The advancement of technology in the agriculture industry has often been associated with its negative effects on the environment. However, many Agritech companies have made it their mission to make our dependence on Agriculture as our main source of food supply more sustainable with the use of artificial intelligence.
In this modern-day, over 80% of our diet is produced from less than a dozen crop species, many of which were domesticated from the wild by our ancestors. This would not have been possible without Agriculture.
Agriculture is believed to have started as early as 12,000 years ago in various parts of the world, as our ancestors begin farming. As agriculture started becoming a pillar of support for large population centers, it formed the most integral part of our lives, making up the majority of our food supply chain.
Negative effects of agriculture
However, as Agriculture developed, so did immense growth in the world population and our dependence on plant and animal domestication.
Our growing reliance on Agriculture demanded several other environmental adaptations, including deforestation, irrigation, and the clearing of land for specific crop cultivation, bringing about adverse effects on our environment.
In thirty years, 10 billion people would require a 70% increase in global food production. To satisfy global food demand, agriculture production would only increase, calling for a strong need for sustainable agriculture solutions.
The question is, how do we grow our food without paying the hefty price of destroying our environment?
Sustainable agriculture lies in agritech
The answer may very well lie in AgriTech. While farming is typically seen as a very traditional space, Agritech has introduced the use of technology and technological innovation to improve the efficiency and output of agriculture. It does so by offering solutions by utilizing smart technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
The industry is estimated to reach USD 13.50 billion by 2023 as interest heightens and recognition increases. More funding for Agritech also means we have a chance in reinventing our global food system to better meet the needs of today’s consumers and to sustainably produce healthier, more diversified food.
In recent years, we’ve also seen a steady integration of Agritech into our Agriculture practices,
as farmers have begun to use applications to monitor pests and predict outbreaks of diseases among its crops based on insights provided with the help of AI and ML. Drones and satellites have become a popular tool for farmers to survey their lands and generate crop data with the help of Agritech companies.
Agritech and sustainability
There’s no denying that Agritech plays an important role in achieving enhanced productivity. However, the mission for many Agritech companies, unbeknownst to many, is to reduce the environmental cost and achieve greater eco-efficiency in current Agriculture practices.
For a handful of Agritech companies, sustainability drives their mission and vision. In a bigger picture, the problems that some of their technologies aim to solve directly link to the environmental issues brought upon by ways of farming that are deemed inefficient.
For example, Gamaya is an Agritech startup that offers analytics solutions for the monitoring of crops by utilizing drones and satellite imagery. They are one of the few innovators in the world for hyperspectral imaging and embedded cameras.
The Swiss-based startup developed a unique imaging solution deployed using a variety of drones and aircraft platforms that they use to collect data on farmland on a vast scale. By analyzing the acquired data, they’re able to provide farmers with crucial information, which enables them to increase yields and reduce costs and risks by facilitating optimum decision making in the use of chemicals and fertilising. This, in turn, improves the quality of their produce while minimizing the impact of agriculture on the environment, allowing crops to be grown more efficiently, cost-effectively and most of all, sustainably.
On a broader environmental spectrum, companies like Insight Robotics play their part in the conservation of our environment by providing intelligent plantations and agriculture-focused risk management services for precise and early detection of human and natural threats.
The Hong Kong based company developed a dual solution for early wildfire detection system which provide real-time surveillance and protection of plantation borders. Early and accurate fire detection not only dramatically reduces suppressions costs but also protects assets from forest conversion and land preparation wildfires.
On the robotic agricultural side of things, Naio technologies specializes in Agricultural robotics, manufactures and markets agricultural robots while working closely with farmers.
The French agricultural robotics company has been developing field robots for weeding, with its aim to not just reduce physical strain on farmers but also to reduce reliance on harmful chemical herbicides, which can have a negative effect on the environment.
Agritech as a solution for fluctuating consumer demand
With the outbreak of COVID-19disrupting agriculture’s links to consumers, Agritech with its technological powered solutions is helping farmers cope with the fluctuating consumer demand as a result.
With the help of AI & Machine learning, Agritech companies can help with for instance, aerial screening which allows regular monitoring of crop fields and production as a vital instrument to ensure food security and avoid potential shortages in the food supply chain.
In India, where Agriculture accounts for over 50% of the population’s livelihood, local Agritech startups are helping the nation’s from providing solutions such as urban farming to creating direct linkages to farmers.
In a bid to curb post-harvest losses, farmers are looking to technology-enabled warehousing that presents itself as a solution that can help address the problem of wastage during storage.
While this solution may not eradicate losses completely, it may help to reduce wastage to a great extent.
This pandemic may serve as a platform for Agriculture to embrace Agritech in its practices and as solutions to the long standing problems that the industry has been facing.
Agritech may not be able to solve all of the environmental woes caused by Agriculture, but it’s time that we recognized its role, and it’s potential in helping us pave the way to a more sustainable future.