The world’s appetite is changing, and the agriculture industry is struggling to keep up. Can technology help?
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the world will need to produce 70% more food in 2050 than it did in 2006 to feed the world's population of 9 billion. That means that production in the developing countries would need to almost double.
The balance between producing enough food and using efficient yet sustainable methods of doing so is one of the primary issues facing the world. The FAO stands by its Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) approach to farming, which involves “sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes; adapting and building resilience to climate change; and reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions, where possible.” To achieve these goals while also cutting their own costs for production, some farmers have started looking to the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things in Agriculture
Farming methods evolve as demands for agricultural products increase. The simple, traditional handheld tools used for farming before the Industrial Revolution eventually evolved into a more diverse set of devices. In the 1800s, fertilizers, grain elevators, and the first gas-powered tractor were created. In the 1900s, farmers eventually adopted satellites for better monitoring.
According to BI data, the United States currently leads the world in IoT smart agriculture. The US produces 7,340 kgs of cereal per hectare of farmland, compared to the global average of 3,851 kilograms of cereal per hectare. That number is, in part, thanks to the farmers’ use of drones, sensors, and smart tractors among others to track production and increase yields. These IoT device installations for agricultural purposes will increase from 30 million in 2015 to 75 million by 2020. The estimated amount of data points to be generated by a farm per day will reach approximately 3,500,000 by 2034, as compared to 250,000 in 2016.
Current Platforms for Smart Agriculture
- A handful of companies offer farmers devices for smart agriculture. One example is OnFarm, a software company that creates analytics and solutions for agricultural data. OnFarm expects the average farm to generate an average of 4.1 million data points per day in 2050.
- Another company, Farmers Business Network Inc., a startup that raised at least US $44M, was conceived by farmers, scientists, and entrepreneurs to allow farmers to share and review aggregate pricing data. It helps farmers avoid unnecessary costs and using too many resources for growing certain crops.
- John Deere, a pioneer in farming technology, brought its AutoTrac GPS-based automated guidance system to market, and the firm claims it is now in use in more than 200,000 field vehicles around the world. Among its current offerings are sensors that measure nitrogen, potassium, and other pertinent elements accurately to deliver just the right amount of fertilizer and smart tractors.