The Future of Farming: Sustainable Farming Methods
Sustainable farming methods will come to define the future of farming. Our global population is estimated to reach ten billion by 2050 – and the challenge of feeding these people is something to be addressed today for the good of tomorrow. Food security is not only a matter of public health and survival. It also has a bearing on social equality. This makes methods of sustainable agriculture a pressing issue for today’s farmers to consider.
Farming technology is driving innovation around sustainable farming methods. These developments are well underway and smart agricultural technologies are providing effective solutions to help farmers increase yields and sustainably utilise resources. What do these smart solutions look like and what are they achieving on the ground?
Entering the smart green revolutions
Over the years, agriculture has had to adapt to shifting needs – dubbed green revolutions. The latest green revolution is underway and it involves a combination of precision agriculture and data collection and analysis to drive action and automation. The projected population growth is anticipated to require a 60% increase in crop production. Add resource scarcity and increased urbanisation and we are facing numerous challenges going into the future. We are also facing a range of opportunities, with exciting prospects for large- and small-scale farmers.
The challenges smart farming systems seek to overcome
Advances in sustainable farming technology need to address certain prevailing issues within the farming and food production context. In short, these are a few of the issues around food security and production which sustainable farming systems will need to address:
- Diminishing natural resources (land degradation, water shortages and pollution, deforestation, over-fishing, and threats to ecosystems and biodiversity)
- 30% of the food produced is lost or wasted
- Quality of healthy food to combat obesity and malnutrition
- Shifting demands in food type around changes in income
- Increased urbanisation
- Climate change
Sustainable farming methods in action
There are many different smart agricultural technologies on the market. These collect data in myriad ways, giving farmers real-time insights into resource usage, wastage, and optimisation. A quick overview of some of these technologies include:
Sensors are being used to collect data on a range of metrics throughout farms – everything from weather to irrigation effectiveness and fertiliser use. Data derived from farms in real time has the potential to inform the best way to plant, cultivate, harvest, and distribute crops.
By reducing inputs such as fertiliser and pesticide, farmers also prevent leaching of toxins and greenhouse gas emissions. By using data, farmers have a chance to fine-tune production yields through projections and probability maps around disease and climate.
Reduced overheads. Increased profitability
Decreased resource inputs means increased profitability for farmers. Smart farms are less dependent on labour and are more focused on machine learning and automation. In feeding our global population, we also need to strategise around distribution and smart farms create possible innovations throughout the value chain.
Consumers are more concerned with the sustainability, safety, and quality of their food than ever before. Optimised farm management also creates an opportunity for higher quality of crop yields and traceability.
Sustainable farming methods: from crops to cattle
Tags, sensors, and the Internet of Things are being used for the full spectrum of farming applications. In the field, crop farmers get almost constant insights into the state of crops, moisture and temperature, water usage, fertiliser, and pesticides.
Livestock farming is also getting smarter and more sustainable. Through ingestible technologies like the bolus from Smarter Technologies Group, individual cattle monitoring is inspiring data-driven herd management. This technology acts as an early warning system for undesirable temperature readings of individual animals for disease and calving. These actionable alerts are sent to a farmer’s remotely accessible dashboard, putting a stop to contagion. This ensures veterinary intervention takes place in good time and when necessary, upholding the viability of every animal.
GPS cattle collars work within an ecosystem of smart technologies, giving farmers location readings of cattle and sending notifications should their movements be out of the ordinary. This functionality is useful both for grazing management and as a preventative measure around stock theft.
Sustainable agriculture and farming systems for smarter farming
Sustainability in a farming context aims to achieve a few key things. This includes the reduction or elimination of the use of chemicals, the preservation of natural resources, and reduced emissions. Simple systems of tags, sensors, pressure pads, and wearables for livestock allow farmers to use data collected on their own and neighbouring farms to optimise performance of their processes. By using this data, farmers are given a knowledge base for strategic decision-making and reduced inputs.
Regular Legionella Risk Assessments
In the UK, every business is legally required to conduct a Legionella risk assessment, which highlights potential dangers and the required legionella testing and steps for prevention. Those responsible for buildings need to prove that they have assessed the risks and are taking active steps to address those risks identified through this process.
A Legionella risk assessment should include:
- An outline of the building’s systems and the person in charge of Legionella monitoring
- Competence and training of key personnel
- Potential risks identified through the Legionella risk assessment
- How the risks identified in the Legionella risk assessment are being controlled and prevented
- Legionella risk assessment procedures – and detailed records of same
- Legionella risk assessment plans for the future
Legionella testing should be undertaken in-house or by a third party who is competent and qualified.
Water Temperature Legionella Testing
Water temperature testing is not a legal requirement. However, this testing procedure falls within the ambit of mitigating the risk and exposure to the bacteria.
Legionella bacteria thrive in water temperatures between 20°C and 45°C. Temperature testing is a highly effective means of managing Legionella risks.
