Who can implement this: Federal, state, and county officials; universities; governmental organizations; and advocacy organizations
Technological innovation can increase the overall efficiency and economic feasibility of the agricultural industry. Research and development of agricultural technology need to be incentivized to help revitalize the farming industry.
Modern farms work much differently than those from just a few decades ago, primarily because of advancements in technology. Today’s farms routinely use sophisticated technologies such as temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and GPS technology. Further improving agricultural technology will help increase crop productivity, reduce negative environmental impacts, increase worker safety, and decrease water, fertilizer, and pesticide use.
Technological innovations in agriculture also include vertical farming, drip irrigation, and aquaponics:
- Vertical farming is the practice of farming food in vertically stacked layers, using technology to control all environmental factors. This agricultural technology helps increase crop production, conserve resources, and expand the availability of local food, especially in urban built-out areas.
- Drip irrigation is a form of irrigation that saves water and fertilizer through a controlled delivery of water through a network of tubes or pipes to the roots of plants. This technology improves plant growth while allowing farms to use less water.
- Aquaponics is a system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic animals supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which are then used to purify water. Aquaponics uses less water than traditional farming, does not necessarily require soil, and improves yields compared to traditional farming methods.
Tax credits and other funding options are available at the state and federal level for businesses exploring green business practices and technologies, but agriculture-specific funding is far less common. State or county-specific tax credits or funding options should be used to help Utah farmers and businesses explore new technologies that could benefit agriculture across the state.
- It is recommended that state and federal agriculture organizations provide loan programs to incentivize farmers in pursuing new technologies to improve their businesses.
- County lawmakers and farm organizations need to identify gaps in federal and state programs, and should establish more specific programs to incentivize the development and exploration of new farming and ranching technologies.
- Utah State University and other universities should continue to promote agricultural technology businesses through agricultural technology programs and related research. University classes in agricultural technology should connect farmers in the field with students to give students real-world experiences while improving farm businesses.
- Governmental and private farm organizations need to help farmers stay up to date on current technologies and explore the viability of implementing technological updates to their processes and operations.
Houweling’s Tomatoes is a sustainable greenhouse farm in Mona, Utah, that uses excess heat and C02 from an adjacent natural gas power plant to grow tomato plants. This heat that would otherwise be wasted is instead used to keep the greenhouse warm through the colder months, which allows the farm to grow tomatoes all year round.
Utah State University offers an Agricultural Systems Technology degree program, which combines studies in agricultural and biological sciences with courses in technical and business management skills. The program provides valuable assistance and a solid foundation to aspiring farmers and researchers as they pursue new agricultural technologies and careers in agriculture.
The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service administers Conservation Innovation Grants for the development of new conservation technologies and practices. Though mainly for governments and individuals, the grant is open to any person or business who establishes that their project benefits food safety, soil health, wildlife, and/or the economics of farming.