The Future of Agriculture will be More Sustainable, Connected Than Ever  

By Josh Mickolio | August 08, 2023

The agriculture industry is looking to connected technologies to improve outcomes and ease the amount of effort required to produce food for a growing planet.

The future of the agriculture industry is on the horizon — one where technology will be leveraged to provide greater control over nearly every aspect of the growing process and beyond. These technologies, including automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML), make precision farming a reality. New information allows growers and farmers to understand exactly how to get the highest quality yields, using less energy and resources, on a rapidly changing planet.

Industry challenges with widespread impact

The global agriculture industry has been navigating inflation, long-term rates that impact land and equipment purchases, supply chain challenges that affect critical components, conflict in key growing regions, farming policies, and rapid climate shifts that are changing what types of crops can be grown. Other deep-rooted challenges include:

  • Population growth: In November 2022, the global population reached eight billion, only 11 years after surpassing seven billion. It was reported that much of the growth (70%) has come from low- and lower-middle-income countries, where the growth trend is likely to become more pronounced in the years ahead. A rapidly growing population creates the need for more food and faster food production, yet many of these regions are seeing intense changes to their climates, diminishing food quality and security.
  • Food waste: An estimated 30-40% of the U.S. food supply is wasted. This occurs for a variety of reasons, including spoiling from temperature fluctuations during shipping, faulty forecasting by retailers and restaurateurs, or careless consumer behavior. This amount of wasted food could feed 26 billion people every year.
  • Labor shortage: Younger generations are reluctant to pursue careers in the challenging agriculture industry. Today, farmers under 35 represent only 8% of all U.S. farmers, and there’s been a 52% decline in hired farmworkers as well. The labor shortage is intensifying just as the need for more and faster food production is rising.

New solutions can reduce waste as well as the number of resources that are used and needed.

Digitizing the farm and beyond

The agriculture industry is looking to connected technologies to improve outcomes and ease the amount of effort required to produce food for a growing planet. New solutions can reduce waste at every point of the food supply chain as well as bring more sustainable processes into food production. Technology can create a digital thread from the farm to the end user, improving food safety, security, and business resiliency.

For example, Airgain, a provider of wireless connectivity solutions, designs systems to monitor and control various touch points within an operation. Tracking devices on a shipment of food track temperature, position, and location in real time. Stakeholders know when food leaves the farm and when it arrives at its destination as well as anything that occurs in between, informing and refining the shipment process to reduce spoiled product and overall waste.

Growers and farmers are adopting automation, too. In one example, Semios, a precision-farming platform, implemented a remote monitoring solution throughout a vineyard in Italy to optimize its productivity. Grapes are a highly sensitive crop, so it’s important for them to closely track and monitor soil moisture and heat, especially as many growers are starting to experience changing climate conditions that impact their crops. With a network of sensors from Semios, vineyard growers gain extra visibility into their operation, without additional labor.

Technologies can better monitor food through the supply chain to prevent excess waste.

The future is connected 

New agricultural technologies, including advanced sensors, automation, and new approaches to growing such as vertical farming and industrial-sized indoor farms, are quickly becoming integral to securing a future for the industry. For example, instead of managing extensive farmland, vertical farming takes growing down to a much smaller space where all the nutrients, resources, and light that are needed for crop production are provided in a controlled area. Growers can detect patterns using AI and ML to ensure the crop only receives as much light and water as needed to maximize and optimize the yield.

Miravel, a company that designs automated indoor wall gardens, has developed small packs full of seeds, nutrients, and anything else needed for growing herbs and produce, and they install the packs in racks that are then pushed into a vertical farm. Each rack has sensors for moisture, temperature, and light that facilitate the growth of the plant. Automated water pumps feed the rack. This connected system operates on real-time data with an output that’s sustainable, safe, and high quality.

Agriculture stakeholders — growers and farmers, along with their partners and suppliers — value their resources. They only want to use the water, nutrients, and chemicals absolutely necessary to keep their crops healthy and safe. They value knowledge about soil moisture and how different weather patterns can impact their crops. Now, through connected sensors and networks, advanced algorithms, and real-time visibility, they can use less energy, reduce waste, and be more efficient, bringing precision sustainable farming to life.

To learn more about how technology can enhance food production, watch DigiKey’s Farm Different web series.

Like this article? Check out our other Harsh Environment and Ruggedized articles, our Industrial Market Page, and our 2023 and 2022 Article Archives

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Josh Mickolio
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