By 2050, the demand for food will surge 70%, in line with rapid population growth. A UN study found that about 9.9% of the world’s population still goes hungry, so the thought of feeding almost 10 billion mouths is a daunting prospect. With environmental changes hard to predict, we must turn to innovation in agriculture technology.
Thankfully, the signs so far offer hope. We don’t have to wait three decades to see how innovative agricultural solutions can influence human life in the future.
Read on to discover innovation and technology in agriculture to watch out for in 2022. We'll explore technologies that change the way farmers grow, transport, store, and manage their produce.
1. Bee Vectoring Technologies
When it comes to U.S. crop production, honey bees are worth $20 billion. These insects are essential to human survival, so there is increasing innovation in agriculture equipment to help protect bees and maximize their pollination capabilities.
BVT uses commercially reared bees to deliver targeted crop controls through pollination, replacing chemical pesticides with an environmentally safe crop protection system.
The system doesn’t require spraying water or the use of tractors. Instead, the scientifically designed bumblebee hive allows bees to pick up a trace amount of pest control powders on their legs to spread as they travel within the field.
This innovation in agriculture technology supports improved sustainable farming, crop yield, and soil quality. BVT's solution is suitable for many crops, including blueberries, sunflowers, apples, and tomatoes, and it also works for farms of all sizes.
2. Precision Agriculture
Precision agriculture is an agricultural resource management strategy that collects, processes, and evaluates data and offers insights to help farmers optimize and increase soil quality and productivity.
Management decisions count on precision agriculture data points to improve farmland and farm produce across several key areas, including:
- Resource use efficiency
This innovation in agriculture technology uses big data to aid management decisions, enabling farmers to control crop yield variables like moisture level, soil condition, and microclimates to maximize output. It relies on remote sensing systems, drones, robotics, and automation to improve crop health and optimize agricultural resources, leading to more productivity.
Grand View Research projects that the global precision farming market will hit $16.35 billion by 2028, growing at a 13.1% CAGR. The organization believes increasing government support and the growing need for efficient crop health monitoring will drive market growth.
3. Indoor Vertical Farming
The average yield of rice per hectare is between three and six tonnes. However, farmers don't have to face this limitation when using indoor vertical farming. This
Indoor vertical farming grows farm produce stacked above another in a closed and controlled environment. The technology uses growing shelves mounted vertically to increase crop yield in limited spaces. Quite often, the shelves don’t require soil—they’re either hydroponic or aeroponic:
- Hydroponics is a gardening practice that grows plants in water and nutrient solutions.
- Aeroponics suspends the roots of the crops in the air, with emitters intermittently spraying them with water and nutrients.
Indoor vertical farms enable growers to control variables such as light, temperature, water, and sometimes, carbon dioxide levels, allowing them to get healthier and bigger yields.
Other benefits of the technology include 70% less water usage, which conserves energy, and reduced labor costs due to the use of robots for harvesting and planting.
4. Livestock Farming Technology
Emerging livestock technologies provide farmers with data-driven insights, allowing them to streamline farm management, improve animal care, and boost productivity.
Here are some of the many innovations redefining livestock farming:
- Automated dairy installations milk cows automatically without human intervention, and the milk sensors also help farmers monitor the milk quality.
- Automated cleaning systems remove waste, enabling cleaner as disease-free environments.
- Armenta’s non-antibiotic treatment uses acoustic pulse technology (APT) for bovine mastitis, a cow disease responsible for over $6 billion annual losses in the U.S. and Europe.
- Automated feeder systems provide animals with feeding mixtures tailored to their specific needs and in the right amount.
- Faromatics employs robotics, A.I., and big data to increase animal welfare and farm productivity.
5. Laser Scarecrows
Pesky birds or rodents can be a menace to growing crops in an open field. In the past, farmers relied on traditional scarecrows to ward off hungry invaders. But today, farm owners and managers are turning to high-tech devices with motion sensors to keep birds from pillaging crops.
After discovering that birds are sensitive to the color green, a researcher from the University of Rhode Island helped design a laser scarecrow, which projects green laser light. The light isn't visible by humans in sunlight, but it can shoot 600 feet across a field to startle birds before destroying crops.
Early tests with laser scarecrows found that the devices can minimize crop damages by reducing the bird population around farmlands by up to 70% to 90%.
6. Farm Automation
Farm automation brings together agricultural machinery, computer systems, electronics, chemical sensors, and data management to improve equipment operation and decision-making, and ultimately, reduce human input and error.
