How Technology Is Changing Agriculture Practices in the 21st Century
It’s amazing how a lot of things have changed in modern times. At some point in the history of mankind, humans survived strictly by eating just about anything they found (that didn’t kill them), drinking water from natural sources, living in caves, trees or under an open heaven and covering themselves up with just leaves. At this point, no particular attention was paid to agriculture or any other type of work till it became absolutely necessary to feed, not just one or two people but a community.
Mankind then evolved into subsistence farming – a small piece of land for either planting crops or rearing animals, the use of sticks for clearing and cans for watering… Then rolled in, what I’ll term ‘The Age of Metal Farming of Ancient Times’, with the invention of cutlass and hoes which then gave rise to more inventions like rakes, plows, sickle, etc.
However, between the 19th/20th century, Agriculture experienced a major evolution, transforming from the use of simple tools into the use of machines and highly technical tools for farming. Words like ‘mechanized farming’, ‘mechanized agriculture’, ‘power-driven agriculture’ were tossed here and there till they became household terms; gone became the days of hoes and cutlasses and endless human labor for commercial agriculture. Easier, more reliable with high yielding methods were introduced using things like sensors, Agricultural engineering, robots, and micro-robots, etc, agriculture moved from point Good to point Better.
Below are some of the ways agriculture has experienced improvement in recent times:
1. Urban Agriculture and Vertical farms –
The idea behind this is to cultivate plants or rear animals within dedicated spaces in urban settings. It is the practice of growing produce stacked on top of each other in a regulated and controlled environment. It uses techniques almost similar to glasshouses, can replace natural light with energy-efficient lighting, control humidity, and water and ensures that there is a year-round production of crops. It also manages and maximizes available space, ensures protection from weather elements and eliminates the dependency on labor since robots can be used to plant, harvest and handle other logistics.
2. Use of drones –
These can be used to aid pollination in place of natural pollinators like bees. It can also be used in aerial photography to survey the farm fields and can also be used for delivery.
3. Use of sensors –
As the air and soil sensors, crop sensors, infrastructural health sensors which help to ensure real-time understanding of current farm conditions, inform equipment of the correct quantity of fertilizers needed to obtain good yield during application and also monitor vibration in buildings, farms, factories, etc. As well as help to monitor material conditions. They generally ensure that the farmer is not caught unawares by anything pertaining to the farm from weather conditions to equipment conditions.
Other sensors also exist like livestock biometrics, equipment telematics, etc.
4. Blockchain Technology –
This helps in food traceability and improves food safety by providing ways by which sources of contamination can be tracked in the events of an outbreak of food-related diseases. It also helps to keep track of records and solve problems related to food fraud, supply chain inefficiency, transactions, etc. among members of the food chain and this improves transparency within the marketplace.
5. Automation –
Its goal is to make the farm more efficient using robots, autonomous tractors, harvest automation, seeding, and weeding robots, robotic harvesters, etc.
6. Genetic editing –
This allows the editing and alteration of the genetic makeup of crops and animals to increase yield, reduce the incidence of diseases and make more food available…
All these said advancements in Agriculture couldn’t have come at a better time with the massive threat of global food scarcity and population overload hovering us. Advancement ensures improvement in food production and availability, food supply, food distribution, and marketing. It also improves the quality of life to all and ensures a disease-free environment.