As the world was preparing to enter the 19th century, a middle-aged man called Eli Whitney invented something that revolutionized the agriculture business forever. Whitney is credited with inventing the cotton gin, a mechanical apparatus that made the cleaning of cotton vastly easier to do. Before the invention of the cotton, people had to manually separate cotton lint from cotton seeds, a task that took hours. Consequently, cotton production was very low. No-one saw the point of growing cotton because it took ages to process. The cotton gin changed all that. Eli Whitney probably did not see the historical significance of what he did but today we can attest to the fact that the invention of the cotton gin changed the landscape of the agriculture business and even had socioeconomic impacts on things like slavery and public prosperity.
Since then the world has seen technological innovation after innovation completely transform the business world, even in the world of agriculture. The assembly line changed the way products were manufactured. Advancements in automobile technology changed work habits, the nature of jobs and even lifestyles. All these technological advancements made their impact in the world of agriculture as well, even the innovations that were not directly applicable to farming, livestock handling and other agricultural processes. Take, for example, developments into the automobile industry and in mechanical engineering in general. Today’s largest and most productive farms are planted, maintained and harvested by massive combines that combine the best of automobile engineering, mechanics and even robotics. Similarly, many large farms have adopted the assembly line model to increase their yields and integrate themselves better into the supply chains through which their produce eventually gets sold.
In the last century, however, the one technological revolution that has the potential to revamp the agricultural world much like the cotton gin did is information technology. It is applied in force in many farming operations around the world, particularly in the United States, but people in the agriculture business have only discovered the tip of the ice-berg, so to speak, when it comes to information technology true potential. Intelligent harvesting, for example, that makes use of process control machines to streamline the harvesting process is on the cards. Information technology is also helping farmers make informed, well-based decisions concerning what crops to plant and what variants of these crops to choose. Farmers, particularly those in the American Midwest, that have thousands of hectares of farmland invest in multi-million dollar combines that use GPS, several onboard computers and advanced robotics to harvest a field in a fraction of the time it would have taken before and with a fraction of the workforce it would have required. The result is more efficient farming, better quality farm produce and cheaper prices for the consumer. What is particularly exciting to people in the agriculture business is that the wave of innovation that information technology has brought about is only just getting started. Industry experts hope to see many more innovative revamps of agricultural processes in the decades to come.