In the past decade, global agriculture has witnessed great innovation and modern technology trends leading to the digitization of the oldest industry known to man. Factors such as changing consumer behavior, scarcity of labor, growing overhead costs, reduced land availability has led to a spurt in the use of agriculture technology to catalyze efficiency.
The changes that we are witnessing due to COVID-19 seem to have a significant permanent impact on expediting these AgTech advancements. The radical transformations that the current pandemic is driving in AgTech are out of necessity. Farmers are having to opt for online or AI-based solutions to drive efficiencies due to a lack of available labor and resources.
In the past 12 months alone, the amount invested in agriculture technology or Agritech was 1.9 billion dollars. These capital infusions have been focused mainly on artificial intelligence and the internet of things (IoT), indoor vertical farming, blockchain technology, farm automation and robotics, modern greenhouse technologies to mention a few. However, in a post COVID era, these investments have to be bolstered even further.
Here are the major changes that we’ve witnessed in the agriculture sector as a result of the pandemic.
Future trends in agriculture will not be based on the application of fertilizers, plant protection chemicals, and water through the entire stretch of the farm. Instead, it will be a target-specific and need-based application of the required products through real-time data analysis. Farm operations will be streamlined based on remote sensors, GPS and Geographical Information Systems (GIS).
Khetibuddy is one such Farm Management Software that helps farmers improve their yields by harnessing data on every step of the farm management lifecycle. Farm management systems could be efficiently deployed in small-scale as well as large scale farms to manage farm operations and daily farm activities. In the near future sensor data can be used to drive robotics and AI-based supervision of farms leading to more profitable and eco-friendly production systems with minimal human labor.
Farms equipped with automation based tools such as driverless or self-driven tractors are helping to decrease the labour requirement and saving time and overheads for farm owners. Driverless tractors in the US which are already in the market are already being used to completely automate harvesting and minimize human intervention. By helping automate the farmer’s current farm equipment, agriculture technology helps in increasing the efficiency and capabilities of available resources. Another AI-based tech to look out for includes systems such as voice recognition activated sprinklers, temperature sensing detectors, machine vision for animal husbandry and many more.
The Internet of Things can help develop Agtech solutions for the betterment of crop yield. Here are some of the innovations in the space that are quite promising.
In small scale farms, it could be possible to observe disease outbreak by keen observation and a constant scanning of their crops for contamination. But on a large scale, it is unlikely for the farmer’s eyes to reach every corner of the field and may lead to heavy losses. With the help of IoT and remote sensing agriculture technology, the farmer can access each and every region of the farm and find out potential disease or pest probability with microsensors. The entire process is made farmer-friendly by producing output on tablets or smartphones with swift alerts. There are even sensors in the market already that help measure variables such as the compaction of soil and erosion and detect pest population density in the field.
Using cameras and microsensors within the drones, monitoring, and analysis of plants down to a single leaf is made possible. The collected data, when combined with a machine learning solution, gives clear information about the farmer’s stock and yield.
IoT wearable devices are being developed for use in the animal husbandry industry. Farmers can now take accurate information about livestock such as animal heat status, its wellbeing, disease prediction in real-time without physically inspecting them.
With the combination of AI and IoT sensors, site-specific treatment of individual plants is made possible. Potential pests on a particular plant can be easily detected and treated. This enables minimal usage of chemicals treating the affected plants, thereby minimizing the impact on surrounding soil and environment.
One of the most promising technology trends in agriculture when it comes to optimizing land availability is vertical farming. Basically, it is the method of growing crops in vertical trays or surfaces which may be integrated onto buildings and living spaces making them self sustainable. Vertical farming could be the solution to the food demands of the growing population, in urban areas. Vertical farming yield can be maximized if integrated into a greenhouse setting, making it resistant to climate changes and making the year-round supply.
Underground farming uses hydroponics grow trays to grow vegetables and an automated monitoring system to aid the management of the underground ecosystem’s CO2 concentration, temperature, and humidity, making it appropriate for plant growth. This high tech venture is fairly new agricultural technology and is mainly adopted in densely populated urban cities.