In the past forty years, our planet has lost around one-third of its farmable land. Soil degradation and erosion is a rapidly increasing issue that will result in farms not being able to grow enough food at some point in the not too distant future.
Artificial intelligence and automation have both played significant roles in the expansion of smart farming as a concept.
What is smart farming?
As many industries around the world have become integrated with the use of data and the Internet of Things, smart farming has found itself at the heart of the agriculture technology industry (AgTech).
By using new and groundbreaking technologies such as soil scanning and data management, farmers are now able to establish what the perfect conditions are to grow their crops in, exactly how well your crops are growing at a certain time, and if they’re not doing well using the previously cited data and scanning to establish the best ways of maximising yield.
As populations and demands rise, crop yields need to follow. Smart farming is allowing that to happen.
Smart farming startups
A host of new AgTech startups are looking to the sea for answers. Gene editing of plants and ‘floating farms’ are the latest Smart Farming technologies that aim to not only solve the issue of decreasing usable farmland but also improve the environment at the same time.
By genetically editing crops to make them resistant to salinity using CRISPR technology, (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) you can create a plant that will grow in seawater and doesn’t require the use of pesticides, fertiliser or even freshwater.
This process has a huge benefit for assisting in the recovery of our badly damaged environment whilst also freeing up an incredible amount of freshwater for nourishing the earth and its people.
Floating farms take already existing principles used across the non-Western world and implement them in a way that is environmentally beneficial as well as financially efficient.
EcoTech startups are creating floating, vertical farms that can take in seawater, desalinate it and nourish hydroponically the plants contained within, reducing the demand for farmland.
Others are using renewable solar irrigation systems to replicate coastal wetland that allows nature to thrive, whilst simultaneously capturing carbon and tackling marine pollution.
Taking in the byproducts of large human populations including nitrates and CO2, these solar-powered systems clean the polluted water they take in and pump it back into the ocean, restored to its original pristine state.
5G for data
5G is likely to be a significant upgrade over previous mobile internet technologies, allowing mobile internet connections of up to and including 20GB/s. Considering that the current vast majority of farms are in rural areas, many will struggle to have continuous and reliable connectivity, meaning that farmers haven’t been able to take full advantages of the great leaps forward.
5G and wider coverage will mean that more farms can access the internet and catch up with the smart farms that may have made great leaps forward where rural farms have struggled.
What does this mean for me?
Assuming you’re a regular consumer, the benefits of smart farming could mean the difference between who goes hungry and who doesn’t. As farms are able to produce more crops, prices will fall since more competitors will be fighting for business.
We are on the cusp of a technological revolution in so many aspects of our life and agriculture is most certainly amongst them. Smart Farming will be a part of our smart cities and alongside advances in robotics and automation will eventually be one of the main driving forces behind everything Industry 4.0.