There are more than 500,000 and soybean farmers in the United States. Soybeans are the number one US agricultural export and account for close to 18 percent of US agricultural exports.
Polly Ruhland, CEO of the United Soybean Board, says that most of the country’s 515,000 soybean farmers are increasinlgy embracing digital transformation.
Ruhland says tools like moisture sensors, smart irrigation, autonomous and GPS-enabled tractors, drones and satellite imagery help produce more soy from the same amount of land.
“Farmers who I work with every day tell me how the use of precision agriculture allows them to improve the efficiency, quality and consistency of their crops,” said Ruhland. “This innovative technology can have an accuracy range better than one centimeter, and this allows farmers to make complex decisions for the crop and apply inputs at the right time in the right place to grow more food, fiber and fuel with fewer resources and an eye always toward improving quality.”
Ruhland says that digital transformation on the soybean farm is good for the planet, our growing population, and farmers’ bottom lines.
“Digital technology such as smart irrigation is helping to improve the nutrient efficiency and quality of our soil, boost crop productivity and conserve water,” said Ruhland. “It also allows farmers to use pesticides more precisely for a healthier environment and that provides a more reliable and sustainable food source is essential to feed our growing population, which is estimated to surpass nine billion by 2050.”
Ruhland adds that farmers can create a true sustainability system when technology can be used to treat soil precisely like it needs to be treated, coupled with genetic engineering to make seeds and crops more resilient to natural disruptors.
“This system not only improves environmental sustainability on the planet long term but at the same time improves economic sustainability for the farmers,” said Ruhland.
Ruhland says the ongoing march of modern farming technology isn’t just in the fields; it’s in the air.
“Deploying drones helps soybean farmers see their fields from the sky, which saves them time since they don’t have to walk the field,” said Ruhland. “Farmers like Rochelle Krusemark in Minnesota used to spend more than 30 hours a week scouting her 160-acre field, but now she can analyze the same crops in about 15 minutes.”
“Drones have been one of the most significant game-changers when it comes to technology on the farm and has brought with them a monumental shift to the agricultural industry,” says Ruhland.
Roman Medvediev, Chief Operating Officer at EOS Data Analytics, says the company also works with Complete Farmer in Ghana to help with problems in the farmer’s journey to crop yield enhancement by remote farms management, assessment of crops health, and efficient use of seeds and fertilizers.
Medvediev says that after adding a crop monitoring platform on one soybean farm in Karaga, Ghana, the farmer has access to information on their crops like field acreage, location, weather data, crop growth stage, precipitation, and satellite image of the fields.
“One of the crucial data to look at is your vegetation indices which give valuable insights into the crops’ condition,” said Medvediev. “For example, the Normalized Difference Vegetative Index (NDVI) shows the measure of a plant reflecting and absorbing solar radiation at different wavelengths and the vegetation level on the field and allows the farmer to identify problematic areas on the field at different stages of plant growth [..] or where weeds are too close to the soybeans.”
In December 2021, EOS partnered with Epik Systems to bring satellite technology to farmlands that haven’t deployed precision farming and carbon monitoring to provide small-scale farmers with valuable data in precision farming and Greenhouse gas (GHG) tracking and measuring, and mitigation. The technology will initially roll out in the US and Mexico.
Kevin Hannah, vice president of product marketing at Epik, said these small-scale farmers are challenged to produce more without access to the digital transformation tools necessary to sustainably.
“As an agricultural industry and as leaders, we need to remain fiercely committed to improving our environmental, social and economic sustainability if we want to utilize digital transformation to reimagine the future of food,” adds Ruhland.