Agriculture is perhaps the oldest profession in the history of mankind and may be the reason as well as a solution for many challenges we face today. Yuval Noah Harari in his book argued that agricultural revolution is one of the reasons why today’s human is facing severe health issues as it has changed the behaviour from being hunter-gatherer to producer. It also has destroyed the healthy mix of vegetation as humans introduced biases and supported the spreading of select species like wheat, corn, paddy etc. On the other hand it is the reason why mankind has taken a leap in other aspects of life via exploring physics, maths, philosophy etc.
Today agriculture as a domain is in the midst of crises. Elevated demographics across the world will surge the demand and put our natural resources under stress. For instance, today India is one of the biggest exporters of virtual water as farmers here use the majority of potable water to produce crops like sugarcane, corn, wheat etc. and export their processed products to many countries. Climate change is posing a great threat by reducing the health of the soil resulting in lower productivity. Additionally, food wastage due to cold storages, centralized farming etc. are contributing to the food shortage & efficiencies in many parts of the world.
“Help me….Help you” the famous dialogue from the movie Jerry Maguire and it exactly fits the scenario for agriculture and mankind. Agriculture is yelling at humans to help it get advanced and efficient. It is estimated that world population will be 10 billion in 2050, fun fact the world reached 1 billion population around the year 1804 which took around 200000 years in mankind history, this would increase the demand for food by an estimated 70%. The increasing demand is coming in a time when land is deteriorating or becoming smaller for farming and grazing which is coupled with a changing climate that poses another challenge for agriculture. Many research centres, academic institutions and corporate establishments are constantly trying to make agriculture profitable and efficient. However, the rate of innovation is just not enough to counter the growing ill effects. Advent of information technology and smart robotics have changed many professions and it is time for all stakeholders to embrace Agriculture 4.0.
A quick jump to Agriculture 4.0
Agriculture 1.0 (aka first agricultural revolution) happened in the 18th and 19th century where people started adopting machines in various professions. Agriculture was introduced with steam engine powered machines to do more work in less time. Undoubtedly it reduced the human effort but production did not see a great increase. Then it was time for Agriculture 2.0 empowered by smaller and powerful diesel engines. This changed the scale of agriculture and enabled farmers to produce more with minimal effort.
Advent of information technology and modern communication marks Agriculture 3.0 powered by computing and communicating machines. This era enabled farmers to use satellite technology, processors to explore efficient ways of farming. Combined with advances in biotechnology production of food went up exponentially and reached an industrial scale. Adoption modern techniques like drip irrigation, aquaponics, aeroponics etc are beginning to rise.
Agriculture 4.0 will no longer depend on applying water, fertilizers and pesticides across the fields uniformly. Instead farmers can use precision techniques to target specific areas to curb wastage and increase productivity. Advanced technologies have enabled farmers to use abundant resources like sea water and solar power to maximize production. Technology has gone a step further and has given rise to cultured food products like 3D printed meat, genetically modified seeds etc. which are still in nascent stages. These applications will certainly change the way we see agriculture in the next decade.
Help Ourselves with Future Farms & Open Innovation
Farms of the future would don an array of sensor tracing humidity, TDS, nutrients, climate etc. and equip numerous actuators to deliver precision and controlled farming with minimal human intervention. Creating smart farms and powering them with emerging technologies like IoT, AI and RPA will not come cheap. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that $230 billion needs to be invested to end world hunger by 2030. These efforts will take a lot of effort in agritech innovations and development on open innovation platforms becomes imperative.
There are many agritech startups across the world creating innovations to empower corporations, governments, small farmers and food processing companies to take a big leap in the world of agriculture 4.0. Many open innovation platforms like T-Hub are working with various stakeholders to introduce these innovations in daily operations. Global corporations like Stanley Black & Decker have worked extensively with T-Hub to explore new age smart innovations to empower their farmer communities. Innovation hubs in Israel and the Netherlands are focusing on agritech innovations and creating ripples in farm technologies. Now is the time to work in collaboration with startups and step into the domain of Agriculture 4.0.
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