Reduced labor time, higher yields, and the efficient use of resources are driving the large-scale adoption of the technology. Farmers now use automated harvesters, drones, autonomous tractors, seeding, and weeding to transform how they cultivate their crops. The technology takes care of menial and recurring tasks, allowing them to focus on more critical functions.
As with any field (no pun intended), automation can help employees save time, as the technology reduces the need for people to actively partake in a task. Thanks to automation, most farmers now spend more time with their families than before.
7. Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) Technology
Robert Salmon, a UK-based arable farmer, found that constraining farming machinery to a permanent lane significantly reduced damage to the soil.
“Allowing machines unconstrained travel across the land can result in virtually all of the land being run over, which compromises the drainage and friability.”
In 2016, Robert planned to transition his 4,800 acres to a 12-meter controlled traffic system where all the farm machines will use the same permanent traffic lane.
Implementing a controlled traffic system requires accurate techniques, which are almost impossible with traditional GPS systems.
RTK technology can provide centimeter-level accuracy, which enables farmers to accurately map their fields and constrain vehicles permanently on the same lane. It transmits the correct positioning information to tractors by radio signal, allowing them to stay on track while moving. This innovation boosts soil health and productivity, increasing output with less input.
8. Minichromosome Technology
According to Agritech Tomorrow, the growing population and demand for food mean that farmers will need to increase crop production by at least 23% to maintain our current living standards. So, losing entire yields to pests is a major problem as the global population grows.
Genetically modified food has taken some flak over recent years, with studies suggesting it may be linked to allergic reactions or include harmful toxins that can expose humans to health risks. Another issue is that G.M. food production can disrupt natural biodiversity or release toxins into the soil.
Luckily, there is hope on the horizon. Agricultural geneticists can apply minichromosome technology to enhance a plant's traits without altering the genes in any way. Since minichromosomes contain small amounts of genetic material, it's possible to use this technology to make plants more drought-tolerant or resistant to pests without interfering with the host's natural development.
In short, minichromosome technology allows genetic engineers to create crops that require fewer pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers, reducing reliance on harmful chemicals. It also lets them achieve bio-fortification and enhance a plant's nutritional content.
9. Farm Management Software
Many farmers burn the wick at both ends as they struggle to keep on top of a heavy workload with little help. The bigger the farm, the more daunting it is to oversee all operations. But in the age of SaaS, there is an app for just about everything—including farm management.
Farm management software is an integrated platform that provides real-time data and information, like a digital checklist, to assist farmers with tracking daily activities. With this monitoring and reporting software, farmers can improve decision-making throughout all operations.
FarmERP, an enterprise resource planning solution, allows farms to streamline their processes and enables seamless collaborations. It lets users manage procurement, supply chain, finances, and processing from a single hub.
This innovation in agriculture technology will continue to advance as internet-enabled devices become ubiquitous. Mordor Intelligence predicts the farm management software market will witness a CAGR of 11.2% in the ten years leading to 2026.
10. Water Management Technology
Irrigation is a vital method of providing water to drylands that usually have insufficient rainfall in order to make them arable. However, while this is a crucial aspect of farming today, many farmers still irrigate their fields with wasteful amounts of water the same way the Mesopotamians did over 4,000 years ago.
Besides wasting over two-thirds of the water, flood irrigation can overwater plants, affecting their growth. It could also carry excess fertilizers into streams and lakes, contaminating freshwater sources.
Innovation and technology in agriculture offer farmers more sustainable ways to provide sufficient water to plants. For instance, N-Drip, a micro drip irrigation system, allows water to slowly drip to plants’ roots, creating the right environment for crops to thrive. The technology reduces water usage by up to 50% and improves crop quality.
In an age where environmental concerns and climate change fears are at an all-time high, sustainable farming is a hotbed issue. Our population is growing, and increasing shortages of land and water pose a significant threat to the longevity of the human race as we know it. But while many politicians stall and deflect, agriculture technology startups are busy taking action.
From advancements in precision agriculture to farm automation, genetics, and water management tech, innovations in agriculture technology provide the means of smarter, safer, more productive farming.
MassChallenge offers new startups the opportunity to partner with rising talent in the Agtech industry. As you connect with experts, corporations, and communities in the industry, you can pursue the latest trends and agricultural technologies to transform your business and the future of our world.
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