Agritech is the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture, with the aim of improving yield, efficiency and profitability.
A Call to Action!
If you think about it, farming and technology have always been joined at the hip. In a bygone era, agriculture advanced on the back of inventions like the cotton gin, the reaper, and the thresher.
Today, farming involves the use of wireless technologies, GPS positioning, and lasers to be more efficient. But, tomorrow’s farmers will be taking agriculture technology a bit further by using Big Data, robots, drones, and numerous other technological wonders.
By 2050, our planet will have nine billion people who will be consuming an ever-increasing quantity of food. If agriculture is to continue to feed the world, it needs to become more like manufacturing. Fortunately, that is already beginning to happen and now farms are becoming more like factories: tightly controlled operations for turning out reliable products, immune as far as possible from the vagaries of nature. Thanks to better understanding of DNA, the plants and animals raised on a farm are also tightly controlled. Such technological changes, in hardware, software and “liveware”, are reaching beyond field, orchard and byre. Fish farming will also get a boost from them. And indoor horticulture, already the most controlled and precise type of agriculture, is about to become yet more so.
In the short run, these improvements will boost farmers’ profits, by cutting costs and increasing yields, and should also benefit consumers in the form of lower prices. In the longer run, though, they may help provide the answer to an increasingly urgent question: how can the world be fed in future without putting irreparable strain on the Earth’s soils and oceans? According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, between now and 2050 the planet’s population is likely to rise to 9.7 billion, from 7.3 billion now. Those people will not only need to eat, they will want to eat better than people do now, because by then most are likely to have middling incomes, and many will be well off. Then the food production will have to rise by 70% to meet projected demand. Since most land suitable for farming is already farmed, this growth must come from higher yields. Agriculture has undergone yield-enhancing shifts in the past, including mechanisation before the second world war and the introduction of new crop varieties and agricultural chemicals in the green revolution of the 1950s and 1960s. Yet yields of important crops such as rice and wheat have now stopped rising in some intensively farmed parts of the world, a phenomenon called yield plateauing. The spread of existing best practice can no doubt bring yields elsewhere up to these plateaus. But to go beyond them will require improved technology.
This will be a challenge. Farmers are famously and sensibly sceptical of change, since the cost of getting things wrong is so high. Yet if precision farming and genomics play out as many hope they will, another such change is in the offing.
Whichever threats or opportunities are top of your mind, there is advice aplenty from companies and associations listed in our directory, covering agronomy, livestock, machinery, business and finance, renewables, post-harvest technology, careers, education and among others.
Thus, agricultural technology looks like a solid place to invest for our future.