The Future of FarmingFarm Tender Apr 23, 2018
The agricultural sector has witnessed a series of revolutionary milestones to evolve into a smart and intelligent production system. From mechanization, green revolution and precision agriculture, farming has developed in response to technological advancement to meet the demands of a growing population. In other words, the history of farming clearly indicates that the most dominant constant in the sphere of farming has been ‘change’. With development and focus on a sustainable future for agriculture, one wonders what the future of farming will be like.
The world’s population is expected to increase by 20% by 2050. This implies that the pressure on the agricultural sector to feed a larger population will rise.
In a scenario like this, will we succeed in devising strategies that are smart and efficient?
Global demand and future farming:
Improved tools and technical know-how will definitely reduce the amount of wastage, maximize productivity and allow localized monitoring. With increased knowledge and analytics, farm operations will be more insight-driven and efficient. Basically, the future of farming will be governed both by necessity and choice. The innovations will definitely equip farmers to use better cultivation methods and as a result future farming techniques will vary widely from the ones employed today. Moreover, with the growing emphasis on sustainability, smart farming will emerge as the popular method to ensure that the techniques do not impose any additional burden on the environment. The entire idea will be to adopt the most effective strategy and at the right time and place.
Precision farming is already at its peak with the use of machines that have the capacity to operate on their own and yield better production results. In fact, precision agriculture is paving the way for new innovations in the sphere of robotic agriculture. Research suggests that it may someday be possible to farm a land without the need of a person to actually step on the field. Yes, this is indeed true and is also evident from the dynamic inventions that are taking place in the agricultural sector. A “see-and-spray” system has been developed by a start-up, Blue River Technology with the ability to discriminate between weeds and crops. The system treats the crops with fertilizers and weeds with herbicides. The level of precision is so impressive that it is possible to eliminate the use of chemicals by almost 90%.
We may soon even have robots with arms that can pick apples directly from the trees! Abundant Robotics is a California based company and is in the process of developing such robots. Such robots that will be used in the farming sector will be very different from the ones used in other sectors. Unlike traditional robots, these robots are much more flexible and capable of carrying out multiple tasks.
The use of modern technology:
Future farming will heavily rely on technology to increase productivity. Data management, soil scanning and the use of satellites, airborne instruments and drones will make it possible to fetch data and convert them into actionable knowledge. Such forecasts will make it easier to figure out the best course of action and take necessary steps to prevent crop failure. High-resolution images captured from multispectral cameras will help farmers identify issues like water stress and also estimates of nitrogen and chlorophyll level. The images will enable farmers to recognize areas that are facing issues and need to be addressed.
With access to a wider realm of knowledge, it is easier for farmers to improve the quality and quantity of production. With precise knowledge about a field, it is possible to use pesticides and fertilizers selectively within a field. This method ensures that there is less wastage, higher production and the farm is transformed into a sustainable production unit. Increasing yield per hectare and growing crops based on the soil conditions can enable farmers to make the most efficient use of the available resources. While agricultural land remains fixed, smart farming is the tool that will allow the agricultural sector to feed a larger population.
The challenges posed by climate change:
In spite of the latest innovations, climate change continues to be a threat. With its wide and unpredictable damages, it is often difficult to shield crops from its vagaries. As a result, the concept of controlled environment agriculture is gaining popularity. This does not merely include greenhouses but also automated vertical farms and hi-tech indoor farms. Not only the yield in such controlled farms is higher but the amount of water required is much lower. Companies are also working towards developing greenhouses that will be entirely operated by robots.
Even though the model appears to be a major step in boosting productivity, yet there are limitations associated with its use. The produce from such farms is limited to leafy greens and the cost of the final product is higher. Moreover, even though the use of water is limited, the electricity used in such indoor farms leads to a higher production cost.
However, as we march ahead, robots and automated greenhouses will definitely continue to be a part of the future of farming. With the pressure of the growing population, technology indeed has to pave the way to feed the world.
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