Ever heard of the term “precision agriculture? Well, the IoT, robotics, and AI are paving the way to tackling one of the biggest problems facing the world’s food supply, and in doing so, helping define precision agriculture. While we are are still early on in the development of smart agriculture, there are clearly huge opportunities for the farming industry. With the continued refinement and deployment of autonomous equipment, the gains for farmers are not far off. New lightweight equipment is doing less damage to the soil and is more environmentally friendly. Automation like this is freeing up agricultural workers to focus on projects that add value to higher quality and more voluminous production. Projects like Small Robot Company and HandsFree Hectare are in the proof-of-concept stage, but the outlook for rapid successful implementation is excellent. The following article goes into significant depth and explains the what, the why and the how.
The world’s human population currently stands at around 7.6 billion and is projected to reach 11.2 billion by 2100. We will therefore need a food production and distribution system that can accommodate another 3.6 billion people—ideally while consuming as little additional land and leaving as small an environmental footprint as possible, in order to maintain vital ecosystem services and conserve Earth’s remaining wildlife.
That’s clearly a challenge given that around half of the world’s habitable land is under agriculture of some kind—with a high proportion of this used for livestock farming (Figure A).
In a widely reported recent study, Poore and Nemecek (2018) note that a shift away from meat and dairy consumption would go a long way towards relieving pressure on agricultural land and reducing environmental impact: “Meat, aquaculture, eggs, and dairy use ~83% of the world’s farmland and contribute 56 to 58% of food’s different emissions, despite providing only 37% of our protein and 18% of our calories.
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