The global growing population is driving up the demand for food.
As the world’s population increases, food security seems to be on the decrease as one in nine person suffer chronic hunger and 12.9 percent of the population in developing countries are undernourished.
More devastating is the vulnerability of agriculture to climate change. The negative effects of climate change and bad weather has led to reduced productivity, thereby, making it more difficult to achieve food security, nutrition goals and reduce poverty.
Even agriculture itself is a major contributor to climate change as it emits greenhouse gasses and therefore threatens food security. Farmers are greatly affected by climate change. Despite investing so much on their farms, during harvest, they have little to show for it.
The unpredictability of the climate situation in the world means that farmers can no longer plant crops with peace of mind, due to the fear of natural disaster caused by climate change. The crops are not safe, animals are not safe, the farm is not safe, and neither is the farmer and his income, yet the demand for more food has to be met.
In 2009, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations published a report stating that by the year 2050, there will need to be a 70% increase in the production of food to accommodate an increase in population by 2.3 billion people.
Considering challenges such as extreme weather conditions and rising climate change, and environmental impact resulting from intensive farming practices, it is almost impossible to achieve food security.
Between cultivation and harvesting is a lot of work. Farmers invest lots of time, energy and money especially, in the monitoring of crop health. The traditional way of employing farm workers to monitor the health of plants and animals is quite expensive and not very reliable. Besides, recruitment of incompetent workers has led to the downfall of many organizations.
What if only a part of a given field needs more fertilizer? What if it’s only one tenth of a field that needs more pesticide? What if one out of a thousand chicks is infected? These and many other conditions have spurred the need for improved technologies to see what’s going on in the farms due to the limitations of humans in spotting these little but serious complications.
This brings me to what is called “Smart Agriculture”. Smart Agriculture represents the application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) into agriculture. The application of ICT solutions such as precision equipment, the Internet of Things (IoT), sensors, geo-positioning systems, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, drones), robotics, etc, is creating a revolutionary change in agriculture, helping farmers improve efficiency and increase their crop yields.
Here are some ways technology is already changing agriculture;
Drones are used in agriculture to enhance various agricultural practices. They are used in crop health assessment, irrigation, crop monitoring, crop spraying, planting, and soil and field analysis. Drones can be used in the fast application of pesticides, fertilizers and nutrients to plants instead of workers on foot or tractors.
Drones can easily detect weeds, count number of crops, get accurate maps of individual fields segment, etc. The farmers enter the details of what field to survey and from the drone data, we can draw insights regarding plant health, plant counts, height and yields, and so on. The benefits of drones includes ease of use, time saving, and the potential to increase yields.
Robots have many benefits in the agricultural industry, especially during harvest. The use of robots in the farm will greatly reduce the cost of labors. They can be used in fruit picking, spraying, shearing, among others, thereby reducing farm labor. The cost of hiring workers and the stress of walking through the whole farm will be a thing of the past.
Infact, a report released by McKinsey & Company indicates that by 2030, as many as 800 million workers worldwide could be replaced at work by robots. This is terrific! The need for robots in agriculture is so intense as many farmers have run out of business employing lazy workers. We are talking about a “close-to-hundred-percent efficiency” in harvesting crops.
Logically, that means “No Wastage”, the major challenge in developing countries.
As smart technologies make headway across industries, the agriculture sector, which is the most important of all, must not to be left behind.
A smart farm is obtainable, high productivity is achievable, food security is attainable. We have all we need to revolutionize agriculture, and make this world a better place. Together, we can do it!
Iyanuoluwa Olamide Aliu