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The Farm of the Future
The silence of the fann yard is broken by a faint noise. 1t is caused by the feeding instruments in the production building. 1t's already eight o'clock, but the fanner and his family are still sleeping. Yes, on the fann of the future you don't have to do everything yourself. Technology has come to the rescue. On the fann, located in the south of Finland, modern technology is used extensively. The farm is like any other modern company in the sense that it aims for the biggest possible profit. This is made possible by a high degree of automation and the great production capacity. The greenhouse effect has also had a rather positive influence on the agricultural conditions in Finland. Cattle fanning is part of the farm's production prograrn. The ultimate goal is to produce good quality meat with no extra fat by selective breeding, and do it as fast as possible. Special attention has been paid to the functionality of the production building. The capacity of the building is one thousand animals. Division into three separate units introduces a new kind of functionality. The upper part of the south wall is made of special glass that can be darkened electrically. The darkness control takes advantage of the intemal particles of the glass, which can be controlled with certain electrical pulses. The position of the particles determines the amount of sun rays passing through the wall. After a turn has occurred the particles stay in their new position permanently without maintenance by further electrical pulses. During the winter the windows are normally clear to enable the heatwaves to he used in the building's heating. 1n summer they are darkened down to a degree required to keep the building cool. The glass wall is constructed of multiple panes, which can be opened independently. The windows have openers with slips made of two different alloys that have different thermal expansion coefficients. As the temperature rises the difference causes the pane to open. The opening of the panes can also he disabled electrically. The air conditioning of the production building is taken care by effective machinery. 1t is controlled by a sensor based on modem cellular technology. 1t monitors the conditions inside, keeping account of the temperature, humidity and the quality of the air. The air conditioning system, like each machine on the fann, is connected to the main computer. At the outlet of the system there is a odour removal device. Its purpose is to diminish the odom nuisance caused to the environment. 1ts operation is based on a simple yet efficient chemical reaction. A variation of this reaction is used to remove the adour from the manure. After the removal it can he used as a component in a modem chemical fertilizer which can then be spread to the fields. The new substance has none of the side-effects of the chemical fertilizers used in the twentieth century. The animal noise carped over from the production building is eliminated with the help of a very fast, dedicated computer. 1t analyses the noise and produces a sound wave with an amplitude exactly opposite to that of the original. When the two sound waves meet, the resultant wave -- in theory, at least -- has an arnplitude of zero, and is therefore inaudible.
concentration of the air in the premises are also constantly monitored with electrical and biological methods. Because of these strict demandsfor clean environment, access to the premises is controlled and unauthorised personnel are not allowed in. A security check is performed using fingerprint scanning. The weight of the person is also measured, but a tolerance of a few kilograms is allowed. This method leaves no doubt as to the identity of the person. Although indoor cultivation has been developed extensively, in some parts of production the traditionai farming methods are still used. The modem machines used in tilling the soil have come a long way from those used before the tum of the century. The basic device is a new kind of tractor that can be transformed to meet a variety of needs because of its modular construction. It has an electric motor powered by a lightweight high-energy battery. The motor's torque has been developed to the fullest. Equipment can be fastened to the tractor with durable plug connectors to the front, the rear and the sides of the tractor, as well as under it. The tractor's frame is made out of a light but steel-hard new material that endures heavy use. Because the tractor is lightweight it can be used on watery or otherwise difficult fields. Electro-pneumatic regulator and sensors control the motor and the equipment and monitor servicing needs. The equipment is also modular in itself, which in many cases means adjustable capacities. They are integrated to the tractor in terms of control and connections. The thrasher is also the latest in technology. It is a lightweight, fast, and handy robot controlled vehicle. During thrashing the grain is cut by a laser beam. If some of the grain has been laid fiat, it is lifted up by a powerful blower-suction device. Robot control enables the thrasher to complete its task without being constantly monitored by a human. The control system is based on artificial intelligence and fault-tolerant components. It can spot and steer clear of obstacles on the field, such as rocks. The thrasher transmits information about the thrashing process and possible problems encountered to the central network, whence it can be retrieved by the personnel from the terminai closest to them. The control centre of the farm is located in the main building. The heart of the system is an extremely fast neuron computer based on neural network technology. When comrnunicating with the computer all the usual means -- the keyboard, the mouse, "the electronic glove", speech control, or finger-pointing -- can be used. The electronic glove is basically an ordinary glove with integrated sensors that measure the movements of the hand. The farm and its computer system are not in isolation in the midst of the scarcely populated countryside. It is connected to the wideband Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN II). A workstation also incIudes a special chair that automatically adjusts itself to each individual person's ergonomic needs. While lying comfortably in the chair you can ask the computer to present the day's intemational market prices for various farming products. The information is gathered from the Agricultural Information Centre by a database server. While you're at it you can also ask for a sales forecast in order to develop your plans for equipment acquisitions and sales. The artificial intelligence system takes into account the farmer's personality and characteristics and offers a helping hand with such tasks as completing tax returns and maintaining accounts.
