The agricultural industry has witnessed a revolutionary shift over the past few decades. There’s no argument that technology has been at the forefront of this transformation. However, while everyone will speak about the bigger machines, components as small as actuators also contribute immensely.
These motion devices are present in various farming equipment and systems — including the bigger machines. Among other things, they allow precision farming. This not only maximizes yields but also ensures resource efficiency. Here, we’ll discuss the role of actuator-driven systems in agriculture, and how they help ensure optimal precision while farming.
Evolution of Agriculture: From Manual Labor to Automation
What we know as farming today, began as a manual endeavor. For centuries, sowing seeds and tilling the land were tasks done by hand, meaning they required serious physical effort.
With time, civilizations grew, and there was a need for more efficient farming methods. This led to the invention of basic tools and equipment, which eased the labor-intensive demands of traditional agriculture.
It didn’t take long for the industrial revolution to arrive. Farmers began to use tractors, combines, and other heavy machinery, which marked a significant shift. The inventions further reduced manual labor and, of course, the result was increased production.
However, the technological upturn of the late 20th and early 21st centuries was what that truly transformed farming. The world saw the advent of computer systems and sensors, not to mention, advanced machinery. With that, the agricultural sector began its journey towards full automation.
This phase of transition is ongoing. Today, farms are not just about machinery but also interconnected systems and devices that communicate with each other. Actuators being present in these systems is a testament to the blend of mechanics and technology. Agriculture is, as a result, driving into an era of precision and efficiency.
Understanding Actuators in the Agricultural Context
Different types of actuators are present in agricultural automation. Let’s discuss them and their applications.
These devices are popular for their robustness, so you’ll often find them in heavy-duty agricultural machinery. Examples here include large tractors and earth-moving equipment. The reseat is that their strength makes them ideal for operations like plowing or turning the soil.
Precision is better achieved with electric actuators. These motion devices play a pivotal role in a procedure like seed placement during planting. Basically, they ensure each seed is positioned at the right depth and spacing. Additionally, they’re present in automated irrigation systems. In such an application, they help allow precise water distribution based on crop needs.
Pneumatic actuators are less prevalent, but you’ll still find one or two agriculture applications for them. Consider grain handling and storage, for example. The devices help in regulating airflow and managing chute gates. The result is that the grains get stored in the best condition.
Here we have motion devices that combine the power of hydraulics with the that of electrics. Hence, electrohydraulic actuators are common in high-tech farming equipment. You’ll see them active in tasks like precision spraying, where there’s need for a balance between force and accuracy.
10 Key Actuator-Driven Systems in Precision Farming
As stated already, there are many actuator-driven systems in precision farming. However, here are the top 10, which are most prevalent:
- Automated Irrigation Systems: Here, actuators control the movement and positioning of sprinkler systems. They help adjust the angle and flow rate based on real-time data. With this, the end result is optimal water distribution.
- Robotic Harvesters and Planters: You’ll find actuators in robotic arms and similar tools used in planting and harvesting. The motion devices allows them to pick fruits, plant seeds, or transplant seedlings with high precision. Hence, they help minimize damage and waste.
- Variable Rate Technology (VRT): In equipment like sprayers or seeders, actuators help adjust the rate of seed or chemical application. They do this in real-time, based on soil conditions. Consequently, they ensure each part of the field gets the right amount.
- Soil Analysis Machinery: Some advanced soil testing equipment employ actuators to extract soil samples at various depths. With this, farmers can better determine soil composition, moisture, and even pH levels.
- Climate Control in Greenhouses: Actuators open and close vents, shades, and windows in greenhouses. The advantage here is optimal temperature and humidity. Additionally, there are better light conditions for plant growth.
- Drones for Crop Monitoring: Advanced drones come with actuator-controlled cameras and sensors. Such drones are used in agriculture, too. The actuators allow them to adjust angles or altitudes for better data capture. While it may not directly be farming-related, it helps farmers take precise decisions that can boost yield.
- Automated Feeding Systems in Livestock Farming: In automated livestock farms, actuators control the amount and timing of feed delivered to animals. Hence, they optimize nutrition based on set requirements.
- Tunnel Farming and Vertical Farming Systems: You’ll find actuators in lighting systems, where they help adjust height. Also, these motion devices help optimize planting shelves according to plant growth and other requirements.
- Automated Fruit Sorting Systems: Actuators direct the movement of sorting arms or conveyor belts. They help segregate fruits based on set factors — like size, weight, or color.
- Adjustable Machinery Components: For equipment like plows, cultivators, or mowers, actuators can adjust the depth or angle based on the soil.
Benefits of Actuator-driven Systems in Agriculture
One of the key benefit of actuator-driven systems in agriculture is enhanced crop yield. The devices ensure seeds get an optimal environment to germinate. Additionally, thanks to actuators, plants get the right amount of water to grow. The result here is healthier crops and more bountiful harvests.
The agricultural industry is often constrained by labor shortages and rising wages. Hence, reduced labor costs can be a saver. Thankfully, automated systems optimized with actuators can perform tasks round-the-clock. With that, they eliminate the need for manual processes in many areas. The result is lower labor expenses among others.
It’s factual that farming isn’t immune to human errors. Some farmers can over-water a patch or plant seeds too close together. These mistakes can be costly, but they’re less likely with actuator-driven machinery. It all boils down to the role of the motion devices in precision farming.
When it involves agriculture, actuators continue to standout as revolutionary devices. They drive precision farming by being present in many machinery and tools. Thanks to these devices, many agricultural processes nowadays are automated. Farmers can better meet the growing food demand around the world, while staying efficient.