Have you ever wondered about that eureka moment when mankind realised that he could grow his own food and sustain life? For a large part of history, we were hunter-gatherers who led a nomadic lifestyle, moving from one place to another, eating whatever nature provided until that moment in time when someone decided to plant a seed.
It was around 12,000 years ago, following whatever spark of genius that could have inspired it that humanity witnessed the first instances of cultivation and food production. In the centuries that followed, change was slow and it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution from the 1760s that we began to look at food production more scientifically. The widespread mechanization that allowed crops to be cultivated with fewer workers, enabled better soil replenishment, and improved care for livestock is what eventually led to the Green Revolution that began in the 1960s. In the decades since then, mankind has made enormous leaps of progress, and agriculture has kept pace.
At least, we are getting there.
We have reached an interesting stage of our food story. As the world becomes smaller, thanks to lightning-fast connectivity and more efficient modes of travel and communication, food is no longer limited to what is locally available. Gone are the days when au gratin potatoes and confit lamb were terms you heard floating around exclusively in Michelin-star restaurants or tucked between the glossy pages of food magazines. Food, today, is a form of expression. One that is not limited by language, race or geography.
But what makes the discussion even more pertinent is the fact that we are facing a food production crisis like never before. Technology is not just making the world smaller metaphorically, it is shrinking physically too. The decrease in the availability of agricultural land that can feed the 9.8 billion people expected to populate the world by 2050 is a definite reason to sit up and take note.
The burgeoning population of the globe — owing to longer life expectancy, better medical facilities, and other medical and technological advances — hasn’t changed the amount of land available for cultivation. If anything, our booming industries and ever-expanding cities have eaten into that too.
The result — the emergence of technology in agriculture with the aim of improving sustainability and finding more efficient ways to cultivate the limited land that we have at our disposal. It is what will lead us through to Agriculture 4.0, from a technology perspective.
The modern farmer has arrived. Precision Agriculture, a data-driven method of cultivating and managing crops on cultivable land in the most optimum manner with the help of technology, allows farmers to make the most of the resources that are available to him. No longer are farms subject to inconsistent and unscientific farming practices, variable weather conditions, pests and other risks that impacted food production. With the help of technology in agriculture, farmers can adopt a more structured approach to cultivation and accurately predict the outcome with a high level of certainty. Almost every aspect of cultivation — from planting to sowing and harvesting — stands to benefit from the impact of technology in agriculture.
But how does digital farming help the modern farmer solve agricultural challenges? At the starting point, it provides the farmer with a better understanding of the land he is about to cultivate so the process of production is scientific and less arbitrary.
But digital farming is not just about understanding and analysing the data captured through connected machines to cultivate a piece of land with higher efficiency — its overall impact to the process of cultivation is much larger.