New Mexico is booming with many diverse industries, but its agricultural sector
stands out for embracing new technologies. With programs dedicated to empowering local farmers, the Land of Enchantment has a lot to offer in the way of carrying the agricultural industry into the future.
Innovation Hubs Providing Opportunities
The Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University aims to promote entrepreneurship and innovation to create economic opportunities throughout the region. One of the ways it does that is through a program called AgSprint.
“AgSprint is a five-month venture builder and funder for innovators in food and agriculture,” Technology Incubator Director Zetdi Sloan says.
Modern farmers face an incredible number of challenging and complex issues. In addition to keeping a crop thriving or a herd well fed, they have to contend with everything from climate change and resistant weeds to soil quality and uncertain commodity prices.
“To mitigate this, growers are turning to high-tech technologies, including precision agriculture,” Sloan says.
Precision agriculture enables farmers to collect, store, combine and analyze data to make improvements in everything from nutrient management to irrigation.
The Future of Farming Involves Artificial Intelligence
GreenAI, a participant in the AgSprint cohort, presents a great example of precision agriculture.
“GreenAI is a crop-scouting capability with a sensor module using artificial intelligence, which helps farmers and crop advisors monitor their crops to detect disease, pests, weeds and lack of nutrients,” says Cliff Hudson, chief executive officer of Systems Technology Solutions LLC.
Through the use of GPS coordinates, this revolutionary technology scans individual plants and compares them to a benchmark of a healthy plant to ensure everything is growing as planned.
If it senses an irregularity, the technology alerts the farmer on a smartphone or tablet, providing sensor images, data and a potential course of action to help improve the plant’s health.
Not only does this application allow farmers to quickly administer treatment to the individual plant in question, but it also lowers the cost of crop production and reduces the application of chemicals and fertilizers on otherwise healthy crops.
“With artificial intelligence, the system learns each time it’s in the field,” Hudson says. “But the farmer is still the key element in the cycle.”
Modern Advances for Dairy Farming
Tara Vander Dussen is an environmental scientist, but she and her husband are also fifth- generation dairy farmers who tend to more than 4,500 cows on their multigenerational family farm.
“Dairy farming is so much more than a job to us,” Vander Dussen says. “It’s part of our family history.”
On the family farm, Vander Dussen focuses a great deal of her time and energy on manure management and water conservation. While they’ve implemented several technologies to improve farm efficiencies, one of their favorites is a cloud-based nutrient forecasting and management tool called CAFOweb that helps them grow feed for their cattle.
“It helps all of us – consultants, producers and irrigators – stay on the same page with our nutrient application,” Vander Dussen says. “We want to make sure our crops are receiving the right amount of nitrogen they need to grow, but that we are not over-applying those nutrients. We want to ensure we are protecting the soil health and the groundwater.”
She says new technologies also help them use their water more efficiently.
“We are committed to minimizing our water use throughout our operations in order to prolong the life of our aquifer,” Vander Dussen says. “The more data we have, the better management decisions we’re able to make. It will be amazing to see where these technologies take us in the next decade.”