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Digital Technology Boosting Farming Practices And Food Sustainability

Food and Beverages | Tuesday, May 10, 2022

A large number of agricultural technology startups are experimenting with novel methods to apply digital technologies to the messy business of farming.

Fremont, CA: AgriTech startups are increasingly finding ways to apply digital technology to their farming practices. Numerous modern technologies increase yields, reduce waste and resource consumption, and improve farming's sustainability. And the majority of them do so through the collection and analysis of an increasingly valued asset: data.

Several of these statistics are graphical. For instance, satellites and drones outfitted with cameras may give high-resolution photographs of arable land, providing farmers with a comprehensive perspective of yield patterns across broad swaths of land. On the ground, agricultural machinery like tractors, combine harvesters, and planting machines can be connected with sensors to monitor soil health and crop height changes in real-time.

The power of technology

The ability of technology to provide insights to farmers was highlighted in the most current Food Sustainability Index (FSI), which was established by The Economist Intelligence Unit in collaboration with the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition. In 67 nations, the FSI assesses food sustainability on three fronts: sustainable agriculture, food waste, and loss, and nutritional issues. The white paper that accompanied the latest FSI results highlighted numerous breakthrough new companies' innovations.

Connecterra's dairy monitors, for example, follow the behavior and movement of cows in the Netherlands, enhancing grazing efficiency and forecasting estrous cycles, hence increasing the percentage of pregnant cows during the breeding season.

Indigo Agriculture, based in the United States, is using algorithms and machine learning to analyze a database of bacteria found within plants to determine which are most advantageous to the plant's health. It coats crops with these chemicals in the form of seed coatings.

Making farming smarter

On the farm, digital technology can improve efficiency and environmental sustainability by eliminating excessive use of scarce resources like water. Sensors embedded in the soil enable farmers to regulate their systems throughout the growing season, including raising or decreasing irrigation to maintain adequate moisture levels and utilizing water only when necessary. Naturally, technology is not the only tool available to advance food sustainability. Indeed, the consensus is building that traditional farming and agroecological techniques have enormous promise for improving soil quality, conserving water, reducing GHG emissions, increasing food yields, and establishing a more equitable trading system.

Additionally, digital agriculture brings ethical concerns. For instance, some are concerned about who owns and controls the data created by smart farming. Others believe that multinational agribusinesses' ability to collect massive amounts of data on farming performance offers them an advantage over smaller, independent farmers who may lack access to this type of data. Several businesses are working on solutions to this problem.

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