Agriculture has come a long way from the hunter-gatherers of 12,000 years ago. NPR explains that even though they started with peas, lentils, and barley—and herding wild animals like goats and oxen—it took centuries before there were full-time farmers and breeders. Fast forward to today and we need nearly 4 billion metric tons of food to feed everyone on Earth.
You might be surprised to learn that the Agriculture 4.0 – The Future Of Farming Technology report states that the world will need to produce 70% more food by 2050 to keep up with demand. That’s only possible with the continuing development of agricultural innovation ideas and technologies. Attending an ag tech conference can help innovators connect with one another and develop ways to integrate technology into the agriculture industry. But other options like Rally, a cross-sectional conference that gives you the opportunity to meet with professionals in other industries outside of agriculture, are a great way to see how technology can be used in ag.
What can we expect in the coming years for agriculture technology? In this article, we examine questions like “How has technology changed farming?”
What Is the Future of Agriculture Technology?
In modern agriculture, many farmers have widely implemented tools like robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial photographs, and GPS technology to help accurately manage their crops. These technological developments have increased agricultural capacity, productivity, and efficiency. This approach enables greater areas to be farmed more effectively. In addition, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, analytics, and other connected sensors could raise yields. They can also improve the use of water and other resources, as well as support resilience and sustainability in both agricultural production and animal husbandry.
Different approaches like genetic modification, 3D printing, or nanotechnology offer advantages to the future of agriculture, but these technologies are still being developed for widespread adoption. They show strong promise to advancing agriculture beyond more tangible steps like using drones. For example, with the rise of cultured meats, it’s easy to see how these advancements can help solve industry-wide and global issues to reduce environmental impacts. The adoption of new technology in agriculture leads to better management of food scarcity and resource depletion as related to these looming environmental concerns.
In order to address the problem of food scarcity, Agriculture 4.0 The Future of Farming Technology asserts that both supply and demand must be taken into account. What cutting-edge methods and strategies are a part of Agriculture 4.0, and how may they contribute to addressing the problem of food scarcity? To do this, the value chain must be redesigned, and technology must be used not just for its innovation, but also to better serve and fulfill the needs of consumers. There are generally three trending areas where technology is reshaping the industry with a significant potential to disrupt the system:
What Is the Future of AI in Agriculture?
It should come as no surprise that the use of AI in agriculture—or precision agriculture—has variety of purposes, such as field harvesting, health monitoring, weed and pest management, and detection of nutrient deficiency in the soil.
Why is technology important to the future of agriculture? Quite simply, it helps make farming easier, safer, and more environmentally conscious. How does that apply to AI specifically? AI in agriculture will take shape in many forms as it becomes more commonplace:
- AI can make crop selection easier and guide farmers in identifying the most profitable product.
- Chemical analyses of soil can be conducted by AI systems to accurately determine the amounts of nutrients that are missing.
- AI is efficient in determining the best irrigation patterns, when to apply nutrients, and how to blend agronomic products together.
- Forecasting and predictive analytics can be beneficial for farmers to lessen operational mistakes and crop failure risk.
- AI can monitor a plant’s health to identify and remove weeds, detect and even anticipate diseases, and recommend effective pest control techniques.
- Harvesting can be automated, and AI can even predict when it will be most successful.
- By compiling information on plant growth, AI can help produce crops that are more tolerant to bad weather and infectious diseases.
In general, when implemented on a farm, AI can assist farmers to monitor their fields in real-time to help with overall accuracy and harvest quality.
As you can see, the benefits of AI in agriculture include easier detection of risk factors, more efficient growing and harvesting, and increased automation. But AI can help make important changes when it comes to climate change as well. Why is AI so important for our environmental impact? Harvard points out that AI has several benefits for the future of farming technology and agriculture and climate impact:
- By enabling people to grow food in cities using vertical and urban farming, AI technology may reduce deforestation because of decreasing dependence on food production.
- AI can assist in locating and subsequently preserving carbon sinks, or forested regions that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Otherwise, efforts to destroy these woodlands will increase atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions.
- With the help of AI, weeds in a field may be identified and targeted with the appropriate quantities of herbicide, reducing the need for farmers to distribute chemicals over whole fields and causing damage to delicate ecosystems in the area.
What Is the Future of Farming with Climate Change?
Weather and climate have a significant influence on agriculture. The impact of climate is especially important to consider because agriculture as an industry uses a lot of natural resources like water and land. This could mean lower yields or the inability to farm altogether. That implies the possibility of a large decline in crop productivity due to climate change. And the importance of technology in agriculture has a great impact on how farmers will tackle climate issues as temperatures rise and the water supply dwindles.
Scientists at NASA discovered that the change in yields is driven by projected temperature rises, changes in rainfall patterns, and rising surface carbon dioxide concentrations from human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. And while carbon dioxide can increase crop yields in certain locations, realizing these benefits means “nutrient levels, soil moisture, water availability, and other conditions must also be met.” Not to mention, if the temperature rises too much, yields will decline due to being over the crop’s optimum temperature.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the biggest climate impacts on agriculture include:
- Changes in agricultural productivity due to fluctuating weather conditions can make growing crops in different regions easier or more difficult. Any adjustments in the climate might influence changes in temperature, precipitation, and the length of growing seasons in general.
- Impacts on soil and water resources can erode soil, deplete nutrients, and increase runoff into oceans, lakes, and streams. Ultimately that can harm water quality because of depleted oxygen levels—known as hypoxia. There are also concerns about rising sea levels and more destructive storms that pose threats to coastal agricultural communities.