Unfortunately, because there are extremely fast and unpredictable changes in the noise it is impossible to eliminate the noise completely. The result is still pleasingly quiet. A small nuclear plant, based on the finally completed fusion technology, provides the farm with all the energy it needs. The plant resembles a footbalI with a number of cables fastened to it. Because of its small size it is not too difficult to find room for it. As an energy source, it is extremely safe, and completely noiseless. 1t is fuelled by sea water, which is available in ample measure. The building is divided into compartments with room for fifteen animals each. Each compartment is divided into nutrition and "recreation" areas. Using controis, the animals can be directed between the two areas when necessary, making the cleaning of an individual area effortless. Each animal has a unique identification plate plastered to its neck. The plate helps maintain an individual nutrition program for the animal by responding to a signal sent by the feeding instruments. This ensures that each animal gets the proper amount of nutrition, no more, no less, so that breeding becomes as effective and economic as possible. While not being fed the animals are kept in the recreation area. Background music is played to relieve stress, and to keep the building clean and cool in the summer there are automatic showers for the animals. The showers are no luxury - they improve the animals' Iiving conditions. 1n the preparation and distribution of the food a traditionalliquid nutrition system is used. The materials are gathered to the mixing container from the various silos and then mixed there under computer control. The ingredients are measured with a sensitive electronic scale with reasonable accuracy. The distribution valves are controlled by air pressure and logic circuits. The amount of liquid sent down the tubes depends on the individual needs of the animals. Cultivation is another part of the farm's production program. 1n addition to the traditionai soil cultivation, indoor cultivation under controlled conditions is an increasingly used method of production. 1t enables the farmer to get yields quickly regardless of the season. The area of the grain production building is a little over two hundred square meters. 1t is about twenty meters high. 1nside the building there is a network of troughs containing platforms one meter in diameter. At one end of a trough, seeds are planted on the platform. The platforms move along the troughs, maintaining their horizontal position. The seeds are fertilized with a special liquid, and at the other end of the trough the grain is ripe for cutting. After it is cut, the grain is automatically transported to wait for drying. By controlling the length and speed of the troughs it is possible to adjust the speed of the cycle and the ripeness of the resulting crop. The production capacity of the equipment is approximately tenfold when compared to traditional cultivation methods. By using this new method the cultivation area can be utilized aIot more efficiently -- also vertically. All kinds of pests and weeds can be eliminated because the process executes in a controlled environment. The conditions must constantly stay the same, though, and entrance of bacteria and other detriments to the cultivation areas must be stopped at all cost. Therefore the air conditioning equipment contains microbe filters. The temperature, humidity, and
The sun sets and the end of the working day is drawing near. The control devices outside the buildings and the lights at the yard are automatical1y switched on. Modern technology has transformed the once exhausting and physically demanding work into a pleasant, chal1enging profession. The farmer and his family can rest safely, waiting for a new day to dawn while the tireless machines stay awake for them. ABSTRACf In my opinion, significant new production methods wil1 be introduced on farms. These methods wil1 improve efficiency but are also friencily to the environment and require less physicallabour. Economical feasibility on the large united trade area of Europe wil1 also increase. My visions are largely based on personai experiences on my family estate. Twenty-five years is a long tirne, however, and reality may prove ta be quite different. The future stil1 looks promising in al1 respects.
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