Will the Future Farms Be like Factories?

Tanja Folnovic

Agronomy Expert

Of all the issues our planet is currently facing, the global food shortage seems to be the most urgent. Having in mind that the global population is going to reach 9 billion till 2050, sufficient food, our single most vital need as living creatures is going to be a global problem. Farming has already faced significant changes conceptually.

Since there is little farmland available, farmers have to find other ways of producing more food on the same surface. Utilizing whatever technology is available has become the go-to method of attempting to maximize both the farmers' yields and profits. AgTech industry is coming up with new ways of turning farms into wireless machines aimed at maximizing the potential of every acre.

Enhancing crop productivity from the angle of investing in technology is also important because around 30% of the world's most widely spread cereal crops such as wheat, corn and rice have reached their genetic potential – yield plateau. Investing in technology is the only way of getting some extra yields out of these crops.

The largest change coming to farming is the mass-scale automation that looks to be employed across various aspects of the industry; remote sensing, GPS, and data analytics devices all being added to farming equipment. Farms are becoming more and more like factories: tightly controlled operations for turning out reliable products, immune as much as possible from the vagaries of nature. Thousands of farmers worldwide are adopting new equipment to make their farming more productive; tractors and other machines that can map fields and drive themselves and various sensors which collect data like nutrient levels and soil moisture.

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It appears that agriculture is set to join the other industries that will rely on workforces transforming into engineers for the robots that are automating their former roles. Using advanced farm technology, farmers are able to accurately manage variations in the field to grow more food using fewer resources and reducing production costs.

Farm technology in the form of farm machinery, fertilizers and other agrochemicals, along with scientifically improved crops results in a decrease of the number of people working on the land. In 1900, around 41% of America’s labor force worked on a farm; now the percentage is below 2%. This effect is less visible in poorer countries, but the direction of travel is the same. The share of city-dwellers in the world’s total population reached 50% in 2007 and is still rising relentlessly, yet the shrinking proportion of people living in the countryside is still able to feed the urban majority.

Along with the development of improved farm technology, some other trends seem to continue into the near future. Precision agriculture will spread from its North American origin and become a routine in Europe and parts of South America, such as Brazil, where large arable farms predominate. And someone, perhaps in China, will work out how to apply precision farming techniques to rice which are to soybeans, maize, and other crops.

Information technology is taking over agriculture. Aiming to produce enough food to stop the malnutrition, farmers are trying to find the way to secure our future. It's now in farmers' hands to decide what their farms will look like. Will they really turn into open sky factories?

 

Text sources: The Future of Agriculture