As the food industry continues to evolve, advanced technology is becoming a more prominent part of farming. In recent interviews, three experts shared their ideas about the future of farming and tech. Ofir Schlam, CEO and co-founder of Taranis, Jason Green, the CEO and co-founder of Edenworks, and Kevin Brown, CEO and co-founder of Innit, discussed the changes that will happen.
“In 2017, tech startups in the agriculture sphere raised $670 million to develop software management, big data analytics, automated equipment and other cutting-edge tools that help farmers grow crops with scientific precision. While companies face several challenges, such as imaging limitations and a lack of data management, farmers are still keen to introduce technologies to improve farm management. Between today’s labor shortages and the world’s rising demand for food, farmers must look to technology to predict and prevent threats to millions of acres of crops worldwide,” Schlam says.
Canola field. Photo by Martin Schutt/picture alliance via Getty Images photo credit: picture alliance via Getty Images GETTY
Brown believes that every step of the food journey, from farm to fork, will be influenced by technology. Smart supply chains will track and report where the food came from and how it was handled, down to the individual package. Blockchain tech will enhance trust as food information is captured and shared at every point of the journey. New sensors will allow people to rapidly scan food and measure it down to the molecular level, ensuring better quality and transparency.
Schlam agrees and sees artificial intelligence (AI) as an important component of the future. While current technology is far more advanced than the tools previous generations used, there needs to be a renewed focus on technology using AI capabilities to make massive amounts of data useful and actionable. The future of farming will be dependent on precision technology, the adoption of automated practices, indoor urbanized farming and more. All of these innovations will help to propagate the growth of farming crops. The ultimate goal is to create a synergy between farming and technology that works with the forces of nature to maximize production.
Working with nature and not against it is a crucial part, according to Green. “The basis of our technology is ecosystems. It is our belief that the more we can replicate the biodiversity of nature, and the microbial diversity that results, the faster and more healthy our plants and fish will grow. Future farms will have an increasing focus on microbial health. Generic sequencing of the microbiome will help us understand what microbial communities exist in our system at any given point enabling us to understand the health of our farm’s immune system before disease actually hits,” Green explains.
Green’s company is focused on making indoor farming cost competitive with field farming. He believes it is the only way to make the sustainability benefits of aquaponic farming truly widespread and impactful. As opposed to the Industrial Revolution, which created cheap products through brute force, synthetic chemicals and backbreaking labor, he thinks it is possible to fulfill this mission by looking to nature to do most of the work for people. “A mantra that we use internally is that by harnessing nature’s complexity, we share its abundance,” Green shares.
Brown looks at the big picture and sees tech innovations spreading from the farm to the table. Increasingly, food recommendations will be made by software based on personalized nutrition. Users will simply indicate their preferences, and the right items will show up. Machine learning advances in voice and vision will create more seamless assistance with shopping, managing food and cooking. New cooking technologies powered by automated cooking programs will enable vastly improved quality of home-cooked meals while reducing stress and time requirements.