The future of farming – what will it look like?
The rate of change in the agriculture industry is unstoppable, fuelled by technological innovations while challenged by environmental uncertainty. Will the future of farming be a blend of old and new; innovation and tradition working hand-in-hand? Or will the farms of tomorrow be unrecognisable, with no resemblance to the rolling green hills we know today?
From crop-spraying drones to vertical farms, let’s take a look at the factors driving agriculture innovation, some of the most promising trends and how farmers can ease uncertainty around the future.
What’s driving the changes to our farming industry?
Our agricultural sector is at a crossroads – the future is bright but there are challenges.
The global population is predicted to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 and to feed everyone, it’s estimated that global food production will need to increase by up to 70% in the next 30 years.
With a growing population, and the impact of farming on climate change a growing issue, the agricultural industry is looking for ways to make farming more sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective. The agricultural sector will need to efficiently manage its soil and water resources to meet increased demand.
Top 4 tech trends shaping the future of farming
As world agriculture production continues to increase at a rapid rate to sustain a growing population, the agriculture-technology industry is gaining momentum.
Future predictions note that drones will monitor crop health, beef will produce in a lab, farms will take to the skies and robots will hit the fields. Struggling to picture it? Let’s take a look in more detail…
1. Flying helpers
Drones are becoming more popular and provide huge benefits and ever-growing potential for the agricultural industry. Using both piloted and automated drone technology, coupled with AI capabilities, farmers are reaping the benefits already. Farmworkers can monitor — in real-time — crop health, livestock movements, quickly identify and react to threats to livestock or crops, or even automate tasks such as weed spraying.
In a time of ever-extreme climates, drones can revolutionise crop monitoring to combat drought risks and other environmental factors. Using 3D imaging, drones can also predict soil quality through analysis and optimise seed planting schedules. The sky really is the limit!
2. From lab to table
One innovative outlook for the future of farming doesn’t involve the slaughter of any animals at all. Variously known as cultured meat, lab meat and cellular meat, animal products are created from animal cells in a laboratory.
Although it’s still hard to imagine (and a little strange), cultured meats moved from futuristic fantasy to reality in 2013 when the first lab-grown beef patty was produced and eaten in the U.K. Since then, the process has been refined and has become more affordable.
Cultured meat could help feed a growing global population while relieving pressure on resources such as arable land and water supplies.
3. Sky-high horticulture
In the horticulture industry, companies eyeing disruption are taking to the sky. Globally, especially in densely populated areas, vertical farms are sprouting up in a bid to produce more eco-friendly fruit and veg. With vertical farms, crops are grown on top of, rather than next to each other as happens in a field. The benefits? It takes up only a fraction of our land.
Another core benefit is that they can be built in more areas, for example in the middle of cities. This means produce is much closer to end-users, minimising travel time, food miles and therefore carbon output from transportation.
As a farmer, the idea might be a hard row to hoe — it certainly isn’t as romantic as rolling green hills and a red barn. But they sure are efficient – and they’re a glimpse into the farm of tomorrow.
4. Autonomous vehicles
In many parts of the world, robots have already hit the fields behind the wheel of autonomous farming vehicles. Driverless machines are taking over a multitude of tasks such as spraying, planting, ploughing, and harvesting. An autonomous farm vehicle can manage its own speed, steering, braking, and navigation, achieved with the help of several additional systems such as GPS, lasers, cameras, and more.
The technology will allow for true 24-hour, round the clock operations and farmers can manage their operation at their fingertips. It can tackle the worldwide challenge of finding skilled labour during peak seasons, while reaching the next level of profitability and efficiency in farming.
The future outlook for farmers
As new technologies radically improve efficiencies and outputs for our farms, they also create an interesting new reality for our agriculture industry. If one thing’s for sure, the future of farming is fertile — and its possibilities are infinite.
In these revolutionary times, it’s important to plan ahead and mitigate your risk. Ensuring you have the right conversations with your insurer can help you to put the right policies in place and help your business transition from a farm of today to a farm of tomorrow.