Jonathan Seelig is co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Ridge. He was previously co-founder of Akamai.
With the global population projected to increase to 9.7 billion by 2050, a corresponding 70% increase in calories produced will be necessary to feed everyone, all while the supply side faces constraints based on land, farming and costs. Population growth will also strain the world’s water supply, with some experts estimating that 57% of the world’s population will live in water-scarce areas by 2050. To make matters worse, around 25% of the world’s arable land has been degraded and requires significant restoration before it can produce crops at maximal efficiency. Not to mention climate change and increasing numbers of natural disasters that all negatively impact the global food supply.
How can global agriculture withstand mounting environmental challenges?
Technological advancement related to the internet of things (IoT), for example, AI and drones, can provide part of the solution for farms hoping to conserve resources and funds. These technologies have the potential to revolutionize agriculture to keep food on the table for generations to come.
There are many opportunities for emerging technologies to influence how food is grown; let’s take a look at five of them.
1. Crop Monitoring
Farms can use IoT technology to track their crops. Sensors in each field can monitor soil, collecting data about its temperature, moisture and fertility. They can also detect weed growth, water levels and pest/animal invasion. Farms can gain a better understanding of their crops’ growth and monitor potential threats.
2. Weather Sensors
Agriculture has always been at the mercy of the weather. Previously, farms had to rely on weather reports from the nearest airport or city, which didn’t give a sufficiently accurate reading. With hyperlocal weather sensors, enabled by edge IoT technology, farms can eliminate any climate surprises and plan accordingly. Detailed knowledge of local weather will enable farmers to hone their growth strategies and increase their crop yields.
3. Livestock Data
There is great value for pastoral/livestock or dairy farms in having specific data on each of their animals. Wearable smart technology for animals captures a wide range of such data. For example, IoT devices can monitor reproductive cycles and health and nutrition levels by tracking activity, food consumption, body temperature and more. The better the data, the healthier the flock.
4. Autonomous Farm Machinery
Autonomous farm technology can have a major effect on human manpower requirements for farms. Machines such as self-driving tractors, robot seed planters and agricultural drones can save countless hours of labor for individual farmers, eliminate human error and help solve global farm labor shortages. These machines could ultimately save resources and reduce human labor while increasing overall yield.
5. Smart Infrastructure
To optimize the whole farming process, not only do crops and livestock need to be monitored but storage too! Infrastructure solutions such as smart silos and smart greenhouses can be important tools. Smart silos can sense and communicate the amount of product inside, helping ensure product freshness. Meanwhile, smart greenhouses can automatically optimize humidity levels, temperature, lighting and soil condition. These solutions make the farming process more efficient and eco-friendly.
How does the cloud fit in with smart farming?
Cloud-enabled IoT devices that power the smart farming industry are always running and recording, and consequently producing vast amounts of data. This data needs to be stored somewhere, and local sensors do not have the space. The cloud’s storage and powerful performance capacity make it the ideal match for agriculture IoT devices. Edge clouds enable farmers to compile and analyze the data from their IoT devices, allowing them to make long-term informed decisions about their crops.
Localized cloud platforms can support massively distributed workloads, e.g., smart sensors on a farm. By using edge cloud computing, farms can wholly embrace technology that will allow them to be more efficient with time and resources, and most importantly, will be able to produce more food for our growing population.