The Automation of Agriculture

Smart Farming - The Technology Revolution

Technology is shaping every aspect of the modern farming and food production system. How long before farming can be fully automated?

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The Automation of Agriculture

The internet and computers have done more to democratize the global food system than any other technology. The number of mobile subscriptions worldwide has grown from 1 billion in 2000 to over 6 billion in 2012 and by 2018 it is estimated that over one-third of consumers worldwide will use smartphones. Farmers using technology systems connected by the internet are able to access data and track items such as commodity prices and market information or pest and disease outbreaks in real time and this helps with costs and decision making at all levels of farming.

Global Mobile Cellular Subscriptions, Total and per 100 Inhabitants, 2000-2010

Source: Kevin Donovan. 2010. Anytime, Anywhere: Mobile Devices and Services and their Impact on Agriculture and Rural Development. InfoDev, World Bank Group.

Using a smartphone or similar device, a farmer may check the weather at any time or see what is happening on the farm without needing to be on site. GPS systems guide feed trucks to deliver exact amounts of food to livestock and sensors track where seeds are planted. Last year, a survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation “found that 39 percent of respondents in major corn-and wheat-growing states were using sensor-driven technologies on their farms.” Common technology involves inserting probes into the ground to measure water concentrations, enabling farmers to pinpoint areas that need more or less irrigation and thus promoting water conservation.

“Today every John Deere tractor, sprayer, and combine comes equipped to wirelessly communicate information about where it is, what it has planted, and more.”

Nanette Byrnes. 26 May 2015. Food Technology for All, MIT Technology Review.

The Future of Food

The Future of Food has been produced by Future iQ as a foresight research paper. It examines a range of critical catalysts of change relating to the global food supply chain, and the potential impacts upon human health, the environment and food security.
Learn about the Future of Food Project »