Innovation is more important in modern agriculture than ever before. The industry as a whole is facing huge challenges, from rising costs of supplies, a shortage of labor, and changes in consumer preferences for transparency and sustainability. There is increasing recognition from agriculture corporations that solutions are needed for these challenges. In the last 10 years, agriculture technology has seen a huge growth in investment, with $6.7 billion invested in the last 5 years and $1.9 billion in the last year alone. Major technology innovations in the space have focused on areas such as indoor vertical farming, automation and robotics, livestock technology, modern greenhouse practices, precision agriculture and artificial intelligence, and blockchain.
Indoor Vertical Farming
Indoor vertical farming can increase crop yields, overcome limited land area, and even reduce farming’s impact on the environment by cutting down the distance traveled in the supply chain. Indoor vertical farming can be defined as the practice of growing produce stacked one above another in a closed and controlled environment. Using growing shelves mounted vertically, significantly reduces the amount of land space needed to grow plants compared to traditional farming methods.
]This type of growing is often associated with the city and urban farming because of its ability to thrive in limited space. Vertical farms are unique in that some setups don’t require soil for plants to grow. Most are either hydroponic, where vegetables are grown in a nutrient-dense bowl of water, or aeroponic, where the plant roots are systematically sprayed with water and nutrients. In lieu of natural sunlight, artificial grow lights are used.
Vertical farms use up to 70% less water than traditional farms.
From sustainable urban growth to maximizing crop yield with reduced labor costs, the advantages of indoor vertical farming are apparent. Vertical farming can control variables such as light, humidity, and water to precisely measure year-round, increasing food production with reliable harvests.
The reduced water and energy usage optimize energy conservation — vertical farms use up to 70% less water than traditional farms. Labor is also greatly reduced by using robots to handle harvesting, planting, and logistics, solving the challenge farms face from the current labor shortage in the agriculture industry.
Livestock Farming Technology
The traditional livestock industry is a sector that is widely overlooked and under-serviced, although it is arguably the most vital. Livestock provides much-needed renewable, natural resources that we rely on every day. Livestock management has traditionally been known as running the business of poultry farms, dairy farms, cattle ranches, or other livestock-related agribusinesses.
Livestock managers must keep accurate financial records, supervise workers, and ensure proper care and feeding of animals. However, recent trends have proven that technology is revolutionizing the world of livestock management. New developments in the past 8-10 years have made huge improvements to the industry that make tracking and managing livestock much easier and data-driven. This technology can come in the form of nutritional technologies, genetics, digital technology, and more.
Livestock technology can enhance or improve the productivity capacity, welfare, or management of animals and livestock.
Livestock technology can enhance or improve the productivity capacity, welfare, or management of animals and livestock. The concept of the ‘connected cow’ is a result of more and more dairy herds being fitted with sensors to monitor health and increase productivity. Putting individual wearable sensors on cattle can keep track of daily activity and health-related issues while providing data-driven insights for the entire herd. All this data generated is also being turned into meaningful, actionable insights where producers can look quickly and easily to make quick management decisions.
Animal genomics can be defined as the study of looking at the entire gene landscape of a living animal and how they interact with each other to influence the animal’s growth and development. Genomics help livestock producers understand the genetic risk of their herds and determine the future profitability of their livestock. By being strategic with animal selection and breeding decisions, cattle genomics allows producers to optimize the profitability and yields of livestock herds.
Sensor and data technologies have huge benefits for the current livestock industry. It can improve the productivity and welfare of livestock by detecting sick animals and intelligently recognizing room for improvement. Computer vision allows us to have all sorts of unbiased data that will get summarized into meaningful, actionable insights. Data-driven decision-making leads to better, more efficient, and timely decisions that will advance the productivity of livestock herds.