How Tech Changes Agriculture
Agriculture could be one of the most undervalued industries. Most people don’t even think about where their food is coming from. Even so, the industry is under great strain to supply enough food for everybody while trying to meet the needs of today’s consumers to produce and sell more organic products and to reduce the environmental impacts.
For this reason, there are many new technologies that are being tested and developed to meet the current demands. These are some innovations that are changing agriculture and will continue to transform the industry for the foreseeable future.
Vertical farming was born from the need to have more sustainable and optimized agriculture techniques. It consists of growing crops and stacking them in racks on top of one another, generally in enclosed spaces. Most of these farms are hydroponic, which means they embrace the approach of growing plants without soil, but instead using a nutrient-rich solution. Meanwhile, some other farms use the aeroponics method of growing crops, by applying a nutrient-rich mist to the roots.
Vertical farming has many benefits in comparison to traditional farming. Because the environment is completely controlled, the farmers can monitor and optimize anything from temperature and humidity to water usage. These farms use 70 to 95% less water than normal farming, depending on the type of crop. Another benefit is that vertical farming requires less space so the farms can be located closer to urban areas and reduce the CO2 emission from transportation.
The best part is in terms of environmental sustainability. Because it is done in an enclosed space, farmers don’t have to worry about pests. Therefore, this reduces the use of pesticides and translates to fewer chemicals entering the soils, and polluting the water. The only downside is that the energy consumptions are higher for vertical farmers, but most of these companies use green energy sources like solar power, recycle rainwater, and other methods to reduce their carbon footprint. Overall vertical farms are more sustainable than traditional farms.
Traditional farming is getting more pressure each year to supply the demand from all over the world. Automation technologies driven by Machine Learning are being implemented to optimize and increase production. These technologies not only quicken the process, but they also reduce the workload of the farmworkers. The most iconic example in agriculture is autonomous robots.
There are already autonomous tractors and several other machines that perform tasks like harvesting, watering, preparing the land, and so on. Autonomous tractors can’t be found in the market yet, but there are already many prototypes being improved with new technologies. These tractors use AI, GPS, computer vision, and many other tech features to make many tasks driverless.
If these tractors become common in farms, agriculture workers will transition into more technical jobs like setting up the variables for the program that will control the autonomous machines and doing the maintenance. The tech skill needed will be really easy to learn via short online courses There are also machines developed to take care of weeding and crop maintenance. In fact, many vertical farms already use autonomous robots to take care of the most basic tasks.
Data insights are changing how we see the world, and agriculture is not an exception. Farmers collect tons of information about their crops—production rates, seeds planted, water consumption, pesticides needed, and so on—each season. By applying data science,it is possible to use this information to increase production and optimize the harvest.
For example, by using drones and satellites, data farmers can collect every detail from nitrogen levels and soil conditions to plant health and temperature. Later, using data science tools, they can determine targeted inputs for the harvest. Also, this technology allows farmers to have insights into and make accurate predictions on farm-related affairs.
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