The Disadvantages of Manual Legionella Temperature Testing
Manual temperature testing has certain disadvantages:
- It is a labour-intensive exercise, involving regular hot- and cold-water systems tests
- It is costly. If this task is outsourced, this comes at a price. If this task is conducted in-house, there is an opportunity, resource, and administrative cost associated with ensuring this is done.
- There is the risk of human error. Sick days, administrative errors, incorrect readings, failure to act – these are but a handful of ways that human error can affect readings. A record-keeping forms part of the statutory requirement to avoid Legionella fines, these gaps have the potential to attract penalties.
- Inconsistent readings. In a similar vein to the point above, different personnel can record their readings differently, which can result in inconsistencies. This has both a bearing on record-keeping and the effectiveness of risk mitigation measures.
- The factors above have the common thread of increased risk to human health attached to them. The greatest disadvantage to flawed testing systems is the potential for staff, residents, and customers getting ill.
The Benefits in Brief: Smart Farming Technology
– Smarter Technologies
Smart farming systems and sustainable agriculture have the potential to achieve a range of benefits. An overview of these include:
Better resource management
High-precision monitoring and record-keeping means farmers can see exactly where resources are being used, how frequently, and to what effect. The result of this is better resource management, which means things like water, fertiliser, pesticides, and (in the case of livestock) the administration of medicines and treatments are optimally applied. This has environmental and financial benefits too.
Managed grazing and crop rotation
By understanding how your land is used, smart farming technology creates sustainable farming systems around grazing and crop rotation to ensure the continued use of land for farming purposes into the future.
Increased yields and herd viability
With reduced arable land a concern for the future, the challenge of sustainable farming systems is to maximise yields and the viability of every animal in livestock farming. Precision, data-driven management assists farmers in developing these sustainable agriculture and farming systems to best effect. As an early warning system, smart farm technologies give farmers the power of early intervention in the case of disease, under-performance, theft, and mismanagement. It also means small adjustments can be made to counteract non-optimal conditions to make the most of every effort on the farm.
Farming technology throughout the supply chain
Food waste accounts for notable losses in food production each year. One of the advantages of smart farming systems is that they can be implemented throughout the supply chain. From field to fork, farmers can ensure that certain benchmarks are met around production, storage, and transport to prevent losses.
Prevent loss and theft – and aid recoverability
COVID-19 saw a spike in rural crime in the UK. In general, the high value of farming equipment and remoteness of location make farms a target for criminals. This demands daily vigilance – something which is easily achieved with smart farm technology. Smarter Technologies Group’s smart farming solutions give a full-farm view, so you can keep an eye on your operations at all times and react to alerts in real time. This includes access control, fence line and gate monitoring in multiple locations, door and window monitoring, and vehicle and equipment tracking. With real-time data insights on the status and location of your most valuable assets, smart technologies are highly effective in aiding recoverability, preventing losses, and apprehending those responsible. This also serves to prevent operational disruption and related profit losses.
Devise optimal maintenance schedules
Maintenance not only keeps your equipment running – and running at its best – but prevents operational downtime. It also has an effect on energy consumption, efficiencies, emissions, and workplace safety. This makes designing the perfect maintenance schedule a fundamental farm task. Smart farm technologies give farmers the data they need to schedule preventative and reactionary maintenance to key machinery.
Increased productivity. Reduced cost.
Farming technology has the potential to inspire worker and machine productivity. This helps to maintain farming operations at an optimal level and, in many cases, has the effect of reducing cost. Alongside critical, strategic, informed decision-making, this cost-saving puts farmers in a position to invest in infrastructure and technology for sustainability.
Use smart technologies for sustainable farming methods
Smarter Technologies Group works with farmers to devise smart agricultural solutions tailored to every farmer’s unique operations.
Contact Smarter Technologies Group today to find out more about our range of smart agricultural solutions for more sustainable farming.
Frequently Asked Questions: Sustainable Farming
What is sustainable farming?
Sustainable farming is farming practices that utilise available resources to meet today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. This goes in-hand with resource efficiency and environmental impact.
How is organic farming sustainable?
In general, with reduced reliance on chemicals, organic farming preserves soil and water health, generates less pollution and emissions. Organic farming is also sustainable in that it promotes biodiversity, genetic diversity, and improved soil quality.
What are the benefits of sustainable farming?
The many benefits of sustainable farming include environmental advantages to safeguard the interests of future generations. This includes preserved water, reduced pollution, increased soil quality, a reduction in some operation costs, prevention of soil erosion and air pollution to name a few. This, in turn, results in improved human health and improved food security and social equality.
What are sustainable farming practices?
Sustainable farming methods use resources today without impacting the ability of future generations to do the same. Some examples of sustainable farming practices include smart farming, crop rotation, no-till and conservation agriculture, cover cropping, crop diversification, and methods that closely adhere to natural ecological cycles.