H-2A fieldworkers at Astin Farms

Ag tech capabilities continue on to improve. Modern day details administration and recordkeeping software platforms allow for planting schedulers to automate setting up for job affiliated all over planting through harvest to assure a smooth circulation of solution.
Picture by Frank Giles

5 well known Florida-dependent farming operations ended up represented in a panel dialogue through the virtual UF/IFAS Ag Tech Expo in Might. Jamie Williams, Director of Functions of Lipman Household Farms Chuck Obern, proprietor of C&B Farms Paul Meador, operator of Everglades Harvesting Charlie Lucas, President of King Ranch (Consolidated Citrus) and Ken McDuffie, Senior Vice President of Sugarcane Functions for U.S. Sugar, all shared how they are employing know-how and see its part in their respective operations.

Precise Creation

These farms have had their feet in the ag-tech video game the longest using tools connected to output. Most are grid sampling their fields for fertilizer apps and making use of soil moisture probes and temperature stations to be additional precise and powerful with irrigation scheduling.

“We have been accomplishing GPS soil sampling for about 10 a long time now,” Obern famous. “We have GPS charge controllers on our fumigation rigs, fertilizer applicators, and sprayers. We have temperature stations on every farm that provides us reside situations each time we want to accessibility it.”

Lucas famous the fiscal and environmental positive aspects of extra precise application at King Ranch.

“I imagine the Tree-See know-how that has been about a extended time was a significant breakthrough for citrus,” he said. “We use it in several programs no matter whether it be spraying, soil drench, or fertilizer application. We have noticed about 20% reduction in products used with Tree-See. Which is not only a profit on cost savings on inputs, but there is significantly less effects on the environment.

“Right now, we also are doing work with a lidar-laser know-how on a few of sprayers. They will not only detect tree measurement, but also tree density. Detecting the density will allow for for altering the application quantity. We are hopeful dependent on some original operate that we could possibly realize one more 20% to 30% savings. You include individuals two technologies jointly, and we might see a 40% to 50% financial savings. Which is substantial.”

In excess of at Lipman, GPS also has been utilised to information apps.

“We use GPS reference for all our bug sprays to be ready to identify how undesirable they are and where they are,” Williams stated.

Predictive Insights

The panelists all pointed out they see fantastic promise in the selection and management of knowledge about the lengthy-term to boost sustainability and the ability to make smarter conclusions on the farm.

C&B Farms has been applying these styles of technologies given that the early 2000s. It has developed levels of information and facts that has allowed them to turn out to be considerably advanced in scheduling and execution of the 30+ specialty crops developed on the farm.

The farm uses knowledge to glimpse at each area and figure out what predicted inputs will be and what yields are projected for each acre/for every week. Then they match that up with what they promote to their clients. Based mostly on that information and facts, their software package administration software builds a planting plan to ensure a regular circulation of items in desire in the course of the harvest window.

“Once we have our map of in which we are planting and when, we have a [software] task manager that spits out the jobs for each and every output functionality like disking, bedding, fertilizer, herbicide, seeding, irrigation, etc. It is all automated.”

Williams observed that information can deliver insights down to the row degree as layer-on-layer of info is gathered 12 months-just after-year.

“One of the matters we keyed in on a decade in the past is the plan technological know-how would launch us into the upcoming by accumulating data in large portions and making use of it to predictively model fertility prices, yield outcomes, labor wants, etc.” he stated. “Anything we could do to continue to be on the cutting edge through technological know-how.”

Lipman makes use of the CropTrak platform that is an integrated recordkeeping program that collects data on just about just about every purpose on the farm. In fields, all the facts Lipman is creating is GPS referenced. Williams noted that every row has a range and efficiency of some have been tracked for a 10 years. That data can then be mined by artificial intelligence (AI) to consider how very well the farm is carrying out or envisioned to accomplish.

“We ran some styles a few months ago and identified our ability to challenge farm produce outcomes was not as superior as the AI when you plug in all the historic information on climate, blocks, and varieties, and so on.,” Williams explained. “That ties again to our revenue and offers us some feeling of safety of what sort of returns we can be expecting all through the period. We know there’s likely to be blips along the way, but to be equipped to identify them and get out in advance of them to stop gluts in creation is good tool.”

