EVOLUTION OF FARMING
Over the past few decades, agriculture has witnessed different phases of growth. The first phase, which is referred to as Farming 1.0, extended from 1947 to 1966 and was characterised by radical land reforms. The second phase was the Green Revolution which increased farm productivity and rid us of our dependence on foreign food aid. Farming 2.0 was a golden age in agriculture. Farmlands today are at a critical juncture. Our population continues to grow, placing an ever-increasing strain on the sector. Our countries are also rapidly industrialising and there is massive migration to cities. Agricultural incomes are falling and the sector is in danger of being left behind.
The need has arisen for another revolution: a new phase in worlds agriculture which will be defined by innovation and technology; an age where we will look to balance productivity and economics with social and environmental considerations. This age will usher in an era of unprecedented productivity and prosperity for farmers. This Farming 3.0 age will be all about disruptive innovations like Smart Farm Machinery, Micro Irrigation, Precision Farming, Digital Platforms and Partnering Stakeholders. Smart Farm Machinery is about producing more with less. Smart machines and technological breakthroughs have the potential to increase output, lower costs and boost farm incomes.
However, farming 3.0 is facing some challenges which include but not limited to:
THE NEED FOR A REVOLUTION
Population is growing: In the coming decades, the world population is expected to grow by 33 percent, to almost 10 billion by 2050, up from 7.6 billion (as of October 20171). By 2100, the global population is expected to reach 11.2 billion. That figure may understate actual fertility rates—under other scenarios, the population could hit 16.5 billion. Population growth will boost demand for food, even in a modest economic growth scenario, by roughly 50 percent as compared to 2013 agricultural output. Meanwhile, the global diet is changing too, as a result of shifting demographics: There’s a growing demand for high-value animal protein, a trend that (in addition to natural population growth) is being driven by urbanization and rising incomes.
Stress on Natural Resources: The world’s farmland is becoming increasingly unsuitable for production: Based on certain metrics, 25 percent of all farmland is already rated as highly degraded, while another 44 percent is moderately or slightly degraded. Water resources are highly stressed, with more than 40 percent of the world’s rural population living in water-scarce areas. The land has long been recognized as a finite resource, but in earlier times degraded farmland would simply be replaced by bringing new, unused land into cultivation. Such lands are rare nowadays, and what remains often cannot be farmed on a sustainable basis. The land shortage has resulted in smaller farms, lower production per person, and greater landlessness—all adding to rural poverty.
Climate Change: Climate change is a fact—and it is rapidly altering the environment. The degree of manmade emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) has reached the highest in history, according to a 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Increasing variability of precipitation and more droughts and floods is likely to reduce yields. Climate change will contribute to existing long-term environmental problems, such as groundwater depletion and soil degradation, which will affect food and agriculture production systems.
In addressing the above challenges associated with Farming 3.0, the world is now moving to another phase which is farming 4.0. Agriculture 4.0 is a term for the next big trends facing the industry, including a greater focus on precision agriculture, the internet of things (IoT) and the use of big data to drive greater business efficiencies in the face of rising populations and climate change.
In 2018, the World Government Summit published their report called Agriculture 4.0 – The Future of Farming Technology, in collaboration with Oliver Wyman. The report addresses the four main developments placing pressure on agriculture shortly: Demographics, Scarcity of natural resources, Climate change, and Food waste. The term “Agriculture 4.0” has entered the public consciousness. What are some of the changes this means for agriculture’s future?
FARMING 4.0, THE NEW REVOLUTION.
The role of big data: Big data has the potential to benefit the whole supply chain and will play a greater role than ever before in transforming the agriculture industry. The advanced connectivity of a global agriculture network provides a vast number of benefits up and down the supply chain: Farmers can use their data to apply the right products, at the right rates, and at the right time; distributors can use data to source inputs and position themselves for maximum advantage in the market; manufacturers can improve their means of production and better target their customer base.
IoT sensors in the field: The Internet of Things (IoT) has seen a huge acceleration in recent years, with smart devices becoming more prevalent, and increasingly able to share. According to research agency Gartner, a projected 20.5 billion connected devices will be in use by 2020 – outnumbering humans by 4-to-1. Farm devises utilization of IoT is set to become the norm, not the exception, as mobile software becomes increasingly interoperable (i.e. different apps can share and use the same data sets). This would mean an end to entering the same data sets multiple times into different systems, significantly reducing financial and time costs that arise from human error. Sensors on-farm are already used to monitor soil nutrition, temperature, moisture, and more. IoT means connecting all those systems, removing the need to repeatedly enter data into multiple apps that don't talk to one another. In short, imagine a farm where all useful information is automatically and seamlessly unified, letting the farmer get on with work that matters.
New technologies: New technologies are already disrupting the established norms of farming, with previously unaffordable devices now accessible and regularly deployed on farms across the world. Scout drones provide an “eye in the sky,” scouting for pests in the field or dry spots requiring extra attention. The latest advances in sensor technology mean drones are now able to use additional wavelengths in the light spectrum to assess crops, spotting weeds and sick crops from the air.
Improved precision agriculture and the benefits: Precision agriculture enables farmers to do more with less, identifying the key parts of their farm that offer the best ROI for suitable investment, backed by more effective farm decision making that is more immediate, whether it’s recognizing pest threats sooner or preparing for severe weather events.
Precision agriculture, backed by smart data usage, can identify parts of a farm that will deliver an investment return or would be better at delivering sustainability and conservation outcomes.
Through smart data use, it’s possible for farmers to better understand their output practices and understand what changes can generate the greatest value.
Farming 4.0 is more than just a movement. The term has entered use as a catch-all term for the next step forward in agriculture: a smarter, more efficient industry that makes full use of big data and new technologies to benefit the whole supply chain.
FAO. 2011. “Global food losses and Food Waste”. Study prepared by Gustavsson, J., Cederberg, C., Sonesson, U., van Otterdijk, R., and Meybeck, A. for the International Congress at Interpack 2011, Dusseldorf, Germany. Accessed 25 November 2011.
Article written and published by Swabir Musah Alhassan.