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Technology Reducing Energy Usage on Farms

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Emily Folk's picture
Journalist Conservation Folks

Emily Folk is a conservation and sustainability journalist. She focuses primarily on green technology and the impact changes in technology have on climate change. On her blog, Conservation Folks...

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The agricultural industry is ripe for an energy transformation. It’s a sector so essential that society will never outgrow its need for it, yet it remains environmentally unsustainable. Thankfully, modern technology is helping farms reduce their high energy consumption rates.

The world needs farms, especially as the global population continues to grow, demanding more food. Simultaneously, agriculture accounts for 5% of industrial energy consumption, using more than one quadrillion Btu in 2019. If the sector ramps up production to meet increasing demand without becoming more energy-efficient, it could have substantial consequences.

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Farms need to reduce their energy consumption, and technology is assisting in that process. With broader adoption of these technologies, agriculture can meet new needs sustainably.

Data Analytics

Data gathering and analysis tools have seen widespread implementation across the industrial world. Farms are starting to adopt these technologies, too, as the precision agriculture movement gains momentum. By analyzing resource consumption throughout their farm, farmers can see where and how to improve.

Soil sensors are some of the most common data analytic technologies in agriculture. These gadgets sit in the ground near crops and measure soil variables and pests, sometimes producing actionable insights from this data. Farmers can then adjust their irrigation, pesticide and other resource usage to ensure they only use what they need.

This precision eliminates waste, including energy like that needed to pump water or heat buildings. Since this process also translates to considerable cost reduction, it’s becoming more popular among farmers. As precision agriculture technology develops, these energy and cost savings will only grow.

Automation

Another disruptive innovation making its way into agriculture is automation. While manufacturers have automated processes for decades, the practice has only recently come to farming. More farms are implementing robots as they become better suited to often delicate agricultural work.

While automation’s primary benefit is reducing the long hours farmers work, it can also improve energy efficiency. Automated tools typically perform tasks faster than manual processes, leading to shorter machine runtimes. As a result, farmers don’t use as much energy performing the same jobs.

Automating simpler tasks, like irrigation, also leads to energy reduction since these systems can apply readings from IoT sensors. Precision agriculture and automation work together to produce further savings. When connected to these sensors, automated tools can use the least amount of energy necessary.

Gene Editing

While automation and data analytics see use in other industries, gene editing is a cost-saving technique unique to agriculture. The core idea isn’t new, either, as selective breeding has helped farmers improve their produce for millennia. Modern gene-editing technology takes this process to a new level, though.

Through gene editing, agricultural scientists can produce seeds that can yield more with fewer resources. CRISPR sequencing can create more water-efficient plants, helping farmers reduce their water use. This also lowers their energy consumption, as pumping more water requires more energy.

As urban farming grows, gene editing can produce crops that require less light, so indoor facilities don’t need to run lamps as long. With further gene sequencing also comes a better understanding of what genes produce certain characteristics. Scientists can then improve their genetic modification techniques.

Farming Technology Today Fixes Agricultural Problems Tomorrow

As the threat of climate change looms ever closer, reducing the world’s energy consumption is paramount. Applying these agricultural technologies today will help farmers prevent disastrous problems in the future. With greater energy efficiency, farmers can feed a growing population without compromising the world’s diminishing resources.

These technologies are only a sampling of the tools farmers use today. As more gadgets emerge, agriculture’s methods of reducing energy consumption keep growing. Farming is becoming a more tech-centric industry, and it’s leading to more sustainable energy usage.

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