The future of farming will see the implementation of highly specialised and autonomous equipment like drones, self-driving harvesting systems and tech like artificial intelligence. These will all facilitate better efficiency, greater crop yields and more sustainable agricultural practices. Breakthroughs in agriculture will encompass data analytics and predictive tools – technologies that will make decision making more efficient and can help optimise the use of seeds, water, fertiliser and pesticides.
Farming efficiency depends on our ability to predict natural conditions – and with the global food crisis looming, our ability to react as quickly as possible is becoming increasingly crucial. One way to do this is with precision agriculture, in which sensor tech, robotics, the IoT, satellite tech and drones are used to gather precise data. This enables farmers to measure the performance of a site and its crops, predict climate changes and immediately react to them, and choose suitable crops that produce higher, life-saving yields.
Imagine a field with cattle. A drone buzzing overhead, collecting images. These images, combined with information from sensors installed all over the farm, enable the farmer to make informed decisions – for instance that it’s time to move a few cows – identified by RFID chips – to the stables. Did you know that a cow can line up for automated milking whenever she wants? Robots monitor how much she eats, the number of times she visits the milking machines, and the quality of milk she produces. Welcome to the future of livestock farming.
Urban or vertical farms grow crops in 3D: rows of plants in soil or nutrient-enriched water (hydroponics) with LEDs mimicking natural light and sensors optimising growing conditions. Closed-loop systems (aquaponics) make it possible to grow fish as well as greens. Excess water from the plants is filtered and drains into the fish tanks. The fish waste is used as plant fertiliser. Urban farming makes clever use of space and leaves ecosystems intact. Being located close to consumers means produce reaches tables with minimal transportation.
The overuse of pesticides and petrochemical fertilisers, deforestation, and soil and water conservation are some of today’s most pressing issues for which sustainable agriculture offers many solutions. Sustainable farming can be achieved by implementing biotechnology (think lab-grown meat and genetically enhanced crops), indoor farming, and a host of other practices. The automation of agricultural tasks like pollination, seeding, soil treatment, weeding, fertilising, and harvesting would largely eliminate humans from farming and result in minimal water, space and pesticide usage and lower waste production.
In many ways, people are no longer separate from technology. It is, therefore, important to keep an eye on the moral side of technological developments. We need to philosophize about the implications for the world of tomorrow and ensure we take important ethical considerations into account. We need to determine our boundaries and have (and voice) opinions about how people and machines should work together. What will happen to our individual rights and how will we deal with privacy and risk management? How will we remain happy in the world of tomorrow?
New technological developments in agriculture are changing how our food is produced. This transformation also means that farmers are going to require expertise from specialists and leads to the development of new careers. Think hydrologists – professionals who protect the environment and ensure we have access to clean, safe water. Or drone technologists who use robotics in the air to show farmers how to reduce crop damage and increase yields. Other new roles include precision agriculture technologists or food scientists who create new food products and improve existing ones.
The future of work requires a new type of manager, one who challenges the status quo and is willing to abandon 20th century ‘best practices’. There will be a move to flatter hierarchies as millennials are great team players and see traditional hierarchies as outdated. They are result-driven and expect their managers to be the same. The managers of the future offer employees opportunities to develop new skills and explore new positions.
The company of the future is hyper connected. It closely monitors new developments and collaborates with start-ups, scientists and universities. It uses smart algorithms to analyse the world and employs a flexible workforce capable of rapidly developing new products, services or processes, and offering support on complex issues. The company of the future requires accessible leaders who inspire, have new visions and are prepared to veer off the beaten track.
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As the global population soars, can we keep up with hunger? Vertical farming, smart algorithms, and gene editing promise a future in which farmers can feed the world.Download
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Richard van Hooijdonk provides a dazzling presentation on numerous technological developments and their impact on society and the economy. Credible, high-speed and to the point. Inspires to think and act.
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