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Smart Sensors

You often can’t see them, but our lives are filled with sensors. They’re in your car, your phone, and in farm fields and machinery.

Laurie Bedord is Successful Farming Magazine’s advanced technology editor. She says smart sensors are tracking everything in a farmer’s field from water, to soil pH, to nutrients. And experts are continually refining that technology. For example, Bedord says we’re now able to look at an individual plant and see what that plant specifically needs.

"I was just part of the AgBot challenge in Indiana this past summer, and we had incredible inventors out there inventing a weed and feed robot," says Bedord. "It had sensors on it to see where that weed was, and eradicate that weed. Or, it would look at that plant, see what that plant needed, did it need a little bit more food? And it would give that plant the food that it would need, all though the technology of sensors."

Sensors are also coming down in price. Back in 2004, they were $1.38 each. That may not sound like a lot, but when there are thousands of sensors in these machines, it can add up fast.

"They’re predicting by 2020, these sensors are going to be down to $.38 per-sensor. If those predictions are right, it’s going to become very affordable to be able to put this technology on machines," says Bedord. "And it’s exciting to see a fully-autonomous tractor in the field planting, harvesting, and it’s really going to change the way we farm in the future."

Bedord says the next revolution will be shaping the algorithms that help farmers make decisions based on what the sensors are telling them.

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