Agriculture has historically undergone four main innovation-based revolutions. Now researchers at Linköping University, Sweden, point at a fifth innovation era based on a historical study of past revolutions in agriculture.
The first innovation era started back in time by for example the rivers of Babylon. This era was the dawn of cultivation cereals, domestication of animals and livestock and it transformed society in a radical way.
The second era formed during the 18th Century and included plant sequence strategies, the shift reforms (in some countries), the horse and the iron plow, the drill, the knife beam, cover drainage, steam machines (and locomotives), and the separator.
The third innovation era started in the end of the 19th Century, and the main driving force was the tractor as power source alongside implements. In this era also the electricity made its breakthrough, enabling the milking machine. Soon came Ferguson’s three-point lift, combine harvesters with a tank rather than a sack handling, and silo- and elevator systems. This continued with efficient machines equipped with hydraulics (like Väderstad's HV roll 1976), the spread of fertilizers, pesticides, the silage method (Vicon wrapper 1986) and switching plows (like Överum and Kverneland).
The main force behind the fourth agricultural innovation era was GPS satellites but also digital technology, and robotics, paving the way for precision farming. During this period entered also real-time harvesting meter (Ag Leader, 1992), auto steering (1997 in Australia), the N sensor (2000), and milking robot. In this era microprocessors, cameras and sensors became cheaper pacing the way for "internet of things". Driving environments in machines became digital.
– Now the fifth innovation era is knocking on the door. This era is forced forward by the drone based farming, artificial intelligence for managing large amounts of data, field robots (for example Case IH Magnum and New Holland T8), as well as phenotyping and other combinations of high technology and biology, says Per Frankelius, Associate Professor at Linköping University.