Farming 4.0 – What’s the future?

The agricultural sector must be prepared to increase food to meet the needs of our planet’s rising population. According to FAO estimates, the world’s population is expected to reach 9.6 billion people in 2050.

Although we are on track with respect to the technological development in the soil nutrition correction area, pest/disease management and genetic development of food crops, the agricultural sector still remains at an average level once management, consumer sales and risk management efficiency are still limited by a lack of precise information. Digital agriculture appears to be a promising alternative to meeting the need of gains in management efficiency, allowing the correct allocation of resources and ensuring the development of people working in the fields. Therefore, innovation and the use of new technologies offer a win-win solution in agriculture – which means combining benefits for the environment and climate while increasing efficiency and competitiveness. However, the acceptance of the new technologies remains far below expectations. This gap needs to be addressed to ensure that everyone, including the small and medium-sized farmers, can access technology and benefit from it.

In practical terms, this signifies an increase in data collection by way of the IoT (i.e. sensors, machines and drones), more precisely, gathering real-time information that is then stored and processed in the cloud. Due to the detailed control of inputs, this allows efficiency gains such as: labour cost reductions, observing and preparing for climatic conditions that interfere with production processes, monitoring the spread of pests and diseases, etc. Additionally, predictive models supported by big data and artificial intelligence will enable forecasts of pest and disease outbreaks, recommendations for better seed placement in fields and selection of the best plant varieties as well as determining the best time to bring products to the market.

The future? The uptake of new technologies and innovation in rural areas and the agri-food sector will be necessary to ensure an adequate response to current challenges such as the increase of extreme climatic conditions, feeding a growing population and ensuring a generational renewal of the farming sector.