Climate Nugget - March 6, 2019

Future of Farming: How technology is transforming food production

wheat field

Written by Tristan Lebleu 4 min read

Drones, marketplaces, IoT and sensors, blockchain technologies, artificial intelligence… After having radically transformed our everyday lives, all these technological trends are now changing one of the most crucial aspects of our existence: the way our food is produced.

According to a 2009 report from the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), the food production will have to increase 70% by 2050 to meet the growing demand. World population projections estimate we will be 10 billion living on this planet thirty years from now.

In February, the International Agricultural Fair, one of the most important events in Europe for the sector, showcased some of the most innovative startups to tackle these challenges. The 2019 edition had an entire pavilion - Agri 4.0 - dedicated to the AgriTech innovations which counts over thirty startups.

The Solar Impulse Foundation went to meet some of these entrepreneurs to discover what the future of farming will look like. Here are some trends which are transforming the way our food is produced.

IoT and sensors

Farming is all about precision. A set of many different variables have to be taken into account such as weather conditions, soil humidity and condition, pests and diseases… Thanks to IoT and sensors, these information can be given with great precision, in real-time, allowing farmers to react immediately and take the best decision. Irrigation is one of its many applications, being so crucial to a crop’s good development. Sensors installed in the field can give information on which parcel needs water, and farmers can therefore distribute it more effectively. This helps farmers reduce the amount of water wasted and increases their productivity. Weenat, a French startup, has already installed over 3000 sensors, which can help farmers with irrigation, as well as with the use of pesticides, giving precise information on the plants’ health, and avoiding the use of chemicals on plants which don’t need some. They have also developed weather stations to be installed in the fields.

Robots and drones

Since machines have appeared in the fields, they’ve become farmers’ closest allies. Recent technological developments have taken this alliance to a whole new level. Known as agribots, they are having a major impact on farming as they can increase productivity, increasing crop yields and addressing labor shortages. Naïo Technologies’ robots can take care of weeding by autonomously moving through fields. While agribots are gaining major attention through the agricultural sector, one robot has been a game-changer: drones. They are often used to spray crops much faster, shoot seeds and nutrients into the soil, or monitor plants’ health. Airinov, another startup showcasing at the Paris Fair, fly over crops and enable farmers to map fields with major accuracy. A recent study expects the agribot market will reach $12.8 billion by 2022.

Blockchain and transparency

Recent food scandals have made consumers more demanding regarding the origin of their food. Blockchain technologies applied to agriculture allow consumers to trace food all the way from the crop to the plate, and better understand the social and environmental impact of their eating habits. This trend is having an impact on food production as more farmers turn to environmental-friendly techniques. Connecting Food has developed a technology to map, manage and improve the quality of food supply chains. A single QR code on the products final package gives information on its origin and if all the security and quality criteria have been matched.

All these technologies are helping farmers to be more productive and sustainable, and hopefully answer one of the most pressing issue of our time: how will we feed the world, in a sustainable way.

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Written by Tristan Lebleu on March 6, 2019

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