By Angus Woods, Owner of Woods Group
• Today, technological solutions are indispensable to feed a continuously growing population in the face of limited agricultural land, unsustainable natural resource use, and increasing shocks and stresses, including climate change.
• These solutions are needed to make agriculture more productive and sustainable across all its sectors.
• Feeding nearly 10 billion people by 2050, while maintaining economic growth and protecting the environment is an urgent, unprecedented challenge.
• Applications of data-driven technologies in agriculture have the potential to promote and maintain higher productivity, improved quality of produce, sustainability, as well as providing transparency to consumers.
There’s no question that food insecurity is one of the biggest problems facing the global population today.
With the changing climate and burgeoning the population, global food systems will likely witness increasing pressures in the coming decades on supply and demand competition.
Optimal utilisation of limited resources while intensifying farming practices to maintain food security will be a serious challenge for future sustainable crop production.
Various sources predict if stresses on our food system increase — everything from staffing and supply chain issues to climate change negatively impacting crops — more than 500 million people around the world could be facing acute hunger by the end of the year.
Feeding nearly 10 billion people globally by 2050, while maintaining economic growth and protecting the environment is an urgent, unprecedented challenge.
Australia, known as the “food bowl” of the Asia Pacific produce enough food to feed 75 million people. The $122.1 billion Australian food, beverage and grocery manufacturing sector is the biggest manufacturing sector with 273,000 jobs and is a backbone to regional Australia.
As a net exporter, it is therefore vital for our near neighbours that trade, security and shipping lanes remain stable.
Coupled with the geopolitical climate specifically across the Indo Pacific requires human intervention and smart farming practices using artificial intelligence (AI).
Various technological applications can help make farming more efficient and slow the effect of stressors on the food system.
From data processing tools and smart drones to automation and AI, these applications are already having an impact.
In many countries, declining rural labour availability – reflected in rising agricultural wages – is a main driver of agricultural automation.
Rising consumer concerns about food quality, safety, taste and freshness, together with environmental concerns, are also driving investment in digital technologies.
In recent years, the agricultural sector has witnessed an increased use of sophisticated equipment such as robots, satellites, GPS, drones, and other sensor guided vehicles.
These pieces of machinery serve as invaluable sources of data concerning crop growth, soil characteristics, and weather conditions.
While each of these hardware systems is important on their own, the application of advanced AI and machine learning-based algorithms as accumulated data would augment the full potential of these hardware tools.
Applications of AI would allow real-time monitoring and analysis of agricultural processes, generating critical knowledge to fine-tune strategies for optimal resource utilisation, boosting farm productivity while minimising environmental impact.
However, as digital technologies revolutionise, the risks of unequal access and digital exclusion loom large.
Countries must make investments in human capital and put policies and regulations in place to minimise such risks and ensure that everyone, especially smallholders who produce the majority of the world’s food, can participate in a new digital economy.