Awakening Agriculture: The Power of Technology

By Gillian Christie

Leveraging technology for agricultural purposes has historically benefited society. The Green Revolution that commenced in the 1940s facilitated reductions in global poverty by employing innovative technology to increase crop yields. Examples included pesticides, fertilizers, and irrigation systems. Recently, The Economist suggested we are on the verge of another Green Revolution. We see technology revolutionizing agriculture in the following areas:

  1. Sensors: Sensors monitor numerous aspects of greenhouse growing, including temperature, humidity, light, pH, and fertilizer. In future years, micro-tags the size of soil particles may be used to measure soil moisture, disease burden, and harvesting times.
  2. Food: Genetically designed food and cultured meat is rapidly developing, though has not been produced for public consumption. This would adapt existing meat-based products to be developed using vegetables, and modify seeds to be tolerant of changes in climate change.
  3. Automation: Agricultural robots (“agbots”) will soon automate agricultural processes, including planting, ploughing, and harvesting.
  4. Engineering: Vertical farming uses mixed-use skyscrapers in urban settings and increases natural lighting and year-round crop production.

These technological advancements offer a basis to increase agricultural outputs worldwide. Nonetheless, these technologies – and government subsidies for farmers who use these technologies – should be aligned with growing healthier produce. This is in light of rising obesity levels that pose an economic and societal threat to all nations. The intersection of agriculture and technology provided a foundation for CNBC’s article “Frankenstates: Winning the agriculture tech war”, in which Vitality Institute Executive Director, Derek Yach, indicates that “better seeds, better forms of plant breeding, better soil nutrients and increased yields of crops [are] just getting under way now.” Agriculture is awakening to the power of technology.

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