According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the average U.S. farmer today feeds approximately 155 people. That’s a major jump from 1960 when a farmer fed two dozen people. Much of this is thanks to the innovations in technology, which help farmers meet the growing demand for food.

High-tech farming

Technological advancements in agriculture have met consumer demands and resulted in highly efficient farming that provides more affordable food choices.

“There have been tremendous advances in technologies around seeds, equipment, land management and other areas, all of which allow farms to do a better job of raising crops and livestock while also caring for the land,” says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey.

"New technologies that will allow farmers to increase production while taking care of the soil, air and water."

“Farmers always want to do a better job on their farm next year than they did this year and understand technology can help them do that,” Northey said.  “They know their farm better than anyone and understand how new technologies can fit in their operation.”

“Technology is allowing us to be more efficient in production of that land. Not only can we produce more, but we can produce more with less input,” explains Agribusiness Association of Iowa CEO, Joel Brinkmeyer.

New technology cropping up

A major advancement has been the application of fertilizer. Brinkmeyer discussed the 4R method, which stands for right source, right rate, right time and right place. This method reduces the environmental impacts of fertilizer and other crop nutrients.

With the new agricultural innovations, another way farmers take full advantage of all their materials is by cover crop technology. After the primary crop has harvested, farmers go back in and seed cover crop. They don’t harvest it, just lay seed down allowing the uptake of left-over nutrients in the ground. According to Brinkmeyer, this protects unused nutrients and keeps the plant in the field.

Secretary Northey said it’s hard to predict what the next big innovation will be, “but there is exciting work being done around automation of farm equipment, use of unmanned aerial vehicles, remote sensing” as well as other technologies that will allow farmers to increase production while taking care of the soil, air and water.