NC East Alliance helps introduce technology to local farmers

GREENVILLE, NC (WNCT) – From robots in the field to how to tackle broadband issues. Several key topics were discussed Friday morning during a webinar entitled “Smart Ag: Emerging Technologies in Farming” hosted by NC East Alliance.

“Like any other business, agriculture has adjusted to the availability of technology on the farm,” said Mitch Smith, NC agricultural extension agent with the NC Cooperative Extension Service of Pitt County. “This has allowed us to be more efficient and economical as we have utilized inputs on the farm. So it really has enabled our farms in eastern North Carolina to remain competitive over the years because it’s provided so many shortcuts to our farmers. ”

When talking about how robots are used for farming, the concept is to make sure crops don’t go unpicked and to make sure they’re taken care of during labor shortages. Even though robots aren’t seen a lot yet in ENC for farming, that could change in the future.

“This is something that we believe will happen over the course of time as you have fewer farmers and farm sizes get larger labor, labor availability decreases. And as a result of that, you’ll have to rely more and more on that kind of technology, ”said Smith.

Drones would also be used to help keep crops sprayed.

As it will be prime time for cotton planting next week, a device called “the cotton planting conditions calculator” is encouraged.

“This website is scientifically based, and it assists a grower with determining exactly whether or not I need to plant that field next week, or wait until later in the month to do so. Another way that technology makes a difference on the farm and improving the bottom line, ”said Smith.

One issue raised during the discussion was internet reception for farmers and how systems and equipment would be able to work in poor reception. One suggestion that was pointed out that has already been tested is the use of private cellphone data networks for farms.

“We’ve heard a lot about digital equity,” said Dr. Jason Ward, assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering at North Carolina State University. “We have to make sure that people in rural communities have good access to high-speed internet, and make sure that it’s well maintained and affordable.”

Smith said when a private industry introduces a piece of equipment to the farm, they take time to explain to the growers how to use that. Ultimately, the goal is to help our local farmers.

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