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Burgeoning global population and growing urbanization is putting immense pressure on natural resources like land and water. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the global population is projected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050 which will leave only 4% of land under cultivation by then. While nearly all this rise will occur in developing countries owing to increasing urbanization, rising purchasing power has resulted in a shift in trends from staples like grains to meat and milk. Since it takes multiple pounds of grain to produce a pound of meat, this also requires high yield per hectare, thereby putting pressure on the available cultivable land to increase the productivity in order to feed the growing livestock production.
In this context, the use of latest technological solutions to make farming more efficient has become on the greatest imperatives. Various technological advancements in the agriculture sector are paving the way for the adoption of innovative technologies across the agricultural sector. New innovative IoT applications are addressing various farming issues such as water shortage, limited availability of lands, and need to meet the increasing consumption needs of growing global population, in order to increase the quality, quantity, sustainability, and cost effectiveness of agricultural production. Presently, large and local farms can leverage IoT to remotely monitor sensors to detect soil moisture and crop growth, manage and control their smart connected harvesters and irrigation equipment. Increasing mobile services and access to dedicated local helplines are also leading to improved farming practices. VetAfrica, a mobile app developed by the software company Cojengo, enables animal health workers and farmers in Africa to accurately diagnose livestock illness and find the most effective drugs to treat the diseases.
Governments across different countries are increasingly adopting programs to train farmers in new agricultural methods and financial credit policies to help them to invest in new machines and techniques while investing in infrastructural development to improve access to markets. While developing countries are still creating awareness about new technologies, developed countries are increasingly implementing several advanced technologies and solutions to boost the agricultural productivity. Transformative technologies will result in the faster agricultural production that will be integrated along the supply chain or connected directly to consumers in a better way.
One such technology is vertical farming. Vertical farms involve the cultivation of crops in climate controlled buildings under high-tech lighting while using less water and soil. This technique is gaining worldwide popularity as it leads to better optimization of limited land and fertile soil. North American and Asian countries are increasingly adopting indoor agriculture solutions due to growing concerns over food security and pesticide use. Japan’s largest vertical farm produces more than 20,000 heads of lettuce per day in 3000 square-meter facilities outside of Kyoto. Most of the time, vertical farms do not even need soil on account of the use of aeroponics or hydroponic systems. The world’s largest vertical farm in New Jersey, AeroFarms, employs aeroponic technology to harvest around 1,000 tonnes of greens annually with 250 varieties of organically grown herbs and leafy vegetables.
With burgeoning global population, farmers will require to raise productivity on limited arable land in order to reduce food insecurity threat. As a result, large farms are increasingly exploiting precision farming to increase the farm yield. This type of farming involves the use of sensors, robots, mapping tools, GPS, and data-analytics software solutions to collect and provide feedback to farmers in real time regarding pesticide spray and fertilizer use, thus, reducing water and chemical use while producing healthier crops with higher yields. The technology also helps farmers to decide when to plant and harvest crops. While large companies such as Bayer, Monsanto, and John Dree are progressively investing in precision farming technologies, many start-ups such as AgCode and Aquabyte are coming forward to boost the adoption of sensors and AI in the agricultural sector. Even government organizations such as the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are supporting the adoption of precision farming techniques whereas educational institutions have started offering coursework on the topic to create more awareness. Though developed countries are rapidly moving towards new technologies, growers in developing and underdeveloped regions/countries are not fully embracing precision agriculture for various reasons including high upfront cost, lack of proper bandwidth, and lack of awareness regarding the use of computer technology.
Meeting rapidly growing global food demand and the corresponding reduction in the arable land is significantly leading to the era of widespread adoption of innovative science-based solutions and techniques to increase the agricultural productivity. With the increased use of modern farming practices, mobile technology, and mechanization management, farmers can efficiently produce more with less manpower and fewer inputs. Technological advancements in the global agricultural sector will make it possible to eradicate the food insecurity worldwide and that too in a sustainable manner.