Drones, robots and sensors coming to a field near you


If you live in the countryside you may feel a bit isolated from modern technology. Broadband speeds are often slow, mobile phone coverage poor, and the pace of life that little bit more relaxed. Oh, and getting stuck behind a tractor on the way to work is par for the course.

This is all about to change. Although investment in rural Internet connectivity is generally on the up, oddly enough it is in the fields themselves where the harnessing and crunching of data is probably increasing most quickly. This will also drive data connectivity in the countryside.

Farmers are gathering soil data to optimise which crops to plant when and where. Tractors are equipped with telemetry and gps to log detailed information about the processes taking place during the preparation of fields, the sowing of crops, the application of chemicals, and the yield of the harvest.  Satellite images are cross-correlated with soil condition, ground features and crop history. This is crop rotation from the Agrarian revolution taken to its next level.

Next come the sensors, monitoring weather, ground conditions, environment and pollution around the fields all in real time and alerting the farmer to adverse conditions on a hyperlocal scale.

Drones will systematically, and eventually autonomously, patrol acres of land, feeding back crop condition and scheduling the workload. Couple this with artificial intelligence and machine learning, and soon the land will be delivering improved yields and meeting the ever-increasing demands for sustainably produced food and bio-fuel whilst optimising the use of energy and water.

This is all good news for the society, and we’ll hear more about it at the Festival this year. ┬áThe farmer will extract more value from his land, the consumer will benefit from affordable and nutritious food, and the countryside commuter will probably no longer get stuck behind a tractor being driven home for dinner.

Adrian Burden, Festival Founder