In November 2022, the world’s population reached 8 billion. According to UNFPA, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it took decades to reach a billion.
In the 21st century, it only takes 11 to 13 years. “Adding to the family” is a reason for joy, but there is a tremendous problem. To feed humanity, agriculture needs to increase food by 70% by 2050, with the same amount of arable land.
What’s more, farmers have to accomplish this arduous task in the face of global climate change. They must also consider environmental sustainability. So, the following question arises: how to use resources reasonably and save humanity from mass starvation? Experts in the UK see a solution to this problem in introducing farming technology. How can technology change farming?
The Current State Of Smart Farming Technologies
Agriculture and farming have changed dramatically over the past 50 years.
Originally, the transformation involved the invention and production of farm machinery, improved fertilizers, genetic engineering, and breeding.
Now, the industry needs other methods to grow. The farming business should undergo digital transformation based on data and connected devices.
However, agriculture is still an industry with a slow pace of technology adoption.
Innovation is critical because it enables farmers to use relevant data to make effective decisions, manage risk and optimize revenue.
This requires advanced agricultural technologies – artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the IoT. They can handle the big data generated by the industry.
But in many regions, there is no infrastructure to support such farm business innovation.
And in areas where there is one, farmers are not ready to trust the technology because there is no sufficient evidence of its effectiveness.
In less developed areas, people mostly perform farming activities manually because they lack money for digitalization.
Even in advanced regions like the United States, France, or Germany, not all farms are adopting farm business innovation in 2022.
For example, McKinsey estimates that only a quarter of US farms use connected devices.
And that technology runs on 2G and 3G networks or in expensive and complex IoT networks with low bandwidth.
Such an infrastructure supports a limited number of devices and has low performance.
Therefore, it cannot be used for more complex operations such as farm or livestock monitoring, risk assessment, or pest control.
Digitalization used to be held back by the high cost of IoT equipment. However, as innovation spreads, device prices are falling.
Providers are making offers that pay off after the first year of use. It’s another step toward innovation and a good example of how technology can change farming.
The Farm Of The Future: Global Challenges
It’s not enough for today’s farmers to run simple old tools. Businesses need mobile apps and smart devices that allow managing farms from anywhere.
They want software solutions that have high bandwidth, support a wide range of devices, and offer advanced connectivity options (LPWAN, 5G and LEO satellites).
They are prime candidates for agriculture software development projects.
The way forward is possible if the industry solves two problems:
- Creates an infrastructure of connected devices;
- Develops software solutions that support agricultural operations.
Specialists believe that such a mission is possible because by 2030 the communications infrastructure will cover about 80% of global rural areas.
Therefore, a farming business should plan agriculture software development to stay successful.
If engineers implement LEO satellites, digitalization will penetrate even remote rural areas.
McKinsey estimates that enhanced connectivity will strengthen the industry’s productivity by 7-9%, resulting in a potential increase of more than $500 billion in global GDP.
Five Examples Of How Technology Can Change Farming
Owners used to manage their farms based on personal experience, their parents’ advice, or intuition.
Today, there is a whole industry of data analytics that is improving farming and livestock production.
It is based on AI, 5G, the IoT, and cloud computing. Let’s look at five ways of how technology can change farming.
#1. Tracking Agricultural Land
The symbiosis of IoT sensors and analytical apps enables farmers to better monitor their crops and care for them. Smart agricultural technology works the following way:
- In the fields, engineers install a network of sensors that collect information on moisture, temperature, soil nutrients, crop diseases, and other indicators.
- The collected data is stored in the cloud and transmitted to a farmer’s device.
- The landowner analyses the information and decides what needs to be done. For example, they need to give more water to irrigate plants in a drought or use fertilizers if crops suffer from copper starvation.
- Based on the incoming data, the owner creates electronic maps of fields with indicators of area, crop rotation, and soil composition. They help control the cost of seeds, fertilizers, and water and thoroughly prepare the land for the next season.
By skillfully using the data and implementing agriculture software development, business owners can increase income from growing crops with the same acreage and investments.
#2. Livestock Care
Remote monitoring technologies provide farmers with more information about animal health and well-being than traditional surveillance.
