The world population is increasing at an alarming rate, and it is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. With arable land and water resources nearing depletion, this is a significant threat to the very basis of life on earth, i.e., food.
We need to think of sustainable ways to cultivate crops faster and in less space to feed the world. Entrepreneurs and researchers are working on technologies to optimize land usage and find new approaches to growing food worldwide.
Commercial agriculture has taken a tremendous toll on Earth’s natural resources, and the limits are close. About 70% of freshwater usage is done in agriculture, while the maximum water contamination is done by ill agricultural practices.
Excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has damaged the soil, leading to runoff. Over-use of pesticides has caused soil microorganisms to die out , further lowering the number of plants that can grow. Soil no longer effectively filters pesticides, which contaminate waterways and resources.
Pesticide runoff causes water contamination, killing aquatic life such as frogs. It is also responsible for issues like eutrophication, whereby pollution leads to algae blooms that suffocate fish and other aquatic life by using up oxygen in the water.
Furthermore, carbon emissions from commercial agriculture and distribution and impacts from large-scale livestock production are all matters of concern.
The process of harvesting and distribution of crop yields is difficult and time-consuming. Due to this, the freshness and nutritional content are lost to a considerable extent at the distribution points themselves.
Agriculture sensors enable farmers to monitor and optimize crops by adapting to changes in environmental conditions. By positioning sensors, growers can examine crop health at a micro-scale, sustain resources, and reduce extreme environmental impact. The smart sensing technology enables farmers to remotely monitor their fields’ pest population on a real-time basis. This helps farmers take an instantaneous action to safeguard their crops, utilizing online cloud services and a dashboard.
Artificial intelligence technology helps farmers with their agricultural outputs by using input choices and farm process predictions. This technology allows the farm equipment to use cognitive computing abilities to complete tasks efficiently, even when it comes down to unpredictable situations on the field.
The use of AI in farming has been becoming increasingly popular since 2010. Farmers are realizing that the assistance AI-based systems can provide yields better results, which is why AI adoption has risen exponentially as more and more large-scale and small-scale farmers learn about how these systems can help them.
Autonomous agricultural equipment came around 1940 when Frank W. Andrew devised the first driverless tractor. Autonomous machines can replace manual labor and make tasks faster.
With global processing systems and computers, farmers can use autonomous equipment more efficiently. Over the past couple of years, multiple companies around the globe have been building semi-autonomous and autonomous farm equipment to modernize agriculture.
From the early 2000s, the global agricultural industry witnessed a massive transformation owing to growing awareness about sustainable farming practices. The increasing demand for affordable food and the rising global population issues have driven agriculture innovators to explore opportunities that make farming more efficient and reduce waste.
One of the most disruptive technologies in smart agriculture is the digitized tracking of supply chains. By integrating IoT with blockchain technology, production data can be stored on decentralized databases and tracked throughout its entire cycle, providing insights on everything from location tracking to reports on crop yield, soil health, and weather patterns.
Some instances where the advantages of blockchain technology in food and agriculture are beneficial include
• keeping track of transactions to ensure a more efficient way to transfer and sell goods,
• removing the need for manual communications between parties,
• ingesting information from certain government agencies as well as third-party providers,
• and better stock management across multiple locations.
This rise in the trend of farm automation has resulted in a positive outburst in sales by agricultural robot manufacturers. The market for agricultural robots comprises different types of robotic devices that consist of various sensors, cameras, and processing hardware.
These devices are used to perform various tasks such as monitoring and management, precision farming, harvest and picking operations, weed control, seeding operations, and harvesting fruits and berries.
The global markets for agricultural drones and robots are expected to grow due to product innovation, increased awareness, and a rise in industrial automation solutions. Rising demand from the automotive industry is anticipated to create new opportunities for companies offering precision farming solutions.
Increasing adoption of digitalization in farm management, harvesting, and crop protection may spur advancements in smart farming practices. Agricultural robots can also reduce the ecological footprint of farming.
Using CRISPR technology or gene editing, researchers can selectively breed a plant to get desired traits such as higher yield, drought, and pest resistance.
For instance, if a plant can grow in the driest of climates and is immune to a particular type of fungus, it can pass on those traits to a new type of plant. The new kind of plant is then planted in different areas of the world, including places that have long, dry seasons. By increasing the resilience to climate and fungus, the new plant has a higher chance of surviving.
Indoor farming is the most popular method, as all year round, one can control the temperature and light to ensure plants thrive all year.
Indoor farming technologies such as hydroponics, aeroponics, and aquaponics are new technologies gaining popularity in many countries, especially the U.S. Food can be grown year-round and can be done in various climates.
Greenhouses have been used for over 150 years for growing plants indoors. These days, many greenhouses currently operating lack the latest technologies in automation, energy-efficient heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), and data analytics, among other things.
Agriculture technology-as-a-service is a business model that allows customers to procure their desired agriculture equipment or software through different affordable pricing models as a service rather than acquiring them as a one-time purchase.
The two most common pricing models in agriculture technology-as-a-service is a business model include:
• Pay-per-use (PPU)
• Subscription models
Incorporating agriculture technology-as-a-service business models into a farm system provides plenty of benefits. These benefits include ease in scalability, convenient access to data and information, quick setup and deployment, and complete backups with reliable storage.
The global agriculture technology-as-a-service market is anticipated to achieve the benchmark of $3.03 billion by 2026, seeing growth with a CAGR of 24.42% during 2021-2026.
The process of integrating digital technologies into agricultural practices is termed Digital Agriculture Revolution. The use of technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and big data analytics are becoming more common in food systems. This can help solve problems related to food security and the environment.
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Written by: Prateeksha Singh, Research Analyst, BIS Research
Authored by Abdul Wahid Khan, Principal Consultant & Nitish Kumar Singh, Lead Analyst, Healthcare, BIS Research