Monday, September 03, 2007

Technology & Farming

The face of farming as we know it is changing. Now you need to be just as adept in using a computer as being able to identify a good animal when you see one. How are farmers adapting to the change? Is farming technology a welcome development for those working on the land?

Neil Inall of the Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology suggests the image and practice of farming is shifting and technology is playing a role in that shift. While there are some in the farming sector adopting to new technology, there is still some resistance among many long-time farmers. Neil suggests that, in order to see the value of new innovations, the farming community need to be shown how they can use different systems to the benefit of their work.

It's been the subject of many debates, and one that always finds its way in to the media...are people living on the land serviced adequately in terms of communications technology? All these new systems and software are well and good, but they'll make no difference if people living on the land can't access them. Neil believes a policy to address this situation in rural Australia might be a vote-winner in the upcoming election.

Will farms be able to operate in the future without the level of communications as we know them now? "Yes," says Neil, "but don't expect them to make any money."

To take a closer look at the software and technology available, there's a whole range of products that come under the farm management title. You've got programs to calculate estimated breed value and manage entire herds of animals. Records can be kept and easily accessed in order to monitor breeding plans and keep track of, for example, a temperamental cow that is treading a very fine line between paddock or sale yards. They cover the financial side which enables farmers to watch over income and expense. There's mapping and climate information at your fingertips and of course, you can delve into automated irrigation and tractors that can be programmed to drive themselves.

But how important are having all these gizmos and gadgets? homepage producer Amy Spears asks Stephen Lil from cattle company Chadwick Downs if technology is an essential tool for every day farm life and business? Stephen says when it comes down to whether or not technology and software can assist with the basic task of breeding cattle, a farmer needs to look beyond the surface of the software because cattle and farming don't fit to a calculated equation. While breeding software programs can help you identify, monitor and predict herd traits, you can't truly track nature.

Stephen is a avid adopter of computer technology and uses a website and email for 80-90% of business dealings. Additionally he uses technology to keep records of his farming activities. One thing that technology can't do though, is bring the rains.

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