Now and then. How technology has changed… agriculture.
The world’s population is ever creeping towards the staggering 9 billion mark. And as the number of people grows, so does the number of mouths that need to be fed by farmers.
With the amount of land available for farming shrinking, so technology is coming more into play than ever before to ensure agriculture can keep up with demand. Though this is something it is already having problems doing with around 842 million people currently without enough food.
As we’ll see, new ways to grow food will help ensure we have food security in the future.
Technology has always played its part
One thing that has transformed agriculture through the ages has always been technology. In the past it was the invention of new and improved ways to farm that led the way. For example, first there was the plough pulled by oxen or horses. This was then replaced by the tractor, first a steam-driven one and then petrol powered. Also, the historic image of farm labourers cutting crops with scythes was replaced by the combine harvester with the original design being pushed by a team of horses.
Today, there is a new breed of agricultural changes that are shaping the way we farm on a global scale.
Farmers are now using satellite imagery and GPS tracking to monitor crop yield, soil levels and weather patterns to increase their farm’s efficiency.
Also known as precision agriculture, it is becoming increasingly important as it allows farmers to pinpoint how productive an exact spot in a field is rather than looking at the whole area as one item. This gives farmers the ability to find out which areas are best for which crops so they don’t overuse seeds, fertilisers and pesticides. In addition, it can help them make better use of resources such as water while carrying out more sustainable farming.
Taking to the skies
Farmers are turning to drones as their eyes in the sky to monitor crop productivity. As an alternative to using satellites and extra farm hands, drones can cover great distances quickly and easily while not being expensive. They allow farmers to find damaged or diseased plants so that they can then accurately apply fertilizer or pesticide. Drones can also be used to take accurate aerial photos of their farmland so they have up-to-date information on how well crops are growing.
Creating a buzz
Honeybees are under threat, in part due to climate change. Luckily we are coming to their rescue and not because we like honey so much, but because bees are essential in the pollination of a long list of crops which includes avocados, carrots and nuts.
Now, the decline of honeybee colonies by nearly a third is thought to be due to pesticides, disease and inadequate food supply. There has been a concerted effort to reverse the fortunes of our bees, with many initiatives being put in place to grow their numbers.
One example is by using technology to allow urban beekeeping. This is the ability to keep bees on rooftops and even underground using horizontal beehives which are portable. It’s been shown that urban bees live longer than their rural cousins.
As well as using technology to help increase the amount of food we produce, it can also be used to reduce the amount we waste. This is vital when you consider that in America alone a staggering 40% of food is thrown away each year.
Using apps and websites food can be put to good use rather than binned. For example one app gives restaurants the ability to offer deals to those nearby to save on waste. Another helps you buy the right amount of food at the supermarket for the size of your family and the kind of meals you like. Then, there’s a highly innovative platform that can match you to leftover food you like which you can buy cheap and then pick up.
An eye on the future
With our population continuing to grow, technology and agriculture are joining forces to come up with solutions to the food problems we face today as well as the one we will have to overcome tomorrow.
It’s hard to predict what the future holds for agriculture, but one forward thinking company is currently looking at engineering tissue to make meat and leather using 3D printers while another one is taking plant-based proteins and creating meat substitute with their goal being to reduce meat consumption by 25% by the year 2020. Which is all food for thought.
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