- Health challenges to agricultural workers and livestock are exposed to more heat and other extreme weather, increased pesticide exposure, higher likelihood of disease-carrying pests, and degraded air quality. It’s crucial to note that heat and humidity can also greatly impact the health and productivity of livestock.
To help combat these concerns, the EPA recommends that farmers reduce the impact on the climate by:
- Incorporating climate-smart farming methods like forecasting tools and plant cover crops
- Joining AgSTAR—an EPA and USDA program that encourages the use of biogas recovery devices to lower methane emissions from livestock waste
- Reducing runoff of fertilizers and pesticides and avoid letting animals in streams
- Boosting crop resistance by reducing pesticide use and improving pollination
- Preventing food waste by donating untouched food to food banks and proper storage
How Did Technology Affect the Agricultural Revolution?
Agricultural technologies have been developed over the course of 12,000 years, since the Neolithic Revolution. As humans transitioned from nomadic hunter-gatherers, they began living in certain areas permanently, rather than being continuously on the move. This allowed them to domesticate animals and plants, like cattle and wheat, and have a reliable food supply. Some techniques used include fire-stick farming and forest gardening, with the collection of grains already being a norm. Over time, these practices became widespread through word of mouth between tribes and communities.
As time passed, many cultures domesticated crops, like rice in China and coffee in Africa. However, crops were consistently harvested by hand. And manual labor was the practice for quite some time, through the middle ages and early modern periods. With the development of iron smelting, tools like plows, horseshoes, and more durable hand tools aided in the collection of crops. Watermills and windmills were used to grind grains, cut wood, and process flax and wool.
By the 16th Century, England enhanced the production of crops through even more innovation. The costs of physical labor were lowered by inventions like the seed drill, which also enabled more standardized and widespread cultivation. This period was characterized by the cultivation of cash crops, or goods cultivated only for the market rather than for family use. As a result, the average farm size grew. At this time, new irrigation and drainage systems, crop rotation, cover crops, manure fertilizers, and other cutting-edge land management practices all helped to increase agricultural production. Eventually, agricultural developments led to four-field crop rotation, selective bridging, and other techniques to help combat the depletion of nutrients in the soil.
Once the late 19th and early 20th Centuries rolled around, the invention of the first widely sold gasoline power tractor revolutionized the agricultural industry. That led to the replacement of animals and helped improve speed and efficiency on a large scale. Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch introduced the procedure to produce ammonia during the “Green Revolution,” which converts atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia. This helped introduce nitrogen—a key nutrient—back into the soil.
Now, in the 21st century, more advancements are being made to utilize technology like AI, drones, and genetic modification to enhance efficiency and productivity. As the technology continues to advance, we’re seeing just how important it can be to agriculture and the planet. To discover new technological advancements in agriculture and other industries, consider attending a conference like Rally. You’ll be able to meet industry professionals in software, healthcare, and others.
Why Is the Future of Agriculture Important?
The future of agriculture is important because it will lead to more high-quality produce and less environmental impact. It’s a serious issue that affects everyone and making changes now will help maintain the safety and sustainability of farming.
What Impact Will Technology Have on the Future of Agriculture?
The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture says that changes in the use of technology will lead to:
- Higher crop productivity
- Decreased use of water, fertilizer, and pesticides
- Lower food prices
- Reduced impact on natural ecosystems
- Less runoff of chemicals into rivers and groundwater
- Increased worker safety
Because it is always evolving, introducing new technology into agriculture clearly has a large impact on the effectiveness of how we grow and harvest crops. Robotic technologies also make it possible to monitor and manage natural resources—like air and water quality—more accurately. With higher productivity and reduced impact on the environment, the future of agriculture will ultimately lead to better control over the impact on our climate. Additionally, it gives farmers and other producers more control over the growing, handling, distributing, and storing of plants and animals, leading to greater efficiencies and lower prices, as well as safer growing conditions and foods.
How Does the Lack of Appropriate Technology Affect Agriculture?
The impact of technology on agriculture cannot be understated, without the right tools and resources, our agricultural industry could face dire consequences in the future. Without the ability to properly manage crops and livestock—as well as water and other resources—the impact on the climate is immense, and technology can help reduce the repercussions. Of course, newer technologies take time to research, perfect, and implement, but taking strides to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture is essential to maintain production for the growing world population.
Learn More About New Technology in Agriculture at Rally
Learning about the future of agriculture allows farmers and other agricultural professionals to understand how technology can influence their own operations, as well as agriculture across the globe. There are several opportunities to learn about the future of agriculture and the technology you can use to become knowledgeable on how you can reduce your environmental footprint while increasing yields and maintaining the sustainability of your farm.
Conferences play a crucial role in thought leadership and innovation across all industries. That’s why we’re introducing Rally. Rally promotes cross-sectional innovation rather than only concentrating on advancements in agriculture technology. As a cross-sectional technology conference, Rally aims to connect innovators in Software, Ag and Food, Healthcare, HardTech, SportsTech, and Entrepreneurship to discover how different industries are developing new technologies in collaboration.
Rally aims to unite tech industry experts from various industries to encourage technological advancements worldwide. Entrepreneurs, C-suite leadership, venture capitalists, and academic university staff are encouraged to develop and learn about agricultural and other industry advancements in technology across the globe. Rally offers meetups, demos, startup spotlights, keynote speakers, seminars, and networking opportunities for all attendees. That means you have opportunities to meet industry leaders, as well as learn more about how technology can help you in your industry. Join the Rally conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, from August 29 to August 31, 2023. You can start by registering today and learning more about our Run of Show and pitch competition.