Keywords: precision farming, digital agriculture, big data, internet of things, artificial intelligence, robotics, block chain, agri-food systems.
Agri-EPI was commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Farmers to explore ‘Farming in the Digital Age’; this forms the basis of this paper. Increasing global population, climate change, dwindling natural resources and unprecedented political events are placing the food supply chain under tremendous and intractable pressure. Digital technology offers one critical solution to the required transformation of global food systems. But along with great potential, the growth of new and effective data-driven advances comes with challenges. This paper presents an overview of the key technologies and techniques playing their part in the evolution of farming and food production in the 21st Century.
The advent of precision agriculture has brought many new technologies and techniques into modern farming. The most prominent and impactful technologies to date can be identified as Global Positioning Systems, yield mapping, soil management zoning and site-specific management, variable rate application, tractors with auto-steering systems, and the adoption of precision farming.
This paper considers essential forms of, and concepts around, data, which are fundamental to the growth of precision agriculture. These are Earth Observations Data, ‘Big Data’ and the Internet of Things. There are also a number of factors that will result in the development of more intelligent-based agriculture. These include Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, robotics and autonomous systems, and the application of Block chain technology to the food supply chain.
As the global food system comes under increasing pressure to be more productive yet sustainable, digital technology can play a critical role in transforming the food supply chain. Specifically, digital technology can increase efficiency, reduce waste, provide a true picture of the value of food, including its economic and natural capital costs, help to redesign a diverse agricultural system, provide a route to multifunctional landscapes, and create space for bio-energy capture and storage.
Challenges that lie ahead, and which may limit the application of digital technology for transformative change, include data ownership issues, moving from the traditional supplier-customer transaction to a new business model based on the value chain, the need for technology providers to engage farmers and understand their pain points at an early stage of technology development, the need to integrate the various technologies, machinery and farmer-collected data to create effective digital solutions, and connectivity across all the sources and players, at a time when rural connectivity is still poor across much of the UK.
S.A. Mohammed, D. Ross, F. Reed and J. Smernicki, Agri-EPI Centre, Poultry Drive, Edgmond, Newport, UK
33 pages, 16 figures, 22 references