on kit for air-blast sprayers, was also an application supporting horticulture producers to make the step change.
Using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensing the Smart-Apply system helps ensure only the canopy is sprayed and automatically adjusts spray volume based on the plant’s density and canopy per nozzle zone. He said:
“This not only assists farmers to guard against spray drift but also helps reduce overall chemical use, which of course has cost saving and sustainability benefits, while also maintaining optimal spray coverage and droplet size.”
Mr Blevin said ease of use and robust aftermarket support would be powerful factors in ensuring adoption by Australian producers.
“The Australian horticulture industry is in a promising position, and John Deere is eager to work with growers to make the next technological leap together, as industry rises to the challenges and opportunity of feeding a growing global population.”