MARICOPA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - With dry conditions and little water, Arizona can be a tough place for farmers. But the University of Arizona is testing out cutting-edge farming technology that can keep the state's agricultural industry growing.

"There's a lot of sophistication in agriculture that is oftentimes overlooked," said University of Arizona Maricopa Agricultural Center director Malcolm Green.

Green says self-driving automated tractor technology has been utilized for years. But now, they're trying to take it a step further, automating complex crop-monitoring features.

[WATCH: Autonomous tractor does work of 1,000 farmers]

Tuesday, a tractor outfitted with sensors steered over rows of crops.

While it was driven by one operator, it was doing the job of a thousand farmers by creating a detailed map of the field. The data can tell where to fertilize, where to plant, and how much water to use – especially important in Arizona.

"It's basically automated the information or the intelligence-gathering process from the field," said John Heun, a U of A engineer who was operating the tractor.

A lot of the technology they're testing is already on the market and is available to buy. U of A is trying to combine it all, optimize it for the desert, and educate the agricultural community about how it can make their farms more efficient.

"Many times that is in Spanish, because of our labor force. So we can be very effective at doing that," said U of A precision agriculture specialist Pedro Andrade Sanchez.


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