When one talks of technology, one usually thinks of computers aiding manufacturing processes. In India, we usually do not associate technology with the agricultural sector. But things are changing. Soon we will witness innovative agri-technology transforming the sector, which even though it employs half of India’s workforce, contributes about 13% to the national GDP.
Internationally, the state of the agriculture sector is grim. The UN sustainable development goals (SDG) have prioritised world hunger as 800 million people are still going hungry. There is a pressing need to further increase food production to feed future generations.
There are four factors that are impacting and adding pressure to the problem of world hunger and food scarcity: demographic changes, scarcity of natural resources, climate change and food wastage. People are optimistic that concerted Government efforts and innovative agricultural technologies can together bring about the necessary changes to counter these challenges.
Modern Indian agriculture is transforming fast and preparing itself to adopt the technological innovations taking place across the world. Internet, networks, cloud platforms, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are combining to transform one of the world’s oldest occupations. Traditional methods are merging with technology innovations to establish smart and productive agricultural practices.
Agriculture 4.0 is the agri-tech answer to this challenge. In the near future, there will be no need to apply water, fertilizers and pesticides uniformly across our fields, as technology will enable farmers to use minimum quantities to target specific areas. It will be possible to grow crops in arid areas using even seawater. Innovations like 3D printing of food, cultured meat, genetic modification, and seawater agriculture, though in their early stages of development, are potential gamechangers of the future.
While technology will determine the geographical location and nature of crops, even agricultural operations will be conducted differently using sensors, devices and machines leveraging information technology. Robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and GPS technology too will be extensively used. Such technology applications will make agriculture efficient, safe, environment friendly and, above all, profitable for farmers.
Adoption of technology and innovative farming methods do come with a price tag. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that if the world were to end hunger by 2030, investments of USD 265 billion annually will be needed. Governments will need to play more proactive roles in meeting such challenges including international collaborations in evolving innovations which could be based on private/public/R&D partnerships.
Several new start-ups and even international players are entering the agricultural sectors which include organic farming and hydroponics to agri-apps and the use of drones. At a technology level, precision agriculture which involves big data, drones, sensors and tailormade farming software is expected to be the next big thing in the ag-tech arena. There are, however, five innovative agricultural practices and technologies that have the potential to be game changers in smart farming. They include:
One thing is for sure. The emerging technologies that will soon become part of agricultural practices will change farming and agricultural practices in the near future.