Agricultural machinery


Agricultural machinery

Agricultural machinery relates to the mechanical structures and devices used in farming or other agriculture. There are many types of such equipment, from hand tools and power tools to tractors and the countless kinds of farm implements that they tow or operate. Diverse arrays of equipment are used in both organic and nonorganic farming. Especially since the advent of mechanised agriculture, agricultural machinery is an indispensable part of how the world is fed.

New technology and the future

The basic technology of agricultural machines has changed little in the last century. Though modern harvesters and planters may do a better job or be slightly tweaked from their predecessors, the US$250,000 combine of today still cuts, threshes, and separates grain in the same way it has always been done. However, technology is changing the way that humans operate the machines, as computer monitoring systems, GPS locators and self-steer programs allow the most advanced tractors and implements to be more precise and less wasteful in the use of fuel, seed, or fertilizer. In the foreseeable future, there may be mass production of driverless tractors, which use GPS maps and electronic sensors.

Open source agricultural equipment

Many farmers are upset by their inability to fix the new types of high-tech farm equipment. This is due mostly to companies using intellectual property law to prevent farmers from having the legal right to fix their equipment (or gain access to the information to allow them to do it). In October 2015 an exemption was added to the DMCA to allow inspection and modification of the software in cars and other vehicles including agricultural machinery.

The Open Source Agriculture movement counts different initiatives and organizations such as Farm Labs which is a network in Europe, l'Atelier Paysan which is a cooperative to teach farmers in France how to build and repair their tools, and Ekylibre which is an open-source company to provide farmers in France with open source software (SaaS) to manage farming operations. In the United States, the MIT Media Lab's Open Agriculture Initiative seeks to foster "the creation of an open-source ecosystem of technologies that enable and promote transparency, networked experimentation, education, and hyper-local production".It develops the Personal Food Computer, an educational project to create a "controlled environment agriculture technology platform that uses robotic systems to control and monitor climate, energy, and plant growth inside of a specialized growing chamber". It includes the development of Open Phenom, an open source library with open data sets for climate recipes which link the phenotype response of plants (taste, nutrition) to environmental variables, biological, genetic and resource-related necessary for cultivation (input). Plants with the same genetics can naturally vary in color, size, texture growth rate, yield, flavor and nutrient density according to the environmental conditions in which they are produced.