New technologies make it possible to collect continuous streams of environmental data. Scientists are helping farmers apply these new tools to manage soil, water, and crops in ever-changing weather and climate.
The digital farm of the future uses all kinds of sensors—drones, fiber-optic cables, radio-frequencies—to collect all kinds of sensory information. But what does a farmer do with all this information? Chad Higgins, an environmental engineer at Oregon State, helps make sense of sensory data. “We turn mountains of data into pearls of wisdom,” he says.
Higgins heads the NEWAg Lab (Nexus of Energy, Water, and Agriculture) in OSU’s Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering, a laboratory for precision agriculture. “New sensors make it possible to measure more things than the human brain can comprehend. We need new ways to process this information to sort out what is important,” Higgins says.
In the digital farm of the future, sensory data are streamed into models that compare incoming information over time to offer a picture of environmental conditions as they change, over hours, days, or years. Computerized adaptive neural networks help farmers make the best decisions possible, with the best data available, adapted to specific in-field conditions…delivered to your smart phone.