Keep up with the evolution of agricultural implements
Agriculture is one of the oldest and most basic human labor activities. It is through agriculture that humans obtain their livelihood. With the increase in demand and the intensification of the means of production, several techniques were created to optimize results and thereby achieve a level of productivity never seen before in human history. This was possible thanks to the creation of agricultural implements – those mechanical equipment attached to tractors or other tractive power.
We have prepared this post to help you understand how these machines evolved and what their value is in the current scenario of agriculture. Read on!
The origins of agricultural machines
The beginning of agricultural activity goes back to the time when humans cease being nomadic and settled down, making it possible for them to produce their own food by planting. Thus, farming met the needs of the nearby population.
The labor force was composed of families, which were large and worked in the fields for their own sustenance. The surplus production was used to exchange for tools or other necessary goods not produced locally, such as salt.
The instruments used were hand tools, consisting of small tools made of stone, wood, and, later, iron, which are the first raw materials used to increase productivity in the fields. The traction force was provided by animals and carts.
The tools were developed little by little. The first recorded blade plow made of wood dates back to the 13th century, but it wasn’t until the 1600s that tools were developed, such as the grain shaker and mechanical sowers pulled by animals (donkeys, oxen, and horses) and by the human arm.
Gradually, humans recognized the value of such agricultural implements, as they facilitated work in the field and, at the same time, significantly increased production results. With that, they began to produce machines specifically for the agricultural sector, beginning the phase known as modern agriculture, in 1850.
That development became increasingly important as production was no longer directed only to the local population and for their own sustenance.
With the Industrial Revolution and the growth of the urban population, the demand for food increased, requiring the various processes of agricultural production to evolve as well. Thus, new technologies were created and implemented in the different stages of fertilization, planting, and harvesting.
The evolution of agricultural implements
Some countries were pioneers in fostering the development of the agricultural technical base, although this was reflected in the means of production all over the world.
The first machines created were harvesters, or reapers, for harvesting grain in 1780 in Great Britain and the United States — effectively in use by 1833. By the 1860s, harvesters designed for wheat and hay had evolved greatly, prompting the creation of other agricultural implements.
In this period, the United States became the center of the technological development of field machinery, especially due to the initiative to foster the sector’s evolution. Yes, it can be observed already in this period a great interest on the part of the public initiative in bringing specialists to the country and investing in research that could improve the means of production.
One of the great innovative highlights of that time was the machine that removed the cottonseed. This was a labor-intensive and time-consuming process. With the new technology, the process became faster and cheaper, generating a great increase in productivity.
The Americans were also the great promoters of the evolution from human and animal traction to mechanical power. They were the ones who implemented the use of tractors and other steam-powered machines.
In 1892, the first gasoline and diesel-powered tractor was manufactured by John Froelich. However, the intensification of this type of machine came during World War I, when the demand for mechanized farms increased, leading to the emergence of many tractor manufacturers.
Mechanization in the field became an irreversible trend already at the beginning of the 20th century when the sale of these agricultural implements boomed. But it was only after World War II that manual traction was completely replaced by mechanical power in the fields of North America and Europe (Italy being an exception, as it took longer to convert its artisanal methods).
The first tractor to gain notoriety in the market was the Fordson because it used a model of assembly line and standardization of parts that reduced production costs, giving the machine a higher competitive value.
Over time, new technologies were added to the machines that increased their productivity and reduced costs and waste. For example, the iron wheel was replaced by the rubber pneumatic model, and the hydraulic control system was improved, besides the evolution of mechanisms that allowed a better distribution of the vehicle weight and a more efficient hitch between tractor and implement.
The evolution of agricultural implements in Brazil
The major growth of the agribusiness sector in Brazil took place mainly in the 50s, with the incentives of the JK administration. The “Goals Plan” (Plano de Metas), which sought to catch up with industrialized countries, led to a series of infrastructure changes. These transformations made it possible for several foreign companies to import equipment and machinery for the national economy.
Thus, the technological evolution that these imported products provided and added to the means of production in the country allowed a qualitative and quantitative improvement never seen before, not only in agribusiness but also in other market sectors.
As a result of these measures, in 1959 the National Plan for the Wheel Tractor Industry was instituted, a year that marked the beginning of agricultural mechanization in the country. The first units were produced the following year. By 1960, 37 tractors had already been produced (32 Ford and 5 Valmet).
As for harvesters, production started in Brazil in 1966, basically in the South region, due to the growth in soybean and wheat production. The big boost, however, came in the 1970s, with the expansion of grain exports.
