By the year 2050; UN has estimated the world population to touch a whopping 9.7 billion! The population of India itself is projected to reach around 1.52 billion people with 70% of the increase in urban areas by the year 2036 and it is projected to take over top-ranking China around the year 2031. Also, Nigeria is likely to replace the USA as the third most populous country around the year 2050.
With this estimated rise for India and China alone and the rapid rise in the overall world population; the need to scale up food production is quite evident and more likely to be an emergency.
To avoid any food crisis means, we have to think ahead of time to be equipped with smarter ways of producing food and managing resources!
And to our rescue comes technology!
Yes! It is now time to quickly chart and deploy measures with advanced technology support in the form of Sensors, Robotics, Nanotech and AI (Artificial intelligence)! And the good news is that these technologies are already paving ways; to plough crops through farms to support mass crops cultivation and production in order to match up with the enormous food supply needs to be projected across the globe.
AI & Robotics:
What Agriculture needs today is sustainable and futuristic solutions. Factors such as climate change, population growth and food security concerns have propelled the industry into seeking more innovative approaches to protecting and improving crop yield. As a result, AI is steadily emerging as part of the industry’s technological evolution.
FarmView is an excellent example of demonstrated use of AI in agriculture. In a demand to enhance plant breeding and streamlining crop management practices; researchers in FarmView are combining AI, Sensors and Robotics to build a fleet of farm robots!
Armed with a multispectral camera and a laser scanner; the field robot can take a visual survey and then at the start of the season can combine computer vision and machine learning to predict fruit or crop yield.
It is actually programmed to gather agricultural data with incredible levels of accuracy that can help growers better manage food growth rate and high-quality food with minimum use of land and water resources.
AI is also assisting farmers to analyze weather conditions, temperature, water usage, soil conditions; all this in real-time! The intelligent technology is helping farmers to plan better for more fruitful yields; to help choose best hybrid seed and crops and even zero-in on appropriate resource utilization. Precision agriculture is another by-product of AI to help detect and target weeds; enabling farmers to make informed decisions about the use of herbicides at the same time avoid excess use of chemicals to eliminate the diseased crops or weeds.
Sensors are the latest sensation in crop cultivation, and the example of grape cultivation demonstrates the use of robotically deployed sensors that facilitate the increase in grape production by actively managing the vine.
Also; the sensors help count the grapes and measure leaf canopy in order to make informed decisions about the crop growth.
A well-balanced vine always produces better fruit with minimum resources and this balance is what these technological marvels can achieve.
This is precisely what the world needs too; the right balance between food production and world population.
Next on the list worth mentioning is the use of Nanotechnology; seen as a boon for plant growth, fertilizers and pesticides. These nanoparticles (Ag, Fe, Cu, Si, Al, Zn, ZnO, TiO2, CeO2, Al2O3 and carbon nanotubes) that range from 1–100 nm have potential to impact the nutritive and healthy quality of the crop.
A good solution is a sustainable technology; these nano-particles are predicted to be the promising agents for fertilizers, pesticides and plant growth. Nano-materials are also being used as antimicrobial agents in food packaging and silver nanomaterials are already in great demand.
Various applications of nanotechnology can be useful for overall enhancement of agricultural production. Its applications such as nano-formulations can impact crop improvement; nano-sensors can help protect crops by detecting diseases, nano-devices for genetic engineering of plants, post-harvest management and enabling poultry health & production.
There are several benefits of the agri-tech support, such as higher crop yield due to accurate forecast, optimized use of resources owing to a comprehensive analysis of farms further reducing the price of crops, reduced environmental impact due to accurate forecast of natural calamities affecting crops and increased food nutrition value with minimal use of pesticides in farming.
But, the real impact of technology would only be seen when it reaches every part of the world. Especially in countries where there are tremendous gaps between the economies and education, it is difficult to deploy the technology at mass.
Another factor to be considered is the size of land and the price at which this technology is acquired. It has to be justified to make it profitable for agricultural workers. I think this factor can be overcome by clustering the lands in an area and deploying technology at a larger scale.
In order to have ample resources for crop production; I think monitoring and management of the resources are crucial. The cutting edge technology-produce such as crop breeding, robotic phenotype, intelligent irrigation for crop production and management is to make sure the world never runs out of its food resources and prepares us to be in it for the long haul!