Around 931 million tons of food for human consumption was wasted in 2019. Meanwhile, 650 million people faced hunger globally in 2019. Unfortunately, the situation may even worsen in 2022-2023. The Group of Seven nations already warns of a worldwide hunger crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and blockade of Ukrainian ports.
So, how can companies help mitigate those risks? Today, it is important to start introducing innovative agtech solutions to cut food waste and prevent the crisis. Additionally, we shouldn’t forget about social expectations of making farming more environmentally sustainable to meet the global humanitarian, production, and climate challenges. And that’s where innovations in agtech may add value. Such tools can provide you with timely information and business data analytics that help you increase yields and produce healthier products sustainably.
Farming 4.0: Transition to feeding the world in a sustainable manner
The global food system needs to reinvent itself over the next 30 years to help billions of people escape hunger and malnutrition. It should also be able to produce 60 percent more products and cut around 1.3 Gt of emissions. At the same time, climate change threatens crops and the health of agribusiness.
So, how can farmers turn all those challenges into opportunities? The answer is obvious—digital tools. Technological advancements have made colossal progress in the food sector, sowing the seeds of AgTech or Farming 4.0.
So, what is agtech? Smart agriculture or agtech refers to sustainable technologies and practices focused on redefining farming to advance food production and make it eco-friendlier. Digital agriculture has become commonplace among major companies in the sector. For example, PepsiCo developed iCrop—a tool that allows monitoring of the performance of potatoes, oats, and corn via sensors.
It is also worth mentioning that the agtech industry has seen massive growth in investment. It attracted almost $5 billion in 2021 compared to $3.4 billion in 2020.
The latest innovations in AgTech
Now that we understand the role of technology in the agriculture industry, let’s see what solutions are driving the future of its business. But most importantly, let’s see what techniques you should start introducing and the sooner, the better.
1. Indoor vertical farming
We can deal with land degradation and bring agriculture to the urban area by implementing modern growing practices. The vertical farming method allows growing crops on top of each other using trays or towers within a greenhouse or other facility. It leverages several technologies including hydroponics, aeroponics, and aquaponics.
Vertical farms usually provide more crops from the same square footage. For instance, Eden Green Technology uses only an acre and a half to grow around 500 tons of leafy greens a year. Furthermore, indoor farming means no nutrient emissions, no pesticide use, and generally lower water use by up to 90 percent, thanks to recirculation.
The benefits of indoor vertical farming
- Higher productivity within a much smaller area
- Shorter growing time
- Energy efficiency
- Lower water use
- Increased and reliable year-round production
- Resistance to different weather conditions
2. Precision farming
It’s an approach to farm management that uses agtech solutions to make farming more accurate and controlled. It focuses on vital data collection through monitoring tools. Precision farming allows you to make better decisions regarding production improvement and to manage variability in fields.
Tools such as GPS and satellite images gather information from key areas: weather forecasts, crop status, environmental changes, and more. This data helps you take corrective actions at the right time and in the specific area of the land, responding to individual crops’ demands with superior precision.
The benefits of precision farming
- Better production
- Pest detection
- More efficient water use
- Better crop quality
- Cost saving
- Animal health monitoring
- Improved sustainability
3. Robotics and automation
The agriculture industry can benefit from automation services the most, as farmers usually deal with repetitive and labor-intensive tasks in the field. Let’s check the most popular automated innovations in agtech that business owners invest in:
- Harvesting robots can gently gather the crops avoiding bruising and damage. The machines developed by Abundant Robotics pick apples by using a vacuum to pull fruits from the branch.
- Automatic irrigation offers accurate instruments that ensure more effective water use and help you manage the best time for watering plants.
- Driverless tractors release farmers from many hours a day of just driving to focus on more immediate needs. You can control them via your smartphone from anywhere.
- Monitoring and analytics tools collect information on the state of the harvests while data analytics solutions transform it into valuable insights to facilitate and improve your decision making process.
- Seeding and weeding robots can spray pesticides precisely, reducing their usage.
The benefits of robotics and automation solutions
- Labor efficiency
- Data-driven guidance
- Smart irrigation
- Minimized environmental impact
- Consumer benefits
The global blockchain value in the agriculture market will hit $1.4 billion by 2028, in contrast to $32.2 million in 2017.
Agtech industries leverage blockchain to transform supply chains and build trustworthy relationships with various market players. Technology allows you to consolidate data on seed quality and crop growth and trace the whole way from farm to grocery shelves.
For example, Grain Discovery provides a transparent platform for marketing competitive crops globally using blockchain. All records from production to consumption are irreversible, thus ensuring traceability of supply chains, preventing illegal distribution, and helping customers make informed choices.
The benefits of blockchain technology
- Maximum efficiency and traceability throughout the production chain
- Easier information sharing
- Optimized supply chain
- Improved management of farm finances
- Consumer benefits
The global trends shaping the future of agriculture
Food demand increases
The current world population of 7.9 billion is expected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050. This and Increasing wealth in developing countries are driving factors in food demand. Consequently, farmers need to increase food production by 60 percent to feed that population. How will that be possible?—By enhancing productivity on existing lands through agtech solutions.
People expect sustainable food
Consumers are becoming more attentive and fastidious to what they eat. An increasing number of people care about whether food is environmentally friendly even as food prices rise. Customers look to products that are good for them and the planet. So, blockchain and sustainable solutions like indoor vertical farming will be high on the agenda.
Supply chain improvement
First, our long and complex food supply chains that involve many actors lead to a vast amount of food loss—40 percent in the US alone. Second, we are still over-reliant on fossil fuels for transportation, contributing to greater environmental impact when combined with food waste emissions. We can easily see that automation and precision farming are worth considering in the short run.
Climate change priority
Droughts, extreme heat, and severe wildfire threaten a good deal of crops in West America. Moreover, these weather-related calamities accelerate the erosion of soil. These days, extensive use of water and other resources calls for immediate actions. So, the introduction of the mentioned sustainable solutions isn’t a question of if but when.
Preparing for innovation
Our experience shows that the right approach to farming automation is a recipe for success. So, below we share some tips on how to implement agtech solutions effectively:
- Identify goals. Define what you want to achieve with technology and set clear goals to facilitate the digitalization process. You can start your digital journey with a simple solution and later move to more complex integration with other systems.
- Develop a plan. When will you implement a software solution? Do you need to go all in at once, or can it be integrated gradually? Get answers to those questions, designate team members responsible for the new systems, and set SMART goals to measure the success of the integration process.
- Bring staff on board. You need to explain and demonstrate to your employees how agtech can benefit them. The more you support and involve them in the transformation, the more likely they will embrace and drive it.
- Arrange the training. It is important to note that your staff should feel comfortable interacting with the new solution. They should understand it and be able to work with it starting on day one. So, you should either have outside experts come to your farm or ask the software vendor for online training sessions.
- Implement and evaluate. Once you integrate the technology, assess how your staff uses it, and adjust the process accordingly. From a technical standpoint, evaluate whether the technology does what it’s supposed to do and how it’s compatible with the existing systems.
The future of farming is digital
The future depends on our ability to feed a growing world community with fewer resources. So, agtech solutions are the key to success. Innovations in agtech have the power to change how we produce and process food, but your digital business transformation will require a comprehensive strategy, digital expertise, and experienced tech talent. TEAM International helps many companies to adjust their business models to dynamic environments and thrive. Let’s team up to automate your farming processes and drive sustainable food production for the world.