Since then, technologies have evolved in an unthinkable way for that time, with agricultural implements that brought cutting-edge technology to field activities, a move that became known as precision agriculture.
The era of precision farming
Mechanization of the field was largely focused on machinery and equipment that could contribute to greater speed and strength in the means of production.
However, the development of digital technologies, such as georeferencing and management software, brought to rural properties greater intelligence in the planning and strategies employed, generating, collecting, and analyzing data that could be used to improve the various stages of the production cycle.
This is where we arrive at precision agriculture (PA), a set of techniques and technologies that uses a data management system. Through it, it is possible to use a series of remote sensing, referencing, and positioning resources, such as GPS, to manage soil management and the application of inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides.
Through precision farming, farmers can obtain precise, real-time information about their crops, their equipment, and the weather — data that is extremely important for decision making.
In summary, PA seeks to analyze the type of soil, the production characteristics, and the climatic factors that influence them to improve the application of inputs, seeking greater efficiency and better cost-benefit.
As a result, new tools have been developed to add this management intelligence to rural activities. But what benefits has this evolution brought to rural production? Let’s see!
The benefits of access to machinery
The evolution of agricultural implements has brought significant advantages to the production results in the field, which can be divided into at least three pillars: increased productivity, reduced production costs, and more efficient commercialization. Let’s understand these benefits in depth.
When we talk about increased productivity, we are referring not only to the rise of numbers in the production results but also to the improvement of quality and the reduction of costs. Thus, productivity is the relationship between quantity, quality, cost, and time.
Mechanization helps farmers in all stages of production, from soil preparation, through crop maintenance, to the harvest process. It helps processes to work faster and more efficiently.
Plows, tractors, sprayers, and harvesters are just some agricultural implements in modern agriculture that can help farmers to improve results. They allow activities to be performed with a lower failure rate and demand less labor. Thus, it would be practically impossible to meet the current demand without the technological apparatus available today.
In more rudimentary means of production, the use of larger tracts of land is required in comparison with areas that use high technology. Thus, agricultural implements have helped to meet the needs of the world market.
Adherence to deadlines
With the increasing demand and tighter deadlines, agricultural implements contribute to ensuring that crop schedules and market requirements are met. Delays in the various stages of production could result in waste and loss of competitive advantage.
The machines help to speed up the planting and harvesting processes, reducing food losses and ensuring that products are delivered on time. The farmer can plant faster and better, spray more efficiently, and harvest on time.
Reduced environmental impact
The environmental impact caused by the means of production can be diverse. From the depletion of natural reserves that serve as raw material, such as water, to the contamination of the environment through the inappropriate use of pesticides, agricultural activity can bring negative consequences to the ecological balance in which it is inserted.
On the other hand, the implementation of new technologies added to machines and devices can bring more safety and efficiency to production processes.
For example, telemetry helps farmers when spraying crops, since it automates how the treated areas are mapped and avoids overlapping and consequent waste. In addition, high-precision spray nozzles can dose the exact amount of products applied, according to the specifications of the plant, the application speed, and weather conditions, such as wind and heat.
These improvements reduce the drift and the insertion of substances that could be harmful to the environment, leading to more sustainable agriculture.
Farmers become capable of achieving a more rational use of the soil, matching the appropriate crop variety, and reducing the waste of inputs.
Better quality of life for the worker
The main element of agricultural production is manpower. Through agricultural mechanization, the working conditions for farmers have become more satisfactory. It is known that working in the field can be very exhausting, mainly because of the hard work and wide exposure to harmful weather conditions, such as extreme temperatures and solar radiation, among others.
During the hottest periods of the day, the workers’ skin and eyesight are particularly damaged by the incidence of sunlight, causing not only immediate discomfort, but also long-term problems, such as sunburns, cancer, cataracts, fatigue, and premature aging.
Agricultural implements provide the field worker with tools and equipment capable of protecting him against these harmful agents. Tractors, PPE (Personal Protection Equipment), and other components are designed not only to safeguard their physical integrity but also to provide greater comfort.
Nowadays, it is possible to find in the market air-conditioned cabins and automation systems that control the vehicle through GPS systems, reducing the need for continuous operator intervention.
Furthermore, further research has been conducted to ensure that the clothing and other devices ensure greater thermal comfort to farmers, taking into account the climatic variations of each region. These improvements undoubtedly guarantee greater productivity and quality of life for the rural worker.
