FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - Just like with other professions, farming has become easier with the advancement of technology and like switching from horse driven plows to steam engines changed farming back in the 1800s, today's technology is taking things to new heights.
Jim Miller, the co-owner of Miller Family Farms can remember when his father was making changes. "I always felt like my father lived through the biggest generation change going from horses to tractors, but I firmly believe now I'm living through one of the greatest times in agriculture."
Jim and his son Tim are co-owners of Miller Family Farms in Waterloo are 4th and 5th generation American farmers. The family has switched from horses to tractors that drive themselves and drones with infrared cameras. Technology they knew was coming nearly 30 years ago.
"We had a friend that in 1988 worked for IBM and he told us back then that this technology was coming and I said "No. Absolutely no way," said Jim Miller.
His son Tom said "technology as a whole has made our lives incredibly easy. Now, farming is not an easy way of life, don't get me wrong, but compared to my grandpa who worked with horses, we have tractors now that drive themselves. We have planters that, like I said, change the population as they go across the field and we get real time maps through our combines that I can look at on an iPad or on my cell phone instantaneously as the operator goes across the field."
Along with local farms, the local AG businesses are helping fuel the technological revolution.
"The software world has come into the AG industry probably more than any other industry for automation and big data management," said Troy Fiechter, the CEO of AGNEXT in Bluffton, IN. He, along with his business partners invented the first autonomous soil sampling machine to help farmers get accurate soil data.
Fiechter said "what we're trying to do is help the farmers place their resources in the right spot because they're capitalist, they're business owners. So, if we can have more science involved with what is being applied, because we need to feed the world with less resources, to create a healthy product, and also to create a healthy environment."
The next step for technology is implementing weather data into maps generated by the machinery to aid in the successful planting and harvesting of crops.
Ryan Oehler, the Territory Leader of the Eastern Corn Belt for AG Leader Technology said "rainfall events, temperature growing degree days, those are all factors in how a crop grows and when we look at a yield map and try to understand why that crop did well or poorly that year, it's very helpful to have the weather data and weather records to attach to that."
This weather data is something Miller Family Farms is already implementing to save time and money.
"We get a map in real time of what actually the rainfall is because if we have a farm that's 20 miles north of here that didn't get much rain, we can move up there and plant that and wait a day and come back closer to home and plant a different field," said Tom Miller.
So don't be surprised if you see more tractors driving themselves in the future, because necessity is the mother of invention.