When a person thinks of agriculture, those thoughts are often of cows and horses grazing peacefully in the field or watching crops swaying in the wind; or perhaps a tractor driving across the field harvesting the crop, plowing the field or planting the next season’s bounty.

These scenes are all from the field of agriculture, but there is so much more behind what most people see. For instance, technology changes faster in agriculture than in any other industry; in fact, developments in the agriculture industry have led to discoveries in the medical field and GPS and mapping, to name a few applications.

For instance, did you know that genomic testing of dairy cattle, which has enabled the dairy industry to identify carriers of certain diseases by testing the hair of a calf at an early age, is now being used in humans? The method has allowed doctors to test the hair of a human to see if the person will develop cancer in the future. And research is being done to see if it can be narrowed down to what kind of cancer a human may develop, so it can be treated earlier.

By crossbreeding seeds, we have developed varieties of apples that maintain a longer shelf life, are more disease resistant and can withstand freezing temperatures better so that there is less loss of fruit.

Recognizing the importance of agriculture technology, the agriculture program of the Howard County Economic Development Authority has launched a new Agriculture Technology Center at the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE). The Ag Tech Center provides companies and farmers with new ideas related to the agriculture industry, such as food safety, computer programs, soil and water health and manure management, the opportunity to develop their idea and business. It will also provide programming in building a business, making presentations and working with local farms for field test.

Three companies have joined the new Ag Tech Center at the MCE since its launch last July. Each is working on a unique project connected with food safety or food waste. It’s exciting to see these companies working to not only help the agriculture community, but also with focuses of improving on the farmers’ use of technology, providing a safer food product or working harder to protect the environment.

In the 1940s, one farmer fed 10 people. Today, that same farmer is asked to feed 149 people, and that number is growing each day. Technology has allowed the American farmer to grow more food on less land each year. Soon, the population on Earth will be more than 9 billion people, and it will take continued discoveries and improvement in the technology of agriculture for enough food to be produced to feed that population.

So the next time that you pass that beautiful farm with the cows and horses grazing in the field, know that the farmer that brings you that beautiful scene is also part of a growing technology industry that requires the farm to protect your food supply, protect the soils and streams, produce more food on less land and drive a tractor while recording production and field information.

You never know what new technology will come from agriculture that will provide an opportunity to help our community.

Kathy Johnson is agricultural development manager with the Howard County Economic Development Authority. She can be contacted at 410-313-6500 and at [email protected].