Addressing the shortage of labor in the field
Nowadays there is a great need for workers in the field. According to the latest data from the IBGE, only about 15% of the Brazilian population lives in rural areas. This is due to the intense rural exodus that occurred between the 1970s and 1980s when many people started to seek better conditions and job opportunities in large urban centers.
With the use of agricultural machinery, the work in the field became more agile and less intensive, which largely solved this obstacle in the production process.
Agricultural implements continue to evolve and bring more and more benefits to farmers. So let’s take a look at what the industry trends are for the coming years!
The future of agricultural implements
As we have seen, agricultural implements have evolved on an extraordinary scale, but this does not mean that there are no problems or points that need to be improved in the current production model. At the same time that new technologies bring improvements, they create challenges and open a new horizon of possibilities that are not yet explored. Take a look!
The interaction between devices and systems
There is a huge arsenal of high-tech tools available today to assist farmers in rural activities. They help monitor soil, analyze weather conditions, manage the application of inputs, and much more.
So we can expect these technologies to further optimize and automate farms. Although these instruments are already a reality today, they often work independently, without exchanging information, which prevents the automation of tasks and data collection. The tendency, therefore, is that they communicate more, that they are always interconnected.
Some of these new devices that have been capturing the attention of field entrepreneurs include:
These small aerial vehicles are controlled remotely and have versatile applications in agriculture, such as
- assisting in the crop spraying process;
- monitoring the property and the crop;
- assisting in telemetry activities.
More modern seeders, harvesters, fertilizers, and tractors
More modern equipment, such as seeders, harvesters, and fertilizers, incorporate cutting-edge technologies that help farmers fulfill the stages of the production cycle with greater agility and efficiency, in a fully automated manner.
Autonomous vehicles, that is, vehicles that do not need an operator, have been the object of study of many researchers, and there is a lot of expectation for the next decade. This same trend is reflected in the tractor industry, which is looking for units that can perform activities in the field uninterruptedly, with greater productivity and precision. Devices such as GPS, cameras, and sensors make this reality possible.
Farm management software
Besides the work done in the field, agricultural entrepreneurs can now count on management and organizational tools that can help them in the whole process. There are software and applications for mobile platforms that help farmers to plan and monitor the processes that take place in the field, and intervene when necessary.
Spreadsheets and paper are replaced by systems that store and analyze information on computers, smartphones, tablets, or in the cloud, where it can be accessed from any internet-connected device.
The Internet of Things — or Intelligence of Things — is not exactly a device, but rather a term that refers to the trend toward using network-connected and remotely managed devices supported by artificial intelligence systems. Here we can list wireless sensors, GPS, and cameras, among many others.
Thus, equipment spread throughout the crop and connected to the network could collect information about the condition of plants, temperature, winds, and pests, issuing alerts, proposing interventions, etc.
Biotechnology applied to agriculture studies the genetics of plants in order to modify their formation to make them more resistant to pests and insects and to provide best practices. Genetically modified seeds generate plants that are more tolerant to pesticides, reducing the number of products that need to be applied. With that, it is possible to raise the quality of food.
Some of the measures taken are seed treatment, weed control, pest monitoring, and the use of certified seeds.
The challenges and risks
Despite the numerous benefits of agricultural implements, there are still several obstacles that often hinder the adoption of new technologies in the field or limit their potential to optimize productivity on farms.
One of these limiting aspects is the lack of integration between the various technologies and devices. After all, having advanced tools that do not allow the crossing of information removes one of the main benefits of these resources: providing accurate and complete data for decision making. After all, it is expected that the records are integrated in order to generate value for the business.
Another challenge is the structural issues in rural areas. Many of these technologies need to be online to collect, process and share information. On the field, 3G networks are usually not available.
In addition, however, these new tools have generated a new challenge: finding qualified labor to operate the implemented technologies. Many times, workers and even the property manager resist the adoption of these tools by concluding that they are too complex and expensive, or that they are directed to large properties.
However, new software acquisition models and agricultural machinery consortiums make these technologies much more accessible, even for small entrepreneurs.
These challenges tend to dissolve as new agricultural implements emerge. The evolution of these technologies proves that innovation has always been able to overcome obstacles, and the progress of the means of production is an inevitable path.
The great benefits brought by mechanization in agriculture are indisputable: higher productivity, improved product quality, and reduced costs. We hope that these resources will bring even more advantages to farmers, protagonists in providing the means of subsistence for the entire population.
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