The Future of Agriculture

In last week’s post, we dealt with the history of agriculture. In this week’s post, we’ll take a look at technological trends that represent the future of farming.

What’s the problem?

As the world population increases, the planet will have to produce more and more food, which means we will need more and more land.

Simultaneously, the need to slow down climate change has led governments to protect forests which stopped the enlargement of agricultural surfaces.

Faced with this problem, different scientists have come up with different solutions for a greener, healthier, and more sustainable agriculture.

While sustainability is often at the heart of agriculture innovation, genetics or higher yields are also important.

We compiled below a few trends that represent the future of agriculture.

1. Vertical Farming

Vertical farming in Moscow. Source: Wikipedia

Vertical farming is the ultimate science-fiction fantasy for futurist enthusiasts.

Vertical farming is the practice of growing plants vertically in a building. It has several advantages.

  1. Saving space: since the food is grown in a tower, it does not occupy as much land as if it was growing…on land.
  2. Saving transportation costs: since the farm is located directly in the city, there is no need for extensive transportation. Fruits and vegetables are consumed where they’re grown.
  3. Higher yield: the plants receive light 24/7/365 days and can therefore grow constantly.
  4. Absence of pesticides: the plants don’t grow on the earth directly which means there is no need for pesticides.
  5. Automation: since the plants grow inside, technology can be leveraged and a huge part of the work is automated.
  6. Protected from the weather: some weather events like storms or hail can destroy an entire season worth of crops. Growing inside protect plants.

At the moment, vertical farming is more of an anecdote than anything else. There are roughly 30 hectares of surface cultivated in vertical farming around the world.

Moscow, Singapore, and Baltimore are examples of cities with vertical farming.

2. Hydroponics

Photo by Cekreknauts on Unsplash

Hydroponics is the art of growing plants by only feeding them nutrient-dense water.

It goes hand-in-hand with vertical farming.

Hydroponics offers almost only upsides compared to traditional farming.

  • It uses less water
  • Plants grow faster
  • It uses few resources. All you need is water, a way to feed the plant, and a place to hang the plant.

Hydroponics can be used both inside and outside. If used inside, lightning up the plant 24/7 helps speed up the growth of the plant.

3. Seawater Farming

Seawater farming is the art of growing plants in the sea. This picture shows mussels farms in Brittany, France. Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

Seawater farming can designate several things.

On one hand, seawater farming is the technique of growing vegetables directly in the sea. These vegetables are sea vegetables (algae) and can be used as biofuel, feedstock, or food.

Some farms in the UK are already growing seaweeds this way.

Another technique used in sunny countries is to grow plants by the sea, pump the seawater, and let the sun evaporate the water, then cool the water down so that it becomes fresh water.

The water is subsequently given to plants.

The third version of sea farming means genetically modifying crops so that they can grow in seawater. Salt is one of the biggest causes of crop loss for farmland located by the sea. Engineering crops that would grow in salty water would enable us to grow them directly on floating islands in the sea.

4. Precision agriculture

Precision agriculture is data-informed agriculture. Precision agriculture leverages technologies like drones and satellite imagery to harvest data on crops and their environment in order to maximize outputs.

Practising precision agriculture can help farmers increase their output by up to 5%.

5. Drones

Photo by Jared Brashier on Unsplash

The agricultural drone tech industry is predicted to grow from €1.68 billion in 2019 to €4.49 billion in 2024.

Drones are used for a variety of reasons. First, as we said above, they’re used to monitor and harvest data to help farmers make better decisions.

Second, they’re also used to measure various environmental indicators like humidity, dryness, etc.

Third, drones are used more and more to plant seeds. While this is restricted to the forest industry at the moment, one drone can plant up to 40 000 trees in a single day!

These drones are semi-autonomous and help free workers’ time that can then focus on something else. They can also access terrain that isn’t easily accessible to humans.

Fourth, drones can be used to irrigate plants by spraying water. The advantage is that it uses less water than traditional irrigation. Due to their sensors, they can precisely deliver the amount of water that the plants need which helps save on resources.

Finally, drones can simply be used to monitor the security of fields and avoid foreign intruders or animals.

6. Insect Feedstock

Cricket is one of the most profitable insects to farm. Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

Corn, soybean, and wheat are the main grains fed to livestock. In a lot of cases, these grains are grown in an unsustainable manner.

For example, agriculture consumes water and pollutes the soil. In developing countries, forests are cut down to make space for growing plants.

Replacing plant feedstock with insect feedstock could decrease the environmental footprint of livestock and helps increase food production.

Insects grow faster than plants, use less resources, and are more nutritious.

Several insect farms already exist in Europe. Crickets, cockroaches, and mealworms are among the most profitable insects to farm.

7. Crowdfarming

Crowdfarming is the idea of crowdfinancing farmers. Crowdfarming enables the ultimate buyers of a product to directly connect to the food producer and buy from them.

It simultaneously helps consumers trace where their food comes from and enables farmers to earn more money.

While a few platforms exist in the UK, the DTC (direct-to-consumer) model isn’t very developed yet in Europe.

9. Permaculture

Photo by Vincent Erhart on Unsplash

Permaculture is a type of agriculture aimed at mimicking natural ecosystems. While traditional farming mainly uses monocropping for organization and efficiency purposes, permaculture takes a holistic approach by growing in the same place different types of plants that “go well together”.

Because permaculture is an ecosystem of its own, producers seldom use pesticides or fertilizer. Permaculture gardens are self-sustaining. Every plant and insect has a role to play which increases production volumes.

10. Regenerative Agriculture

Photo by Anton Sharov on Unsplash

Regenerative agriculture is a type of agriculture where several sustainable practices are used at once.

Regenerative agriculture focuses on soil regeneration, water treatment and usage, biodiversity, and strengthening the health and resilience of the natural environment.

Regenerative agriculture can both leverage technology and specific farming practices to transform the impact of agriculture from positive, to negative.

Conclusion

Agriculture is a domain in which we’re not done innovating yet. As time goes by and research progresses, it seems that the best way to grow food remains to imitate what nature does by itself.

The alliance of data and technology to recreate an environment with high biodiversity and low man-made chemicals will likely be the way forward for agriculture whose environmental footprint needs to become, if not positive, at least neutral.

LandEx is committed to supporting farmers in their efforts to shift from traditional to sustainable agricultural practices.

When you invest with LandEx, you support a greener and more sustainable future.

Go to landex.ai today, and begin your land investment journey.

The content of LandEx’s blog is for informational purposes only, you should not construe any such information or other material as investment, financial, or other advice. Nothing contained on the LandEx Medium blog constitutes a solicitation, recommendation, endorsement, or offer by LandEx or any third party service provider to buy or sell any financial instruments in this or in any other jurisdiction in which such solicitation or offer would be unlawful under the securities laws of such jurisdiction.

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LandEx is the first European investment platform enabling any EU retail investors to invest in farmland. Find out more at https://landex.ai