Technology is the future of farming, AL agriculture commissioner says

How Alabama farmers are using technology

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Technology surrounds the lives of millions every minute and it’s no different for the agriculture industry. Alabama’s highest agriculture official says technology is the future of farming.

“I think it gets back to like everything else, technology. It’s just amazing when you go into some of these big industries and see what’s happening," said John McMillan, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries commissioner.

Drew Wendland works on the Autauga County farm his family has owned for nearly 100 years.

“It’s hard work and long hours," he said,"but I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Wendland works with Autauga Farming Co. They are just one example of farms and producers using software and technology, also known as precision agriculture, to farm efficiently.

“You can push the machine to do more in a day and not really wear yourself out so much," Wendland said.

Precision agriculture is broad and encompasses several industries. In Wendland’s case, their farm produces items including cotton, corn and soybeans. Their farm uses iPads and software to help map out how much fertilizer each part of the field needs.

“The end goal is to make a field as productive as possible,” he said.

Wendland said the only way to stay in business is to produce more on the same amount of land they own. Precision agriculture helps limit human error and save farmers money.

“You just get to be the driver and let the machine do the thinking," Wendland admitted.

The Department of Agriculture and Industries is trying to encourage small organic farmers and cattlemen to use this new technology. McMillan said small farmers could produce products indoors and save money on transportation, refrigeration and irrigation costs.

“If you’re in or near a city, you can sell it fresh, whether it’s the local restaurants or local grocery stores or local farmers markets,” he said.

McMillan had one concern that many farmers could not move into precision agriculture because of the lack of broadband. This technology can require high-speed internet.

Gov. Kay Ivey signed an act creating an Alabama broadband accessibility grant program. She said 276,000 people do not have any wired internet providers where they live.

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