When most of us think about pioneering technology, we rarely realise its crucial role in the agricultural industry. Yet, agricultural technology – or Agritech – is fast becoming the norm in farming. Unexpected perhaps, but necessary if the industry is to feed an ever-growing population and kerb its contribution to the decline of our planet.
It’s estimated that by 2050, we’ll need to at least double our agricultural output to keep up with the world’s food needs. And while current farming practices have served us well, it’s unlikely they can meet modern-day demands. When we consider the impact they have on our environment too, it’s easy to see why the industry is turning to innovative, sustainable solutions to meet its challenges.
The tech changing the landscape for farming
Integrating technology into traditional farming practices is increasingly being used to reshape outdated methods in a bid to reduce reliance on stretched natural resources, cut back on harmful chemicals, and increase productivity.
Sensor technology such as drones used to monitor changes in crops and gather real-time data on soil, humidity, temperature, and light give farmers access to the information they need to optimise crop management. Automated data analysis takes away the guesswork and real-time recommendations help them make the most of every opportunity. From spotting pest attacks sooner and optimising irrigation to determining the best time to harvest based on scientific intelligence, farmers can confidently make time-critical decisions. Predictive analysis, utilising Artificial Intelligence (AI), also enables them to make data-driven decisions about future activity.
While these technologies provide intelligence, agricultural robotics and automated machinery are being employed to do the heavy lifting – quite literally. From weeding to harvesting and navigating heavy equipment, robotics and automation are driving efficiencies. And they’re supporting the industry’s sustainability agenda too by helping reduce the use of pesticides and reliance on non-renewable fuels.
Farming practices prioritising productivity and our planet
While Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are driving these examples, we’re only scratching the surface of Agritech. The concept of Smart Farming combines tech such as nanotechnology, GPS guidance, 3D printing, control systems, autonomous vehicles, GPS-based soil sampling, satellites, and more.
So it seems Agritech could be the answer to the modern-day challenges of the industry. But what does it look like in practice?
With the population expected to grow to 9.7 billion by 2050 and the increasing loss of arable land to urbanisation, the farming industry needs to find new ways of working, and fast. The solution? Vertical farming.
Vertically stacked surfaces in inside spaces such as warehouses and even high-rise buildings are used to grow food traditionally grown on a single level. These high-tech units utilise Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) technologies such as hydroponics, aquaculture, and aquaponics. The aim is to produce more in less space while consuming fewer resources.
Using automated technology to monitor, deliver and regulate artificial lighting, irrigation, fertilisation, and gases, means produce isn’t at the mercy of the elements. The controlled conditions optimise crop management and make year-round production possible. According to the Vertical Farming Institute, 1m2 of space in a vertical farm can produce a yield comparable to 50m2 of farmland.
The controlled indoor environment also offers a sustainable solution. There’s no need for pesticides or other chemicals, water is repeatedly recycled through the system, and because little or no soil is used, soil degradation is avoided.
While it’s early days for vertical farming, its supporters say it has ground-breaking potential. And with several other innovative farming practices emerging, it’s safe to say that tech is changing the landscape for the industry.
Our technical teams specialise in hunting down all your qualifying R&D costs and turning them into a serious financial boost for your business. Contact RIFT R&D today on 01233 653008 to find out how we can maximise your benefits.