You might not find “agriculture” trending on social media anytime soon, but don't take that to mean farms aren't relevant. We still rely on farms of all shapes, sizes, and varieties to feed ourselves and, in turn, keep the world running. The trends that shape agriculture either reflect or dictate how humanity fuels itself, so it's wise to pay attention to those trends.
These industry insiders shared the trends they believe are defining what the future of agriculture will look like. Here's what they have to say:
1. Emma Weston, CEO and Co-Founder of AgriDigital
“One of the top trends driving agriculture in 2019 is around provenance and supply chain traceability. Consumers are demanding greater transparency about where their food comes from and how it is produced and are seeking out producers who are using technologies such as blockchain, IoT and smart labelling to provide this level of detail.
We’re also seeing a rise in technology enabled food production through the deployment of AI, robotics, and data management in farming. These technologies are helping agriculture feed our growing population by cutting labour costs, and reducing food production time as well as providing advanced analytics, helping farmers to manage their land for the future.
Finally, we’re seeing a shift towards controlled systems for food production such as vertical farming, hydroponics, and aquaponics. These systems are part of the move towards sustainable agriculture, offering the potential of higher yields with less labour while using less land, water, and chemicals.”
2. Jehiel Oliver, CEO of Hello Tractor
“Today, a lot of agricultural activities are being driven by data, smart farming technologies as well as the sharing economy model. Big data is already revolutionizing the sector by enhancing the process of supply
tracking and supporting predictive modeling techniques amongst other things. Technologies such as Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Precision Agriculture etc, are being leveraged for crop and soil monitoring, predictive analysis, agricultural robotics, variable rate technology, and such. The shared economy model is also playing a huge role in making sure that farmers are able to have access to farm machinery that they otherwise can’t afford.”
3. Darcy Pawlik, VP Global Agriculture at Understory, Inc.
“A major trend shaping the agriculture sector in 2019 is automation. Setting the groundwork for automation results in the growth andadoption of digital tools including farm management software, digital grain marketing services, and agronomic decision-making models that use various data sources and various levels of integration to increase farmer ROI
and input use efficiency.”
4. Michael “Mr. Hemp ” Bowman, co-founder of First Crop
“Technology and the plant-based movement are driving change at a pace few anticipated. GenX and GenZ consumers are forcing this dramatic shift in our food supply as consumers with a conscious; those that see business-as-usual and climate change as an existential threat. They demand transparency, convenience and rapid delivery, and have a global mindset and demand products that align with those values.”
5. Meg Kummerow, Owner of Fly the Farm
“Data, data, data. To me, data collection from various sources and its interpretation is a continuing trend. Ensuring that the data collected does not just go into ‘data tombs' (thanks Terry Griffin from KSU for my favourite term) and can provide actual, real outcomes – yield improvements, profitability improvements and environmental outcomes as a start, is imperative. Data being used wholisticly instead of kept and interpreted in silos is hopefully where development is headed. We already have lots of data from lots of sources. Ensuring the data works for us and for our end users is where the trend needs to make sure it is going.”
6. Jeff Klaumann, CTO of Internet of Things America
“Thanks to new communications technologies that leverage low-power, wide area networks (LPWAN) instead of traditional cellular-based connectivity, new sensors are appearing on the market that enable farmers and ranchers to efficiently collect valuable data.
These sensors, including soil moisture sensors and soil nutrient sensors, provide a more cost-effective solution than their cellular counterparts. The utilization of LPWAN technology also provides these sensors with a substantially longer battery life, typically upwards of 3-5 years.”
7. Mark Young, CTO & Head of Product, The Climate Corporation (subsidiary of Bayer)
“In the past, ag data provided farmers a look in the rearview mirror. Today, we’re seeing a rise in predictive tools and new ways to apply advanced tech like machine learning and other forms of AI. For example, we’re now able to build models that take decades of our own seed performance data across geographies that can factor in variables from our customers' farms – things like soil type, weather, and historical yield, as well as unique farm management practices like tillage, planting density and crop rotations. Farmers then receive performance rankings of which seeds will perform best on any given field. ”
8. Raffaele M. Maiorano, Chairman of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR)
“Trends are related to quality and sustainability, of course. We're able today to define the concept of food quality which is something safe, replicable, trackable and scientifically provable. Sustainable development goals (SDGs) on the other hand will be at the center of any agricultural strategy in the next ten years, and this as been confirmed by every UN Institution. Sustainability works if is part of a bottom-up process; till now has been a top-down process.”
9. Josh Siteman, Managing Director at Intravision Light Systems, Inc.
“Assuming the concept of moving agriculture into artificial environments is already an old fashioned idea, and in many respects it actually is if you consider the investment portfolios in the arena today, the next step in the evolution of controlled environment agriculture is the successful implementation of buzzwords like Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence. Blockchain offers obvious advantages in terms of traceability, accountability and efficiency but AI is potentially the biggest disruptor over the course of the next 5 to 10 years. Over this time span we will see the advantages of deep machine learning within the context of controlled agriculture; reducing risk for investors looking to adapt high tech agricultural solutions in locations where there is a shortfall of PhD level manpower.”
10. Oswaldo Loor, Founder and CEO of Shenzhen Drones
“Precission agriculture: give the treatment where it's needed, including fertilizers, insects control, and fungicides. There's no need to waste products on the whole field — find where the problem is and fix it.”
11. Vibor Cipan, CEO and co-founder of Point Jupiter
“We will witness more and more farms being affected by the generational change. Younger, more technically fluent, generations will take place and start running their farms. Those generations are also digital natives – they will likely look for ways to incorporate technology so they can improve their production and profitability. Another trend (and it is beyond 2019) is a more prominent specialization. Farmers will investigate market and climate opportunities and try and discover potentially profitable niche markets where they could better compete. This is also, at least partially, driven by shifts in commodity markets, tariff tensions and (re)negotiation of trade deals.”
12. Pat Rogers, founder of AgFuse
“There has been a huge movement towards sustainability, not just by organic or small scale farmers. Farm tech is allowing us to become more sustainable by becoming more precise with how we manage our farms. For example, instead of applying a blanket rate of fertilizer across a whole farm, we now can utilize sampling or satellite imagery to dial in nutrient needs down to sub acre accuracy. This has not only an environmental aspect but helps farmers produce more crops with less inputs, which can really help drive profitability.”
13. Pauline Canteneur, Business Strategy Analyst at FarmWise
“For a long time, agriculture has heavily relied on labor and chemicals for cost, process, and yield optimization. Both resources are now under threat. Labor is becoming less and less available and increasingly expensive while the future of chemicals remains uncertain. Indeed, from the consumer and regulatory perspectives, it is becoming more and more difficult for growers to depend on chemicals as much as they used to.”
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