The Agriculture of the Future Are We Ready?

Have you ever wondered what the future will be like? I’m sure it will, but getting it right is very complicated. Few are those who with their predictions are ahead of the facts and that is that the future is unpredictable and surprising, but in this article we review the current situation that can indicate where the agriculture of the future will move.

Several global trends are influencing food security, poverty and the overall sustainability of food and agricultural systems.

The World Summit of Governments launched a report called “Agriculture 4.0 – The Future Of Farming Technology”, in collaboration with Oliver Wyman for the 2018 edition of this international event. The report addresses the four main developments that put pressure on agriculture to meet the demands of the future: demography, scarcity of natural resources, climate change and food waste.

The report says that while demand is growing steadily, by 2050 we will have to produce 70% more food. Meanwhile, agriculture’s share of world GDP has fallen to just 3%, a third of its contribution just a few decades ago.

Approximately 800 million people worldwide suffer from hunger. And in a business-as-usual scenario, 8% of the world’s population (650 million) will remain malnourished by 2030. The reality is that very little innovation has taken place lately in industry, in any case, there is nothing to indicate that food scarcity and hunger will not be a problem in the coming decades.

Meeting these challenges will require a concerted effort by governments, investors and innovative agricultural technologies. Agriculture 4.0 will no longer depend on the uniform application of water, fertilizers and pesticides over entire fields.

Instead, farmers will use the required minimum amounts and focus on very specific areas. The report also states that agricultural operations will have to be executed very differently, mainly due to advances in technology, such as sensors, devices, machines and information technology.

Future agriculture will use sophisticated technologies such as robots, temperature and humidity sensors, aerial imagery, GPS technology and everything related to IoF. These advanced devices, agricultural systems and precision robotics will make greenhouses more profitable, efficient, safe and environmentally friendly, as the future of agriculture depends on sustainability.

Governments can play a key role in solving food shortages, but to do so, they must take on a larger and more prominent role than their traditional regulatory and facilitating role.

What farmers bring to the table

Although agriculture plays a less important role from an economic point of view generally in industrialized countries, it is one of the most important segments of the economy in many regions of these countries as in the case of our own (Andalusia), and especially in developing countries. Smallholders play a key role in food production.

Arable land is very valuable

The amount of arable land available for food production per person is limited and declining steadily. This is due to population growth, but also to factors such as urbanization, erosion and desertification. Therefore, only 0.5% of the Earth’s surface can be used for growing crops, although there is increasing talk of urban crops.

The world’s population is growing – will there be enough food for everyone?

There are already more than 7 billion people on Earth today, and this figure according to many scientists will rise to almost 10 billion by the middle of this century, and demand for agricultural products will be 50% higher on average than in 2013. This means that demand for food will increase significantly.

The eating habits of consumers in industrialized countries require large amounts of resources and cause greenhouse gases that damage the climate.

Creating a sustainable future

Agriculture needs innovation: tomorrow’s challenges cannot be solved with yesterday’s methods. Investment in research and development is more important than ever, to make agriculture more efficient and also more sustainable at the same time. Digital solutions, crop protection and modern breeding methods will play an important role in this process, as will specific support for small farmers.

Data-driven agriculture

All eco-intelligence is incredibly valuable and also very complex. How can we keep track of everything and make sure the sensors are well maintained? In fact, we may be creating more problems than we have now. And all that without considering that it might not work, how is this more sustainable?

Automation takes over the workforce, but there are other aspects of sustainability to consider. Integrated sensor networks allow us to track CO2 emissions from machinery, plant growth patterns, track the growth of mycelium networks to get a holistic view of the health of our ecosystem and many other functions that are already being implemented.

Local greenhouses can share data to create a plan that takes into account the available resources of each plantation, the geography and market prices of their crops this year, all automated with basic sensor data.

With the vast amount of information and eco-intelligence generated by an agro-automation system, we will be able to delve deeper to understand the micro and macro flow patterns of our planet. Now imagine that we could group all this valuable knowledge of each crop in a region, in each region of a country and in each country of the world. We would have a great deal of information about the patterns of ecosystems that support our society.