Will digital farming be the future of sustainable agriculture?
Agriculture is one of the sectors in the world that feeds people around the globe and contributes largely to the global GDP. In recent years, to fulfill the demand of food for an unprecedently growing world population has forced the agriculture ecosystem to shift towards advanced technologies. Agriculturists and economists today believe modern-day farming needs to focus on developing a more sustainable land management system by capitalizing on the capabilities of artificial intelligence, big data and other farmland management systems. This digital farming revolution is nothing but the use of technological innovation.
Already, the use of the internet of things (IoT) has revolutionized the way farmers work in agriculture. Considering digital farming will certainly improve overall farm production, and the integration of digital technologies will have a positive impact on the sustainability and efficiency of the farms.
The Age of Smart Farming
In a study published in Nature Sustainability, Bruno Basso, a professor in the College of Natural Science at Michigan State University, and John Antle, professor of Applied Economics at Oregon State University, opined that digital agriculture can pave the way to agricultural sustainability. According to Basso, who co-authored the research paper, the integration of sensors, AI, and predictive modeling is reaching a level of accuracy that can be used to design pathways to sustainability in agriculture. He further noted, digital agriculture is where agriculture, science, policy and education intersect. Putting that data to leverage requires an effective balancing of competing for economic and social interests while minimizing trade-offs.
Today, agriculturalists have already begun deploying state-of-the-art farming tools and techniques to improve the efficiency of their routine work. They are now more equipped with targeted agricultural advice through text or voice messages via cell phones, even without Internet access. In India, Precision Agriculture for Development found that the introduction of a low-cost, mobile phone-based agricultural extension system had positive and significant effects on agricultural yields. In this way, the organization rolled-out its initial service in April 2016, called Krishi Tarang (agriculture wave).
The service delivers free, customized, crop-specific, agricultural advice in two ways, via weekly voice messages sent to a farmer’s mobile phone and a direct response to any agricultural question that a farmer logs.
The Evolution of AgriTech
With a growing number of technological innovations, the agriculture sector is expected to witness an immense transformation, driving the new level of farming. Undeniably, smart agriculture and precision farming are taking the sector by storm, but there is even greater use of technology yet to come in the farming ecosystem. The introduction of blockchain, or distributed ledger technology, is making its way to the IoT. This could be vital in agriculture as it has the potential to provide companies with essential data on crops.
Since farmers use mobile phones to receive market information, access bank accounts, and keep an eye on weather forecasts, using digital technologies offer a new set of other opportunities for remotest rural communities. Farmers can integrate sensors to garner data about crops, including factors like salt and sugar content and pH levels. The United Nations International Fund for Agriculture Development has been deployed remote sensors to help farmers optimize water and fertilizer levels for their crops. Moreover, drones are being used to detect plants in meagre condition and remedial action to address them.
Comprehensively, innovations in digital farming can bring a new revolution in agriculture by assisting farmers to increase their yields and incomes. This can also support in espousing locally suited seeds and fertilizer, safeguarding crops from diseases and pests, adapting to climate change, and access to selling at the best possible prices.