Oxbo 6430 mechanical harvester in action

Paul Meador of Everglades Harvesting suggest at some point the citrus industry may think about a grove architecture that would all for around-the-best harvest of citrus to cut down labor and decrease expenses.
Photo courtesy of Oxbo Intercontinental

Labor and Efficiency

A different area the panelists see for the promise of ag engineering is labor recordkeeping. Which is significantly crucial in a condition that is more and more relying on H-2A labor exactly where recordkeeping specifications are significant. But there are other rewards in currently being equipped to keep track of labor productiveness on the farm, which many of the present-day computer software platforms enable.

U.S. Sugar handles a ton of acres and employs a whole lot of men and women. The organization has invested in software growth to regulate its workforce. The technique even screens machines general performance. It lets the business to be proactive with servicing of tractors and harvesters to stay away from downtime for repairs all through vital creation windows.

“Recently, we have executed what we phone Operational Excellence,” McDuffie pointed out. “The method displays our device wellbeing and operator productiveness, and all time-trying to keep initiatives.”

Automation and Logistics

Lack of labor and its expenses loom huge as two of the most significant issues growers face these days. It is forcing them to glimpse for approaches to lessen workforce demands. Ag tech has a way to go but is catching up.

Whilst mechanical harvest of citrus hit a roadblock when HLB arrived, and right after the hurricanes of the mid-2000s, it is obtaining one more appear currently.

“Unfortunately, there’s not any mechanical harvesting being accomplished in Florida appropriate now, but that technological innovation exists in other tree crops like coffee and olives applying trellis and above-the-row harvesters. I believe that at some issue our citrus field will start to glance at grove architecture, new rootstocks, and technological innovation that could permit that sort of harvester here,” Meador explained.

King Ranch has not too long ago invested in the World wide Unmanned Spray System (GUSS). The autonomous robotic maneuvers via groves working with lidar vision, cutting down the want for human operators. A person human can function 4 equipment with a notebook from the taxi of his or her pickup.

Next Generation of Orchard Sprayers is Autonomous

GUSS’s low front profile was designed to drive very easily in the orchard, with branches flowing above prime of the sprayer. (Photograph by David Eddy)

“With this technology, we can reduce the have to have for 12 tractors and 12 sprayers down to four GUSS units,” Lucas famous. “We will be ready to lower our head rely by eight folks and protect a whole lot a lot more acres due to the fact we can operate the device all the time. Right now, it is going to just be spraying, but we are hoping we can insert employment like herbicide applications and mowing. It is not a affordable procedure, but we know the labor condition and are ready to commit even if there is not an speedy payback. We are fairly energized about the engineering.”


Meals basic safety and traceability has become paramount in day-to-day, even hourly operations of specialty crop farms. C&B Farms a short while ago set up a new barcode technique able of tracking the labor harvesting and packing the products — down to the subject stage. Not only is that helpful for food stuff protection, it also is used to the piece-get the job done rates for harvest labor.

“We have tablets and printers in the industry,” Obern pointed out. “We print the sticker in the subject. Facts is communicated from the office environment to the discipline and the stickers are assigned a PTI (Deliver Traceability Initiative) quantity.

“We even track our create shipments to our customers. We have GPS temperature trackers in our shipments that presents us live info every 10 minutes [on location and produce cooling] and lets our shoppers know how their load is earning its way to them.”

Competitive Pressures

Although agricultural technological know-how will come with a learning curve and an cost, the panelists agreed it will be vital in the competitive landscape in which their farms are developing. The capability to acquire efficiencies in production, lessen labor, and increase the productiveness of labor on the farm will be significant heading forward.

“We have to figure out ways to compete with international competitors,” Obern pointed out. “They are not heading to change and will keep coming. They have a lot lower charges than ours, so we ought to undertake engineering that increases our efficiency and decreases our expenses.”

Road blocks to Adoption

When the growers on the UF/IFAS Ag Tech Expo panel are huge believers in the adoption and guarantee of agricultural technology, they acknowledged there are problems with its implementation. In this article are a couple of they outlined.

  • The fees of entry: Lots of of the available systems are costly and typically don’t deliver a speedy payback on financial commitment.
  • It is complex: For most growers, computers and application are sophisticated to study and work. Then there are staff members who ought to be qualified to use technologies correctly.
  • Integration of platforms: Farms that utilize numerous platforms usually have problem integrating units to run efficiently.
  • Glitches: Just like with any laptop or computer system, there are glitches in agricultural systems, and it is discouraging. And there’s usually a scarcity of educated specialists to correct the difficulty.
  • So significantly to pick out from: All the growers reported they are being bombarded by numerous technological know-how companies pitching their solutions. There is just not more than enough time or funds to appraise it all.
  • Connectivity: In spots with weak connectivity and online provider, it can be difficult to work methods.