Agricultural engineering, or AE as it’s called within the industry, is an increasingly important discipline in our ever more populous world. What is AE, and what makes it important? Follow along for the basics of this vital science today.
Most directly described, the field of AE is essentially the collective effort of humankind to improve agriculture through science. But what exactly is agriculture? Agriculture itself is simply another name for farming. Raising and harvesting production animals, crops, and their associated products are what agriculture is all about.
In turn, agricultural engineering is the field concerned with creating new, systemic improvements that will enhance agriculture in any way. What are some areas of agriculture that this field of study regularly attempts to improve? The following represent some of those core areas of focus as well as a few examples of new AE tools, technology, and method implemented therein.
- Spatial Management – One of the core concerns in any agricultural operation is that of spatial management. What portions of a farm’s land should be used for which purposes? This question is sometimes simply abated by making spatial decisions based on where the water supply is located or where the soil is best for particular purposes. In other cases, however, farming operations will utilize some more complex AE-based math and numerous other factors in making spatial determinations.
- Water Management – Without water, there can be no crops or animals raised. Due to such high importance, many AE efforts work specifically toward enhancing water movement, distribution methods, and efficiency in overall use across a farm. In this spirit, AE efforts have produced advanced irrigation systems, water recycling methods, special spraying units that water with exact precision, and much more. In all cases, simultaneously being able to maximize efficiency and the positive effects of water is the ultimate goal.
- Microbiology – Microbiology is the study of microbes and all of the biological processes that occur at a microscopic level. This is also an important focus area of AE today, as microbiological elements can completely destroy crops and kill off entire groups of animals. Currently, AE efforts in microbiology have produced some truly game-changing animal immunization methods, predictive capabilities, soil and water treatment options, and plenty more methods that actually turn microbes into aiding allies as opposed to enemies.
- Harvest and Process Science – An agricultural operation can do very well in some of the above areas of concern, but if it is ineffective or inefficient at harvest and process time, all previous efforts can be for naught. Harvesting and processing are the methods used for actually capturing those resources produced by the operation. Very large and specialized harvesting machines are often used to harvest crops as efficiently as possible. Similarly, large production systems are also designed and implemented for the efficient harvest of animal products such as wool, eggs, meat, and milk.
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One of the best resources with which to learn more on agriculture and the vast world of AE is the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. It is within this organization that the professionals in the AE industry work together and congregate in the name of the science of agricultural engineering today.