NEWS / Smart Agriculture

Can Smart Agriculture Save the World?

May 20, 2019, 2019

As the global population rises exponentially, the ability to provide essential resources is reaching crisis point. With an inherent obligation to provide for the basic needs of our species, world powers are facing the challenge of producing food on a massive scale.

Many solutions have been suggested to improve efficiency of food production, including reducing global meat consumption, and increasing alternative sustainable food sources such as insects – already a regular part of the diet of more than 2 billion people worldwide.
The problem of feeding 10 billion people by 2050 remains, however. Water scarcity in the near future is likely to be the biggest crisis to hit the globe. The key to combating scarcity of resources in a time of growing need is efficiency, and this is where smart technology might just help to save the world.

Smart agriculture takes a three-pronged approach to efficient yield, with advances in technology meaning better resource monitoring, need-triggered use of resources, and real-time monitoring of actual demand.
Prong 1: Resource monitoring
The availability of physical resources in agriculture, i.e. water, crop fertiliser, animal feed, pesticide, and more, can already be monitored by smart sensors, and the future of sensor-led farming will require greater interoperability for macro-scaled efficiency. Knowing exactly how much water is available per location in aquifers and other reservoirs, and how this correlates with current and projected demand will help identify problems early. On a larger scale, satellite/radar imagery will help to identify trends in water distribution and quality.
Smart sensors available now are deployed in the field to provide constant feedback as to soil composition and quality and the need for fertilisers or soil additives for specific crops. Using IoT devices in large-scale agriculture raises some challenges, including the need for sustainable power sources and Cloud connection in remote or poorly accessible locations. Interoperability between systems and across locales will help overcome some of these problems for smaller farms, and will in turn mean a huge network of open agriculture data collection enabling identification of trends at both local and global levels.
Prong 2: Triggered use of resources
Non-invasive smart technology such as remote temperature monitoring and breath analysis is already used to assess health and identify disease in livestock, and large-scale imaging is set to change the way crops are monitored on a massive scale. Early identification of diseases in livestock and problems with crops enables minimal use of pesticides and antibiotics, with clear benefits to consumers, farmers and the environment.
Autonomous tech such as robotic fruit pickers, irrigation or crop sprayers will be able to respond automatically to cloud-based notification of need for attention or harvesting – programmers will be able to create a scenario where response is automatic, or where farmers are notified via smartphone that, for example, their crop is at optimal time for harvesting, and they will have the choice to deploy a response to this.
Prong 3: Meeting global demand
Smart triggered need-based use of resources in agriculture, and interoperability with systems showing trends in human demand will mean more automation and more efficient and responsive use and creation of resources.

More intuitive connection to actual global demand can help farmers predict need and adjust their output accordingly. Through machine learning, farming will be fully scalable to efficiently respond to demand.
Meeting global needs is clearly a time-sensitive issue, and a problem that will require an interdisciplinary approach with input from environmentalist groups, meteorologists and experts in human behaviour as well as agricultural, engineering, and cutting-edge technical experts. The streamlining of resource use and yield at the kind of scale anticipated can only be truly realised with scalable, interoperative, need-based systems. We are at the start of a new agricultural revolution; smart farming for the future of the human race.