If we are to believe the proverb strength in numbers, planet Earth will be one very strong place in some 30 years or so.
But would it really? As Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports, Earth’s overall population should be reaching more than 9 billion by the year 2050, and the question has to be asked: will we be prepared to deal with that many hungry mouths when even now we can’t provide enough food for the poor?
The estimates suggest that food production on a global scale will require growth of 70% in comparison with today’s standards. So, will we be able to keep up with these numbers, or are we merely toying with the world hunger that is already as severe as it gets?
The good news is that the flicker at the end of the tunnel does exist and its name is – Digital Transformations in Agriculture.
The overall willingness to embrace and harness new technologies is paramount for all industries, fields, and niches, regardless of their date of birth. Take, for example, voice search and voice assistance – we are currently just scraping the surface of the potential this type of data input and output has to offer, and we can only imagine the changes and improvements that lay ahead. As Djuradj Caranovic, an innovation consultant and former agricultural entrepreneur suggested in one of his keynote speeches: “One of the most disruptive facets of voice platforms is the rapid growth of voice search. It is a simple value prop – people can talk faster than they can type. Once you start a voice conversation, why would you go back to typing?”
The point is clear – once you taste a faster and more efficient way of performing a task or finishing a process, going back to previous, slower methods feels like torture. Similarly, farmers and food producers around the globe are experiencing first-hand what it means to be able to harness new solutions and use scalable digital resources to their advantage, making their jobs easier and even cutting some of the processes in half.
Certain digital transformation trends in agriculture have already taken place and have proven to be quite beneficial.
The Internet of Things (IoT) in Equipment and Fields
Slowly but surely, the IoT is reaching out its tentacles into the agriculture industry as well. The potential, especially in the food industry, is immense. According to the Cisco White paper, the estimated value generated through the IoT integration reaches $14.4 trillion, which would be achieved mainly by introducing new digital technologies and resources in both agriculture equipment and field work.
Incorporating IoT into Equipment
As one might assume, the sensor technology is the fulcrum of the innovations done to both equipment and field work. Agricultural equipment is mounted with sensors that are able to:
- Monitor the condition of a particular machine
- Navigate the machines using GPS
- Document terrain and build maps
- Estimate when a machine should be serviced and help with optimal maintenance
- Reduce the downtime of equipment to the bare minimum
Incorporating IoT into Field Work
The sensors and the ever-growing image recognition technology are extremely beneficial for field work as well. These systems can be used by farmers to monitor their fields in real time, regardless of their current location. This enables them to act fast and make necessary changes to their crops almost instantly, reducing the waste of resources to a minimum.
Of course, the only thing these robots will be attacking are the most common productivity problems within the agriculture industry. Robotics and AI are extremely potent resources that have already been heavily utilized in industries like automobiles, manufacturing, health care, military… while the world of agriculture has also lately been upgraded with the use of robots and artificial intelligence. This caused the productivity to skyrocket as a result of higher, bigger, and much faster yields.
The most obvious application instances include crop maintenance and weed identification/removal without any manpower. These agro-robots, some of which are equipped with camera/laser guiding systems that help them navigate through crop rows all by themselves can increase the effectiveness and productivity many-fold, while significantly reducing the manpower needed for the job.
There are also prototypes for plant-transplanting robots and highly efficient automation systems built for harvesting and fruit-picking.
Drones, Drones Everywhere
Drone technology is exceedingly felicitous and applicable within the agriculture industry. Imagine having to oversee hundreds of acres of crops and plants at the same time. The manpower needed for this task to be done properly is overwhelming.
This is where drones come into play as they are capable of providing an aerial view of the fields which is crucial for effective, all-round monitoring of the crops. This technology helps greatly with dealing with malevolent environmental factors almost instantly, while it can also increase the effectiveness of the chemical spraying process up to 5 times when compared to the conventional methods and machinery.
Some drones can also provide agriculturalist with 3D renderings of bird’s eye view images of the plantations, a method that has proven to be quite helpful for coming up with more effective seed planting strategies and predicting the potential changes in soil quality. Neat.
Artificial food is a huge no-no in modern agriculture, but artificial intelligence is slowly but surely gaining acceptance. AI is among the most innovative and practical examples of digital transformation in all niches and industries. Software’s ability to learn algorithms, perform advanced analytics, and come up with data-driven informed decisions is priceless for crop production and choice of the most optimal climate and location for their plantations.
But AI utilization doesn’t stop there. Machines and software can also be rather helpful in the manufacturing, selling, and audience-targeting phases, as this new technology can quickly and accurately generate data on which products sell best, and which fall under. A great way to cut wastes and allow for more proficient production in the future.
To summarize the article, we would like to mention another quote from Djuradj Caranovic he frequently resorts to when speaking at digital conferences: “The transfer of knowledge, thus far, has evolved in three paradigms — human to human (past), human to machine (present), and machine to machine (future). For the first time in our history, the new transfer of knowledge will not involve humans.”
It may sound daunting, but not at all far-fetched.