Farming Goes High-Tech

As populations rise, arable land shrinks and the Earth grows warmer, we look at how technology and big data are coming deep into American farming.

In this June 11, 2015, photo, a hexacopter drone is flown by Intelligent UAS, during a drone demonstration at a farm and winery on potential use for board members of the National Corn Growers in Cordova, Md. (AP)

In this June 11, 2015, photo, a hexacopter drone is flown by Intelligent UAS, during a drone demonstration at a farm and winery on potential use for board members of the National Corn Growers in Cordova, Md. (AP)


Robert Thompson, visiting scholar and lecturer in energy, resources and the environment at Johns Hopkins University. Senior fellow in global agricultural development and food security at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Raj Khosla, professor of precision agriculture at Colorado State University.

Naomi Starkman, founder and editor in chief of Civil Eats. (@naomistarkman)

Lance Donny, founder and CEO of On-Farm, a technology platform for farmers.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Wall Street Journal: To Feed Billions, Farms Are About Data as Much as Dirt — “Getting more food from every acre without devastating the land for future generations requires accomplishing two contradictory things at once: Making farms ever larger—consolidation leads to efficiency, as in any other industry — and allowing farmers to understand every single thing happening on their farms, down to a resolution of single days, square meters and even individual plants.”

New York Times: The Internet of Things and the Future of Farming — “In the United States, major agriculture companies are making sizable investments to position themselves for data-driven farming. John Deere, for example, wants to make the farm tractor a data-control center in the field. Monsanto made a big move with its $930 million purchase in 2013 of Climate Corporation, a weather data-analysis company started by two Google alumni. American farmers are embracing the technology, though warily at times.”

National Geographic: The Future Of Food — “Commercial farming has started to make huge strides, finding innovative ways to better target the application of fertilizers and pesticides by using computerized tractors equipped with advanced sensors and GPS. Many growers apply customized blends of fertilizer tailored to their exact soil conditions, which helps minimize the runoff of chemicals into nearby waterways.”

Colorado’s Riverwide Clean Up

Mark Williams, professor of geography at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Fellow at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research.

Denver Post: Animas River outfitters shut as plume passes, but say they’ll endure — “The virulent plume that spilled from a dormant mine above Silverton on Aug. 5 has rolled on through Durango. The sickly orange glow is gone, and the Animas is returning to its normal color. But the river is closed by order of the La Plata County sheriff at least until Monday. No rafting. No fishing. No splashing in the stream that winds through the tourism-dependent town.”

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