Agtech is the future of farming. It is revolutionizing farm practices at a time when the world desperately needs new technologies and partnerships to grow more food.
Everything from cars to phones to our homes are going ‘high tech’ making our lives easier, more productive and more connected with practical, everyday applications of robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and information technology.
Modern farming is experiencing the same revolution. Farmers are rapidly adopting new precision agriculture technology allowing for more precise, sustainable and resilient farming practices that use fewer resources while maintaining crop yields. That’s a good thing. Experts warn the global food system needs to produce 70% more food by 2050 in a world where climate change is predicted to make growing food increasingly more difficult to do.
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What is AgTech and How is it Changing the Future of Farming?
Agtech is the application of information-based technology and new agri-science insights to the future of farming practices.
Agtech is often referred to as “precision farming” because many of the AgTech advancements and technologies focus on using data, automation and machine learning to enable much more precise farming practices than have ever been possible.
In recent years, AgTech has benefited from massive global investment over the last decade, creating an entirely new tech investment sector enabling new technologies, ideas and innovations in the food supply stream. In 2022, investors committed nearly $52 billion to AgTech and food tech startups.
New Technologies for the Future of Farming
Advancements in technology farming are happening rapidly and on multiple fronts.
· Vertical Farming
Vertical farming combines hydroponic technology-growing plants without soil- in controlled environments reliant upon LED lights to create artificial, sunless and soilless food production. Vertical farming is not subject to weather or climate extremes and can be built anywhere, including building rooftops, the desert or even on floating barges. Vertical farms use less water than traditional agriculture and eliminate the need for pesticides and herbicides.
· Ag Robotics and Autonomous Tractors
Robotic technology performs monotonous and repetitive farm tasks, like harvesting. Ag robotics is often combined with data for optimizing tasks. Autonomous tractors perform tasks like plowing a field but without a person in the driver’s seat, freeing up farmers to tend to other farm needs.
Satellite, drone and plane images are providing new information and insight into in-season farming events. Highly sensitive imagery technology detects areas of stress detrimentally affecting crop yield. Imagery can also be used to detect things like leaks in irrigation lines and pest outbreaks.
· Digital Agriculture
Digital agriculture is the information technology side of AgTech. Software applications capture the data from AgTech technologies like robots, imagery and precision equipment plus other data input sources like weather stations, soil moisture sensors and database information, then use data analytics to reveal new insight into farm management.
How is AgTech Changing Agriculture?
The AgTech revolution is rapidly changing the global agricultural sector. Farming no longer depends solely upon the sweat and grit of a hard-working farmer, but utilizes the internet of things (Iot) and the latest advances in technology, data science and automation to make farming tasks easier, more efficient and better for the planet. Farmers are more connected than ever, able to quickly find answers to questions about diseases and pests, learn about new farming practices, communicate with consumers and even run equipment and perform tasks remotely.
Large-scale farms and food production companies are using AgTech to connect their farms and supply chains and achieve better farm efficiencies.
“Farming 4.0” is underway and the agriculture sector is already experiencing many positive benefits of this new technology and investment into innovation.
Technology Farming is Decreasing Food Production Costs
Agriculture technology decreases farmers’ costs with techniques to deliver water, fertilizer and crop protection products like pesticides and herbicides at extremely precise, pin-point levels making their daily tasks more precise and efficient. Farm robotics, like autonomous tractors or automated harvesting machines, save on-farm labor costs, a significant percentage of a farmer’s expenses.
AgTech is Increasing Crop Yields and Food Production
Agtech increases crop yields by using data collection to identify areas of potential crop increases. For instance, variable-rate seeding control technology adjusts the amount of seed planted and fertilizer applied based on factors like soil fertility and water capacity. Areas with the potential for high yields are maximized for production whereas low yield areas are planted more conservatively.
On-Farm Connectivity Enables Supply Chain Transparency
Increased on-farm connectivity enables ‘field-to-fork’ traceability throughout the food value chain, bolstering consumer trust in their food supply. Blockchain is a record of all accounts and transactions and follows food throughout the supply chain recording production, harvest, transport and sales events. Consumers can see where food came from, who grew it and unlock information about the farming practices used in its production.
AgTech Bolsters Environmental Sustainability
Precision farming techniques improve environmental stewardship while increasing yields. New innovations in agricultural technology has led to reductions in the use of fertilizer and crop protection and lowered the amounts of greenhouse gases released via farming activities that impact climate change.
Farm Management Software
As technology farming advances improve and farmers adapt to these new systems, one side-effect has been the overwhelming amount of data collection. Farmers complain that they are getting data they can’t utilize because they don’t have the capacity to make sense of it.
As one of the most advanced solutions in the AgTech space, the AGRIVI farm management system connects the dots between data and real-time, in-season action. AGRIVI helps farmers combine planning with new information like drone or satellite imagery or soil moisture sensors with prescription mapping.
Agriscience and AgTech Future of Farming
Evolving hand-in-hand with agriculture technology are agriscience innovations.
A new, deeper understanding of soil health and plant health, as well as how cropping systems interact within ecosystems, has generated a whole new class of crop fertility and crop protection products called “Biologicals.” Agtech agronomists are fusing this new science with agtech hardware and software advancements for precision delivery and deep data analytics, enabling even better future crop yields and farming outcomes.