Digital technologies have paved their way into the food and beverage industry, particularly at the upstream end of the supply chain during production. Traditional agricultural methods are slowly being replaced with smart agricultural methods, such as precision agriculture and climate-smart agriculture. Smart agricultural methods like these are making waves in the food and beverage industry and revolutionizing farming around the world.
What is Precision Agriculture?
Precision agriculture allows farmers to increase their land’s productivity and quality by using a range of IoT devices such as GPS services, guidance systems, mapping tools and variable rate technologies (VRT) to optimize crop yields. These new management systems collect data that transmit valuable metrics to farmers. Every aspect of farming, from planting to harvesting, can benefit from these emerging technologies. The information about the moisture of soil, for example, is sent to a computer, which then identifies signs of health or stress. Based on these signals, farmers can provide water, pesticide, or fertilizer in adequate dosages. As a result, precision farming can help conserve resources and produce healthier crops.
Another smart agricultural method is climate-smart agriculture, which is an approach to dealing with the new realities of climate change. Climate-smart agriculture improves agricultural systems by enhancing sustainability and food security. Food production has struggled to keep up with erratic weather patterns and natural resources have been stretched alarmingly thin, signaling a call for action. With this new approach, crop yields will be able to adapt accordingly and productivity will increase.
Taking a Look at Reality
According to Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis, the global population grows by nearly three more people each second, which is 240,000 people a day. By 2025, the global population is expected to reach 8 billion people and 9.6 billion by 2050. These statistics indicate that the number of mouths to feed will only continue to grow. Farmers can no longer keep up by simply utilizing traditional farming practices. In order to keep up with the growing population, new technological methods, like precision and climate-smart agriculture, need to be implemented within the supply chain at the initial point of production.
Who is Adopting?
Although precision agriculture provides farmers with more efficient farming practices, larger farms are the ones to mainly employ this new phenomenon due to high costs. A 2016 study investigating recent trends in precision agriculture adoption rates indicates that large corn farms over 2,900 acres have double the adoption rates: 70-80 percent use mapping, 80 percent use guidance systems and 30-40 percent use VRT. As reported by National Geographic, farmers take into account farm size, yields and market prices when deciding on precision technology implementation. However, an investment in precision technologies made by smaller farms can still result in a gross annual benefit, significantly outweighing the cost.
There is a clear indication that precision agriculture is not slowing down anytime soon. Research organization BI Intelligence has predicted that IoT device installations in agriculture will rise, reaching 75 million by 2020. And it doesn’t stop there. According to research firm Global Market Insights, the sensors segment anticipates dominating the hardware market by 2024 due to a boost in sensor utilization in precision management systems. This new technological advancement will only continue to efficiently solve farming practices that have taken hours and hours to achieve, making the transition more appealing to farmers.
This will also benefit food processors and manufacturers who will now have improved access to data and communication, providing enhanced traceability of ingredients. This new information will be available throughout the entire supply chain providing the end consumer with confidence that they are purchasing safe and sustainable food products.