With large cattle and insufficient room for animals, it is difficult to ensure proper care. Farm software solutions solve these problems in several ways:
- Sensors and chips that record body temperature, pulse, and blood pressure are attached to an animal’s neck or ear.
In this way, it is easier to record the first symptoms of a disease so that the sick animal can be isolated and treatment begins promptly.
- On-site herd management systems are installed to control the health of animals and help manage pregnancy, reducing stillbirths by 6% or more.
- AI and computer vision technology help understand the genetic risks of herds. Genomic data allows for making recommendations on how to select and breed animals to increase the profitability of cattle.
- AI analyses the diet of cows, establishing the relationship with the number of milk yields and calories. It suggests an individual feeding schedule for each animal and monitors how much energy an animal needs and recommends strengthening or weakening the ration.
- A spectrometer evaluates the quality of the forage coming to the farm: calories, nutrients, moisture, and additives. Since the health of animals depends on the quality of forage, farmers pay great attention to selecting the best nutrition.
In this way, smart farming technologies monitor animals and their environment around the clock, optimizing ROI and facilitating farm management.
#3. Farm And Equipment Management
Monitoring of plants and livestock is not the only task of farmers.
Besides dairy, crop, and poultry farms, an owner has additional buildings – warehouses, bunkers, and outhouses for storing forage or products.
They also need to be skillfully managed so that the farm does not run out of necessary raw materials and agricultural products do not spoil.
Farming technology in the UK can help with this as well:
- A wireless sensor system keeps track of forage and seed supplies needed for farming operations.
It tracks moisture, temperature, and stocking rates. Monitoring these metrics is important, so that produce doesn’t spoil and animals don’t suffer from food shortages.
- Additional connected equipment can regulate the amount of electricity the farm consumes.
IoT sensors connected to energy-saving bulbs monitor the schedule for turning the electricity on and off so that energy can be used rationally.
- Computer vision technology, coupled with sensors attached to farm machinery and equipment, collects information on the condition of machines and devices.
If equipment performance deteriorates, an IoT device sends an alert to the farmer’s phone telling them that repairs are needed.
In this way, the owner plans repair work and extends the life of machines and equipment.
#4. Drones For Working In Hard-to-reach Places
We cannot overestimate the role of drones in the farming business.
They become the eyes, hands, and ears of farmers in places where they cannot get themselves.
Drones are multifunctional and can be used:
Drones can quickly move over the terrain, reaching precisely defined coordinates. Therefore, they are used to spray fertilizer on crops.
Built-in controllers regulate the amount of fertilizer to be sprayed. In addition, a UAV does not trample on crops as farm machines do with their wheels.
Diagnosing Crop Diseases
In the past, farmers had to spend hours on tedious data collection on acres of fields to detect diseases.
Now, all it takes is launching a drone and controlling it. The device captures data on plant health, soil nutrients, and moisture.
It detects the first signs of diseases so that the farmer can act in time.
Specialists typically use automated drone seeders in forestry for planting in hard-to-reach regions. But farmers can also apply them when sowing crops.
Bees are involved in the pollination of plants. Regions where bee populations are declining can have food problems.
To prevent this, researchers are creating technological substitutes – pollinator drones. They replace natural workers and save people from starvation.
#5. Autonomous Agricultural Machines
Tersus’s and Landing AI’s engineers are striving to help farmers produce better products at lower costs.
They suggest augmenting the industry’s capabilities with automatic driving systems.
Autonomous machines handle tasks more accurately than human-controlled machinery does.
They save fuel, do not deviate from the route, and can work even at night. They are used for tillage, ploughing, loosening fields, spraying, and harvesting.
McKinsey states: if the industry introduces autonomous vehicles and other agricultural technologies by 2030, that will bring an additional value of $50 billion to $60 billion.
Farming is at the crossroads now. On the one hand, information technology gives it tremendous opportunities for growth.
On the other hand, there are some technological constraints. Specialists need to solve the problem of deploying a high-speed broadband network that allows connected devices and software to be installed everywhere.
Then we will see how technology can change farming and if the industry can save humanity from the predicted mass starvation.