My family has been farming for well over 100 years now, and in places like the state of Nebraska, that qualifies our farms for homestead status. I also happen to be in that first generation to grow up in the city. I see the modern pace of technology and dream of a simpler and slower time of working the land. As we continue to barrel towards the third internet revolution with such things at web 3.0, AI, and IoT on the horizon its beyond belief what the American farmer will soon be able to accomplish.
On a nice warm spring day the farmer heads down to the field. Bending down, he scoops up a handful of rich dark earth, rubs it between his palms and brings it to his nose. He inhales the fragrant soil, tastes just a bit of it from his fingers and he knows. Now is the time for his masterful work to begin. Hes waited through the bitter winter, dreaming of this day. The day his lifes work continues. The farmer has a great many things to accomplish and time is agaist him. He goes back to the house, but instead of grabing his boots and gloves, he heads straight to his computer. He brings it to life and he sees his farm in a way his forfathers never could. A map comes up, and he sees in vribrant multi colored hues the conduction of his farm. Sensor 5, the one closest to where he sniffed the earth show green, denoting oxygen and nitrogen levels need to bring life to the seeds that soon will be planted. But sensor 23 on the other side of the field tells a different story. Quickly he pulls up the commads for a automated shed picking the right tractor and the right discer to fural the ground. As the shed perpairs the equipment, the farmer reviews the yeildes for the acres around the misbehaving ground for the past 5 and 10 years. He sees how each crop has performed and checks his crop rotation schedule. This year, this particular field will grow corn. The farmer knows which mixtures of fertilizer and herbicides will produce the best yeilds in this field, and he commands the storage tanks to fill the hoppers on the tractor. As the shed completes its tasks, the farmer gets his coffee and prepares for the next task.
He brings the map back up. He prepares to layout the route the tractor will take through the field. The GPS track program alread knows how wide the path needs to be based on the equipment coming together in the shed. The farmer sees the width of the discer and the width of the fertilizer spreader. With his mouse, he draws a polygon around the field, taking into account all the deviations in the field and identifying points or areas that cannot be disced. The program considers the request, and laysout the best path for the tractor to take. He picks the start point and sends the plan to the tractor via wifi and GPS.
The shed alerts the farm that all tasks are complete and awaits it next instructions. The farmer grabs his remote sart and stop control box, and heads to the shed to inspect the equipment. The sensors on the tractor check out, and a visual inspection shows everything is ready. He activates the control box and the tractor and commands the tractor to move to the start point. He observes from the ground as the tractor begins its slow drive to the start point.
The farmers phone dings with an alert. It seems that the computer has identified a cheaper seed provider, and after cross referencing what the farm has on hand, has prepared a purchase request for the farmer to sign off on. With the request approved, the computer builds a new smart contract with the supplier and the farmers backing account for payments upon delivery. With the seed issue being taken care of the farmer sets the tractor to work and heads back inside to monitor its progress from the computer. An hour later and another alert. The farmer pulls up a status report and finds out the tractor encountered an unforeseen obstacle. He pulls up the video feed and sees a deer in the path of the tractor caused the operation to stop. The farmer uses the control box to activate the tractors horn and scares the deer off. Operations can begin again, and now its on to the next task.
This is an ideal future for web 3.0 and everything it has to offer. Every single technology stated above has the potential to revolutionize the farmers way of life, and how they put food on the table for themselves and for all Americans. These technologies, and many others, are slowly making their way from the labs tk the fields, but many of them only deal with production and the end result of farming.
But before any of that can happen or be used, it must be paid for. Unless a farm has a huge amount of capital he must take out operational loans. These loans are short in duration and generally low interest that farmers takes out to pay for all the equipment and supplies required for the season. Generally farmers payback the loan after the grain is sold, and revenue is collected.
The farmer has spent all winter tracking his expenses from last years operations. He reviews his paper work from last year and sees how well his budget worked out and what changes need to be made. All in all, to apply for operational loans, the farmer may be required up to nine separate forms for one application. Once all the paperwork is completed, the forms are sent to a local Farm Service Agent for approval. FSA can approve a maximum of $300,000, any amount over that must be covered by a personal loan. Once the loan is approved the farmer can begin operations. Once the harvest comes, most farmers send their grain to a local Cooperative for storage until the farmer decides to sell based on market price. To sell, the farmer must call the transfer agent at the cooperative and identify how much of the grain should be sold. Once the sale is complete, proceeds are sent to the farmer, then the farmer can pay back their loans. In the case of some farms the process can be complicated even more. As an example, some families own multiple farms that they don’t farm themselves. They essentially pay a local farm a percentage of the harvest per farm to do the farming. The farmer and the owner both accept some risk, but reduce their overall overheads. Some farms are owned by multiple individuals who have to cosign every decision.
Theres got to be a better way. Maybe theres a way to bring the fidelity and transparency of blockchain, and smart contracts, to bear on this portion of the agriculture industry.