4 Tech Terms All Agriculturalists Should Know

Technology has made enormous contributions to our agricultural systems.

But sometimes, the words and concepts can be confusing. Even the terms we hear or use all the time.

Some people seem to know this stuff intuitively.

Who do you know that is in their 20s, but is a whiz when it comes to agricultural research and technology?

Nominate that person for AgGrad 30 Under 30! That’s exactly the type of person we are looking to include on the list.

For the rest of us, here is a basic primer or four tech terms all agriculturalists should know:

1. Artificial Intelligence (aka – the other AI)

Artificial intelligence is used to describe computer functions that we normally think of as only things a human could do. Think recognizing a face or being able to process and translate language.

Artificial intelligence has a number of agricultural applications such as allowing equipment to identify pests and disease and “spot treat” with an application. This is only possible because of the artificial intelligence used to recognize and identify the pest or disease.

Learn more about AI in agriculture:  https://futureofag.com/artificial-intelligence-on-the-farm-93be72514ecf

2. Internet of Things (IoT)

You’ve probably heard of IoT, and you may even have known that the acronym stands for “Internet of things.” But what does that mean?

The internet of things refers to internet-connected devices that have the ability to transfer data to each other without depending on a human intermediary. Think about all of the home-connected devices that are gaining popularity like Alexa, Ring, Nest, etc.

In an agricultural context this could mean internet-connected irrigation, grain bin sensors, poultry houses, or pest traps. The opportunities abound for ways to incorporate connected devices to solve problems that historically have required human effort.

Here’s a cool example of IoT in action in orchards: https://futureofag.com/500-000-orchard-scouts-a661673608c1

3 Biologicals

Biologicals refers to applications of microorganisms — microscopic life forms, usually bacteria — to have some desired effect on a crop, pest, or disease; or to enhance soil health.

Companies such as Marrone Bio Innovations and Indigo Ag are developing biological products that can be a viable substitute for some chemical applications. These can be applied a variety of ways, such as sprays and seed treatments, to get the desired agricultural effect.

Check this out or more on biological solutions: https://futureofag.com/7-reasons-conventional-farmers-consider-biopesticides-625d1e63e6d5


Blockchain can be somewhat abstract and tricky to understand. Consider what the internet has done to connect people online. But in order to get connected we have to use one centralized application, such as Facebook or Ebay, which serves as an intermediary. The intermediary owns the data, sets the rules, and makes sure everyone plays fairly.  

But what if we could connect and exchange value (currency, information, commodities, anything of value) without an intermediary? Sounds great, but how would you do that? And wouldn’t it be chaos?

Blockchain uses cryptography to allow the exchange of value in a decentralized way (without an intermediary) by providing a universal source of truth. It is often described as a distributed ledger. The first uses have been in currency (think bitcoin), but many believe this can also be used for the exchange of anything with value, including agricultural commodities.

Here’s a cool use case of blockchain as a way to help smallholder farmers in developing countries: https://futureofag.com/how-blockchain-helps-smallholder-farmers-in-developing-countries-64bf6f13c049

AgTech in the Future

Our entire agricultural system is built on technology, from what crops we grow, the varieties of those crops, farming practices, storage techniques, and food processing.

The future of agriculture will be significantly impacted by researchers and technologists. Make sure you give those individuals the attention they deserve by nominating them for AgGrad 30 Under 30! It will only take you a minute and will mean the world to them.

What are other tech terms you are still struggling to understand?

Tim Hammerich

Tim is a strategic communications consultant, founder of AgGrad, and the host of the "Future of Agriculture" podcast. Originally from California, he is now based out of Boise, Idaho.