As 2018 comes to a close, it’s worth looking ahead to what the next year and beyond could bring as far as precision farming technology development and adoption.

Equipment automation, drone-based nutrient application and hybrid or electric machinery are among the innovations which are trending toward broader application, perhaps as soon as 2025, according to results of a recent study conducted by consulting company Roland Berger.

The Chicago-based firm surveyed more than 40 different ag companies, including the major OEMs, precision specific manufacturers and agribusiness start-ups.

Noteworthy takeaways from the 2018 study included indications that start-up companies are driving innovations that are outside of core manufacturing objectives for OEMs.

But there is also ongoing momentum for industry partnerships among small and large ag companies to develop machine learning and robotic technologies.

Wilfried Aulbur, senior partner with Roland Berger notes that in the short-term, fleet management tools will be a point of emphasis for precision ag, while other advancements are still several years off.

“We don’t see hybrid or electric really making it in the ag field. We believe that’s something that is going to be very long off. Yes, there are people working on it and, yes, we will face stronger emission regulations in the agriculture field, but it’s not going to be immediate.” 

Aulbur adds that the firm’s research indicates that large OEMs are also entering the farm management space and investing significantly in autonomous technology. However, their confidence levels on electric tractors are low and they have yet to venture into alternative farming methods.