By Marlee Moore
Smartphone apps, spreadsheets and scads of automated systems help drive progress across Alabama farms.
“That’s the thing about farmers,” said Dorman Grace, a Walker County farmer and Alabama Farmers Federation state board member. “One farmer might learn something and pass it on to someone else. We’re always growing and getting better at what we do.”
Tech-savvy farmers channel Apple’s “There’s an app for that.” mentality to remotely manage aspects of their business, whether turning on irrigation or calculating yields.
In the Information Age, mechanization and modernization are critical — ensuring farmers efficiently care for land, livestock and crops.
Take diversified operations. Poultry house data can feed directly to smartphones, letting farmers put boots on the ground elsewhere.
Computers ensure optimal temperature and ventilation inside poultry houses, too, keeping chickens safe and comfortable while saving fuel, electricity and water.
Meanwhile, row crop farms conserve inputs with precision agriculture, which helps farmers make decisions based on high-tech sensors and tools. Tractors with auto-steer use GPS to lock in on a row, ensuring precise planting, fertilizer application and harvest.
“We use auto-steer on every machine in every row crop pass, and it reduces operator fatigue and eliminates overlap,” said Autauga County farmer Drew Wendland. “It does a good job of making sure we don’t do the same work on the same area twice.”
Technology gives cattle farmers an edge, too. Computers manage health and breeding information, record sales and track performance data. Electronic ID tags track cattle, while artificial insemination improves conception rates.
Improvements are thanks to research, Grace said. Businesses, farmers and land-grant universities invest in research to advance systems, genetics and technology, like unmanned aerial vehicles, which capture photos, videos and maps to help detect issues.
“So many people help us,” Grace said. “They help make our operations more efficient and help us do what we love — farm.”
Down To Earth Definitions
- Diversification: Growing multiple commodities on one farm. These often benefit from one another, such as row crop farms that use chicken litter as a natural fertilizer.
- Auto-steer: A GPS guidance system that steers agricultural equipment with centimeter accuracy.
- Land-grant:An institution of higher education initially established to focus on agricultural and mechanical arts. Alabama is home to three — Auburn University, Alabama A&M University and Tuskegee University.
Visit DownToEarthAL.com to learn more.