Tech and Ag: The Perfect Couple

Technology will be the turning point of the agriculture sector over the next 20 years. (Credit)

Industrial agriculture, as it currently stands, is unsustainable at the very least. Forecasts of a 9-billion strong global population conjure the beliefs that food production must skyrocket 70%. Whilst this is not necessarily the case, society must find a way — against the current odds — of rectifying our chemically-sodden landscapes and encourage people to undertake the position of the ‘farmer’ with the additional stereotypes and criticisms. There will be no one technological solution for such an issue, yet several may play a major role in accomplishing the goal. The most reasonable path, if not the only path is to allow nature to assist in such a burdensome scenario.

As the industry currently stands, farmers cultivate their soil to plant thousands of apple trees which appear as candy to small pest populations. Spraying these insects only allows for the surviving few to reproduce and eventually create an uncontrollably large population. Whilst natural predators, ranging from birds, rabbits and foxes are baited and shot on farms, they are unable to control other animal pests and weeds naturally, forcing producers to apply herbicides. Heavy rain sends these chemical compounds to enter water sources, including the water table which is relied upon to irrigate the orchard. Inorganic fertilisers are inexpensive and often over applied, quickly degrading the soil. Currently, the larger an enterprise, the more appealing it is to supermarket chains and subsequently more profitable, cyclically fueling the unsustainable methods of which scientists report only 60 harvests remain before the systems breakdown.

An agriculture industry is required to supply humanity, yet in Round 2 a sustainable mindset must be applied. To replace the aging farmers, the industry must engage with younger generations, and for this to be successful, technology must be adopted. The robotic rotary dairy, a milking systems which allows cows to be milked by a semi-autonomous robot has drastically reduced the farmer’s time spent milking, further improving the lifestyle of the occupation and hopefully attracting more innovative minds into agriculture. A similar long-term approach is required. Vertical farms are appealing and should facilitate more city interest in food production. Whilst various nuances of the practices remain unsolved, the foundation for change exists, it just requires people to see it through.