Each year, one third of all food is lost during production due to non-optimal field conditions.

Research has identified that cutting the volume of produce that doesn’t make it from field to fork in half could produce enough food to feed a billion extra people.

To improve on this damning statistic, the agriculture industry is fighting back with a data driven approach to optimise farming, known as precision agriculture.

Precision farming technology strives to improve crop yield and quality, but its effectiveness is only possible when combined with quality hardware.

According to SMB Bearings, bearing quality is an essential factor in agri-tech equipment.

The company offers the following advice:

For these devices, design engineers must source non-conductive bearings that are corrosion resistant and can take on the high-moisture environment of a farmer’s field.

Plastic bearings may seem like the obvious choice, as it is often the same material used in the scanner’s axle and wheels. Unfortunately, this bearing material has been known to wear too quickly.

A longer-lasting alternative is full ceramic bearings. With full ceramic bearings, both the rings and balls are made entirely from ceramic. These bearings are often confused with more commonly used hybrid bearings, made of steel rings and ceramic balls. Full ceramic bearings are ideal because of their non-conductive properties, alongside the material’s rigidity.

When choosing bearings for precision farming technology, there are different variants of ceramic to consider. Zirconia is a popular choice due to its high density and wide temperature range. Full ceramic bearings will generally accept 65 to 75 percent of the load of a steel bearing — essential for use in heavyweight farming machinery.

What’s more, the longer lifespan of ceramic bearings, when compared to plastic alternatives, will greatly reduce the maintenance of precision agriculture technology, such as soil scanners. Unlike plastic bearings, full ceramic bearings require little maintenance, therefore bearing replacement intervals are much longer.

Keeping soil scanners and other agri-tech equipment out in the field can only help to prevent post-harvest losses and allow farmers to produce enough food to feed the ever-growing population.

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