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Technology in Agriculture

When you think of farming, you may not think much about the technology that is involved.

The basic technology of agricultural machines has changed little in the last century. Though modern harvesters and planters may do a better job or be slightly tweaked from their predecessors, the US $250,000 combine of today still cuts, threshes, and separates grain in essentially the same way it has always been done. However, technology is changing the way that humans operate the machines, as computer monitoring systems, GPS locators, and self-steer programs allow the most advanced tractors and implements to be more precise and less wasteful in the use of fuel, seed, or fertilizer. In the foreseeable future, there may be mass production of driverless tractors, which use GPS maps and electronic monitors.

Agriculture may be one of the oldest professions, but the development and use of machinery has made the job title of farmer a rarity. Instead of every person having to work to provide food for themselves, less than 2% of the U.S. population today works in agriculture, yet that 2% provides considerably more food than the other 98% can eat. It is estimated that at the turn of the 20th century, one farmer in the U.S. could feed 25 people, where today, that ratio is 1:130 (in a modern grain farm, a single farmer can produce cereal to feed over a thousand people). With continuing advances in agricultural machinery, the role of the farmer continues on.

The next advance in farming will be the electrification of agricultural machines to improve energy efficiency reduce the environmental energy budget. While an all electric tractor with fully electric agricultural machines may still be several years out, companies are now looking to provide mobile power sources for agricultural applications.

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