Innovative technologies in Agriculture

Royal Agricultural University Drones

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[Editor’s Note: Johnny Spence, a farmer from Northern Ireland, sees little robots being used in the future to weed and spray fields, with drones picking up canisters and spray and resupplying them.]

“Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own.” – Samuel Johnson, renowned English writer

We live in a time of technological revolution; of hotspots and WiFi, Satnavs and satellites, sensors, drones, robots and beyond. Digitisation now seeps into every aspect of our daily lives, making the day-to-day running of business and industries easier and much more efficient.

Nowhere does this ring truer than in the diverse business of agriculture, a field that has literally been revolutionised by innovative new technologies. Not only do these new technologies save the hard-working farmer precious time and fatigue, they also significantly reduce the amount of fuel that’s used and brings with them a wealth of healthy savings.

The New Holland T8.435 tractor, for example, an 18-tonne vehicle giant with two-metre tall, tank-style tyres, is transforming the business of agriculture one field at a time. With its high-tech satellite-assisted steering, this mechanical masterpiece is able to download crop and soil data directly to agronomists and farm managers. This state-of-the-art machine also boasts the gusto to work 24/7, on top of the ingenious ability to connect with ground sensors and drones via infrared thermal cameras, and can accurately predict the size of a field within one square metre, as well as track the location of its most fertile or waterlogged spots.

“We use satellite technology to map fields and identify where fertiliser is needed and exactly what part of the field needs spraying,” Johnny Spence, a young farmer from Northern Ireland, told a reporter from The Guardian.

“A tractor can be controlled by a satellite, drones can fly over a crop, record pictures and send them back to the office. The technology has made for better farming.

“I think automated logistics will open up many things in agriculture that could never be done before,” Spence adds. “Little robots will be used to weed and spray fields. Drones could pick up canisters and spray and resupply them. Robotics will replace the seasonal workforce and the new workforce will need new skills…It used to be 20 men and 20 horses. Then it was 20 men and one tractor. Now it’s one man and 20 tractors,” he concludes.

With such rapid developments in agricultural technologies, it’s been absolutely necessary for the world’s esteemed providers of agricultural education to accordingly adjust their provisions. The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) for example, located in Cirencester – the beating heart of the Cotswolds in the UK – recognises the importance of technological innovation within the agricultural industry, providing a number of highly-specialised courses focused on the automation of agricultural and horticultural production.

Modules covered in these courses include:

Crop Production Technologies
Livestock Production Technologies
Production Resource Management
Environmental Technologies
Computing and Information Technologies
Business Development and the Agri-Tech Sector
Xing Hao is a current undergraduate agriculture student at the RAU, who hails originally from China. Xing decided to enrol at the RAU due to its strong reputation and tradition, but also for the opportunity to engage with students from all over the world, and embrace the challenges and opportunities that come with studying agriculture at a university overseas.

“I have very much enjoyed the series of lectures delivered by external experts in the fields of Agriculture, Agribusiness and Land Management,” Xing notes. “These events have helped me develop my knowledge and understanding of land-based industries and acquire a global perspective,” Xing adds. “Previous events have included a lecture on ‘Science, Technology and Agriculture’, delivered by the Rt. Hon Davis Willetts MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science.”

Combining theory with hands-on experience and drawing on external expertise, graduates from institutions like the Royal Agricultural University – where faculty understands and responds to a rapidly changing industry – are highly sought-after by global leaders in the Agri-specific industries. Read on to learn more about the universities providing a world-class agricultural education:


The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) is the first institution of its kind in the English-speaking world. Boasting an esteemed tradition of more than 175 years, the University now hosts a diverse student population who derive from 45 different countries.

The RAU’s School of Agriculture, Food and the Environment lies at the forefront of agricultural education, providing a wealth of specialised programmes and consistently producing graduates who are equipped with the intellectual, practical, professional and transferrable skills needed to thrive in a wide variety of fields.

The range of livestock, arable and mixed farming systems at the RAU University Farms provides an ideal opportunity for student engagement and provides a valuable insight into the current realities of commercial farming. This is achieved through practical farm classes for the purposes of demonstration together with project work, case studies, research and other assessments. The School also hosts specialist facilities for food testing, diagnostics and preparation which are used by students to provide practical and technical experience of the food supply chain.


The fundamental mission of the Swedish Agricultural University (SLU) is to provide science and education that promotes sustainable life; the institution hopes to achieve this through educating and conducting research into biological resources and the sustainable development of both urban and rural areas.

SLU may be a Swedish University, but all its actions and issues form part of an increasingly global context. The School provides a comprehensive range of professional programmes and courses, ranging from Bachelor’s to Master’s and PhD level.

There are also a variety of bespoke courses on offer, for those who’d like to tailor their education to their own specific interests.


The Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) is a world-renowned centre for teaching and research.

Researchers from the Institute are committed to producing high-quality research on genes, molecules, whole organisms and the environment in order to respond to global challenges like food security, bioenergy, sustainability and the impacts of climate change.

The School provides a vibrant spectrum of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, taught by 360 qualified members of staff. IBERS is also dedicated to promoting the employability of all graduates, working alongside academic and industry partners to provide unparalleled opportunities within an international context.


Texas A&M University is proud to host one of the largest colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences in the United States. Highly-regarded as leaders in a broad variety of disciplines, the members of this academic team work tirelessly to feed the world, protect the environment, improve public health, nurture the economy and enrich global youth.

From soil to crop sciences to biochemistry and biophysics, from forensic science to agricultural leadership, the School boasts more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programmes, specially designed to help Texas A&M students develop and change the world.


With its esteemed international education, world-class professors, superb field facilities and diverse student body, the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at McGill University is truly a unique place to study.

The Macdonald Campus, set on 650 hectares of stunning waterfront scenery on the Western tip of the Island of Montreal, is home to this Faculty and one other, as well as a number of prestigious research centres.

At McGill’s Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, students can earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees that are internationally recognised, granting students in-depth knowledge in the fields of natural science, environment, agriculture, food, applied economics and engineering.


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