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Agtech Visions: An alternative reality on farm?

Posted by Andrew Whitelaw on 8 December 2017
Andrew Whitelaw
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The most successful example of augmented reality(AR) that has yet been produced is the entertainment app ‘Pokemon Go’, you may remember news articles from 2016 of children (and adults) hunting for virtual creatures using their mobile phone. While chasing down Pikachu was not exactly the most productive of activities, it did put AR on the map.

In this Agtech vision, we take a look at the potential of AR on farm.

Prior to discussing where AR can be used on farm, we need to define the concept of AR.  It is important not to confuse augmented reality with virtual reality, as both are quite distinct. Augmented reality is intended to provide an enhanced reality to a user, by overlaying computer generated images over the user’s view. The purpose of these images are to enhance our perception of reality, to see things that we cannot with our own eyes.

The video below gives a good insight into AR:

Augmented reality has a myriad of potential uses in agriculture, however the following scenarios provide some insights into futures uses of AR.

Animal Husbandry

Looking after animals can be a time-consuming business, and there may be times when animals are in obvious stress. The tyranny of distance means that we can’t always get a vet in a timely manner, or there may be difficulties of coverage during evenings and weekends.

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There is the potential that using AR glasses in combination linked to a vet based elsewhere, could reduce call out charges. The vet could be based anywhere in the world, and provide instructions, and overlaid graphics to assist performing basis examinations.

This would reduce callouts by a vet, which may not have been necessary, or enable out of hours assistance that may not be possible otherwise.

Machinery maintenance

On-farm machinery is becoming more and more complex. Typically, farmers have a very good knowledge of mechanics, however keeping abreast of changes to machines on farm is a challenge.

The utilisation of AR has the potential to make machinery maintenance a breeze. It is feasible, and well within the realms of possibility, to wear a display which overlays important information to assist in maintenance. This could take the form of overlaying a tool, which details how much tension or motion is required to adjust a component. 

Another possibility is an overlay of all the parts in a step by step basis to reassemble complex engine components. No longer would we be left wondering at the end of a job, ‘Where does this bit go?’.

Crop assessment

The volume of data on farm is increasing dramatically. However, examining data on a screen can be very tiresome. It’s always better to see things with your own eyes. With AR, data from across your farm can appear right in front of you.clouds-1845517_960_720.jpg

Alternatively, it can be used to identify issues with the crop. You could be looking at your crop, and at a simple gesture you could see NVDI data or yields from previous years over the top of the crop that you are currently looking at.

These are just three scenarios where Augmented Reality could benefit on farm, but I am sure there are plenty of other areas where developments could be made. If you have any thoughts or suggestions on this technology, comment below.

Topics: agtech

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