Precision Ag and Farm Zen

Many farmers are embracing precision agriculture advances. As this article says, “These technologies are as

common on big farms as pickup trucks: GPS-guided self-steering tractors, programmable boom sprayers that apply chemicals in precise quantities and locations, and smartphone apps that track, transmit, and analyze an array of data.”

Scores of reports, promotions, and farm stories tout the use of the latest tech on farms—and that’s well and good—but some wonder about privacy, cost, and maybe just a general digital overload. This 60-Minutes segment, “Brain Hacking,” examines the general trends of smartphone use—are the apps and content designed to keep users “hooked”? Have we become captive in a feverish digital whirlwind?

With the understanding that agriculture needs innovation and tech advances, the following blogs reflect on times when it may be best to power down:

A Smartphone Wise Enough to Power Down:  Relaxation apps are available to “calm us down and help us achieve our inner zen.” A walk around a park, through a pasture, or along a creek might help us reach a bit of “farm zen” in a natural way.

An Analog App on a Digital Farm: Somewhere there is a farmer who walks out of his house unarmed, with no smartphone in hand. He pets his ten-year old collie as he walks to the feedlot to check on the cattle. After getting a few buckets of grain for the new calves, he looks over the farm while standing in the shade of the oak

tree that has anchored the place for 130 years. A summer breeze ripples through the tasseling corn, a red-tailed hawk hovers over the back grove looking for mice, and the newly baled hay stacked in the nearby shed still has that intoxicating alfalfa-clover aroma. I doubt if there is an app for that. 

Virtual Farms and Real Sunsets:  Apparently you can strap on an Oculus headset and explore an exact reconstruction of the farm using a keyboard or an Xbox controller by turning your head from side to side. I suppose there’s a virtual farm system somewhere that could incorporate all these images, but I’m not much into wearing a Darth Vadar style helmet to get there. It’s a good time of year to log off, power down, and take a walk in the reality of a farm at harvest time.  

A Spot Where Cell Phones Don’t Work and GPS Is Dead: Google Earth maps haven’t located our prairie, and no GPS system will help you find it. It’s a connection to the past, a link to ancestors, and a sign of respect for the land that has been so bountiful for us in the heart of America.

by dan gogerty

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