The challenges that will shape the global landscape over the course of this century will dictate how agriculture changes in the next half century. Many of these challenges are now becoming clear, the biggest of which appear to be the growing global population, climate change and changes to the globalized world market.
With the world’s population expected to be touching 10bn people by 2050, the greatest task is to find a way to feed the planet without putting huge strain on the limited resources at our disposal – food production must increase by 70% to cope.
If climate change has the impact that science predicts, it also means that the percentage of arable land will also be reduced – putting further pressure on the fertile land available.
Technology is playing an increasing role in helping farmers and food producers maximize the opportunities available to them, and will change the way we think about food production forever. Smart farming is a term that covers many of the evolving facets of agriculture, and demonstrates just how far technology is relied upon to meet the ever-growing demands that humanity faces.
Smart farming and precision agriculture are two terms that are being utilized to describe the technological changes the following is some examples of what will become the norm in the latter part of the 21st century for food producers:
Computer controlled sensors will monitor soil conditions, moisture levels and vitality of crops – this information is uploaded onto the cloud, and allows computers to regulate watering and fertilizer dosage to enhance and maximize food yields. A similar thing is happening to livestock and even machinery, as GPS tracking helps to monitor animal movement or fuel efficiency for tractors and harvesters; data collection on animals can give up-to-the-minute data on body temperature, hormonal changes and general health.
Technological advancements that are beginning to come to fruition – such as driverless vehicles and drones, will also play an important part in doing agricultural tasks that are still currently done by workers: driverless tractors will till, sow, monitor and harvest crops; drones will be used to spray crops with herbicides and pesticides, and could also be used to ‘deep map’ land to harvest data about soil conditions and water distribution underground.
The Internet of Things (IoT) will play an integral part in operating the equipment that will monitor agricultural flora and fauna, but the main challenge for this to become reality, is the advances that need to be made in rural internet speeds and connections.
If this problem can be overcome, food production and yields will be revolutionized; it might spell bad news for those who make a living working off the land, but it will go some way to feeding the extra hungry mouths the planet will have as we look towards the 22nd century.