By Charlie O'Brien
AEM Senior Vice President
   & AG Sector Lead

Gone are the days of just bending steel, putting on a shiny coat of paint and pushing product out the door. Manufacturing today in the agricultural sector means stretching the limits of technology to change the way we feed the world.  

Go into a manufacturing plant today and you will see that world in a different way.

  • Robots programmed to laser-cut, bend and paint steel down to the smallest of detail, maximizing the use of every inch of raw material and minimizing waste.
  • An environment that includes 3D modeling, simulation and visualization using software in a virtualized environment.
  • 3D printing being employed to create parts and components used to build prototypes and the equipment itself.

A World of Information

In addition, you will see software engineers working together with outside companies to determine what information should be gleaned from machines working in the field. Yes, that is Big, or better yet, SMART data.

Farmers and their partners are also working together to determine how to use this data, integrate it with other data sets about soil types, weather, rainfall and inputs, all to make the world a better place by producing an abundance of food for a growing world population.

And not too long from now, perhaps we will be using 3D printers at the dealership or on the farm to create a part that may be needed for preventative maintenance.

Sensors, Sensors Everywhere

Let’s not forget, we are already designing autonomous machines that drive themselves, in part through the use of GPS mapping and sensors.

Speaking of sensors, they are used everywhere. Through the use of sensors, plants can tell us what they need and when they need nutrients, water or are being stressed – triggering irrigation for nutrient application. And then there’s the advent of the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). These are being manufactured for multiple uses from spraying to mapping to field observation.

I know this is an oversimplified view of how we use these technologies. But from the plant where equipment is built to the advanced capabilities of that equipment in the field, agriculture has evolved into an incredibly sophisticated industry, a dream job for technology enthusiasts.

No wonder companies like Google are looking at our sector with great interest and introducing technology like Google Glass. It only makes sense. If you are a technology buff, ag equipment manufacturing and the development and creation of products used on the farm is the place to be today.

I appreciate every day that I get to be part of the exciting Agriculture industry.