Agricultural Tech: A Primer

Image Credits: Lettuce Grow

Thanks to plant science and other innovations, agriculture has progressed tremendously over the past 150 years. Becoming more and more efficient over time, due to the use of technology. If the world’s farmers would have continued to grow crops at 1961 productivity levels, they would need almost a billion hectares of new farmland to maintain today’s food supply.

Which is more than the total land area of the United States! Imagine how much more land would be required as the population of our planet continues to grow. But what is making agriculture progress so much? Technology. agricultural technology has been and continues to be, the next big thing when it comes to feeding the planet.

What is Agricultural Technology?

Agricultural Technology is a term used to describe a range of types of technology to improve yield, efficiency, and profitability in farms. These technologies are designed for every aspect of farming, from seeding the grounds to protecting crops from pests. Every new decade continues to prove that agricultural technology is one of the most revolutionary and impactful technology advancements of its time.

Agriculture in The 1900s VS Now

In the 1950s, ensuring the availability of food was a key priority for the government. Efforts to stimulate agricultural and horticultural production continued into the 1960s and ’70s, consequently, agricultural output and productivity soared. In 2015, farm productivity was at a five times higher level than in 1950. For example, the cucumber crop yield in 1950 was 53 million kg while the sugar beet crop yield stood at 2.7 billion kg; by 2015, yields had surged upwards to 405 million kg and 4.9 billion kg respectively.

The History/Evolution of Agricultural Technology

Image Credits: Andrej Lišakov

From the outset, people used traditional methods of farming — like seeding watering, and plucking weeds were all done by hand. They did everything by hand. Until the first agricultural advancement, tools.

Sythes, knives, and plows entered the farming business, and for years these tools made farmer's lives just a little bit easier. Farming technology had been changing so much that it led to the Industrial Revolution, a time period when people started using wheeled machines instead of manual labor. Then came the age of the tractor, and it flourishes with the development of machines for every aspect of farming including the mechanized harvesters or combines as they are called. Unfortunately, while these technologies brought higher levels of productivity, they also contributed significantly to high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. The agricultural sector today is one of the most significant contributors to climate change.

These developments continue today as we stand at the edge of the fourth Industrial Revolution — the age of intelligent machines. Today farmers use agricultural drones, hydroponics, IoT, automated irrigation, and many more technologies waiting in the wings. Most of these technologies carry the promise of sustainable agriculture.

What Types of Agricultural Technologies are There?

Smart agriculture is already becoming more common among farmers, The Internet of Things ( IoT) is set to push the future of farming to the next level. And high tech farming is quickly becoming the next big thing thanks to agricultural drones and sensors.

Agricultural Drones

There are 6 ways that agricultural drones can be used throughout the crop-cycle: Soil and field analysis, planting, crop spraying, crop monitoring, irrigation, and health assessments. Drone technology will give the agriculture industry a high-tech makeover, with planning and strategy based on real-time data, gathering, and processing.

Hydroponics

Hydroponics is a method of farming without the use of soil. Methods utilized to get the nutrients to the roots, combined with the needed oxygen, include bare-root systems to support the growth and stability of the plants. Plants grown hydroponically are generally healthier than their soil-grown counterparts because they receive an almost perfectly balanced diet and rarely come in contact with soil-borne pests and diseases. Since hydroponic systems reduce water and nutrient stress to the plants, they grow faster and can be grown closer together without starving each other. Healthier plants also produce higher yields. Perfect plant conditions result in perfect plant production. Also, agricultural workers are not exposed to toxic chemicals, and labor costs are reduced.

IoT + Sensors

Smart farming based on IoT technologies enables growers and farmers to reduce waste and enhance productivity ranging from the fertilizer utilized to the number of journeys the farm vehicles made and enabling efficient use of resources like water and electricity. IoT smart farming solutions is a system that is built for monitoring the crop field with the help of sensors (light, humidity, temperature, soil moisture, crop health, etc.) and automating the irrigation system. The farmers can monitor the field conditions from anywhere.

Automated Irrigation

Irrigation is defined as the artificial application of water to land or soil. An automatic irrigation system does the operation of a system without requiring the involvement of people. Every irrigation system such as drip, sprinkler, and the surface gets automated with the help of appliances. An automatic irrigation system does work efficiently and with a positive impact on the installation spot. Once it’s installed in the field, the water distribution to crops and nurseries becomes easier and doesn’t require any human support to perform. Sometimes automatic irrigation can also be performed by using clay pots or bottle systems.

Why do we need Agricultural Tech and how will it impact our future?

As the food industry continues to evolve and the needs of a hungry planet (9 billion mouths to feed by 2050) continue to grow, advanced technology is becoming a common part of farming. But what does this mean for the agricultural industry? Like most other segments in the food ecosystem, more and more tasks in the agricultural process will be automated and carried out by machines and computers.

“Agriculture may be one of the oldest professions, but with the development and use of agricultural machinery, there has been a dramatic drop in the number of people who can be described as farmers.”

The Sustainable Future of Agricultural Tech

When you talk about sustainable agricultural tech, you talk about making the technology sustainable and making it more suited for the environment. But sustainable Agri-tech is actually already well suited for the environment, it’s the thing making farming sustainable. Agri-tech today is improving efficiency, yield, profitability, and precision, none of that would be possible if we were using traditional farming methods. Which uses more water, land, and costs more money to manage. Plus the extra labor.

With the promise of the next-generation of intelligent agricultural technology, it is now possible to imagine a future where the food and agriculture industry embraces a truly sustainable future. That is the future I am looking forward to.

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