Innovation in Agriculture and Smart Farming Technologies for Sustainable Agricultural Development

Innovation in agriculture is critical to accomplishing long-term food security and increasing productivity. Smart farming technologies for sustainable agricultural development are already a key driver in innovation and tech in agriculture.

According to Baron Trees, “We’re on the cusp of a new revolution in agriculture on the scale of the industrial revolution.” From full-scale automation to precision farming methods, the future of farming is set to look quite different to traditional approaches. What can farmers expect and what technologies help in sustainable agriculture?

Entering the smart green revolution

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 going to require an increase in meat and 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 to farming today: a quick view

These are a few of the issues around food security and production that 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

What is driving innovation in agriculture?

The Growing Need For Food Production Efficiencies

How is smart agriculture sustainable? Data insights are a vehicle for increased yields, optimal resource usage, and minimised waste. How we produce our food is an essential consideration today and into the future. Increased food demand and production challenges mean the industry is primed to be streamlined for enhanced sustainability and increased yields. Tim Mordan at Defra has said that agriculture is three times less efficient than other sectors of the UK economy. A £24 million package by government to boost agritech is indicative of the need for change – and government’s support of new technologies. It also aims to act as a buffer for food security in the UK around climate change and population growth concerns.

Vital Climate Change Concerns

Climate change is fundamental to sustainable food production. The erratic weather patterns caused by climate change affect growing seasons, resource availability, and – ultimately – crop productivity. Add soil erosion and declining biodiversity, as well as a burgeoning green-minded consumer populace and it becomes clear that traditional operations require an overhaul to come up with sustainable processes, meet governmental and consumer expectations, and remain viable.

It is anticipated that technology innovation in agriculture holds the key to green diversification. Central to this are farming processes that require reduced inputs and resources and increased yields and minimised emissions.

Smart farming technologies for sustainable agricultural development form a comprehensive technology toolkit for farmers to view full-scale farming operations in precise detail. This provides an accurate, data-based guide upon which farmers can, firstly, understand their current operations and, thereafter, strategise to change, improve, and boost productivity. This lays the groundwork for exciting opportunities around AI and automation.

Worries Around Food Security

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation has said food production will need to increase by 70% by 2050 if we are expected to feed a growing global population. When it comes to meat production, the World Health Organisation has estimated that meat production needs to increase to 376 million tonnes by 2030.

Multifaceted challenges exist on this front. These challenges include ever-reducing arable land and limited resources. Increasing levels of carbon dioxide also affects the nutritional value of grains, tubers, and legumes. This means we have the added concern of not only quantity, but nutritional value of the food we produce into the future. 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.

In hand with climate change commitments for 2050, farmers are going to need to pivot dramatically from traditional methodologies to increase production at the required rate. Additionally, urbanisation is expected to reach 70% by 2050, which underscores the need for accelerated changes for smart farming technologies for profitability and sustainability. These are challenges that need to be addressed today for the good of tomorrow.

Consistency Around Labour

COVID-19 saw many disruptions to the global food supply chain.  Lockdowns highlighted the dependence on foreign labour by farmers in the United Kingdom. The enduring issues associated with foreign labour and labour inconsistency have also been highlighted by Brexit. In America, COVID-19 evidenced a similar issue. Additionally, labour’s shift away from agriculture means farmers are struggling to secure a seasonal workforce.

Around the world, farmers are embracing smart farming technologies as a solution to their labour issues. Many have been inspired to integrate automation to combat the shortcomings of manual labour processes. Smart technology innovation in agriculture also empowers farmers to optimise their operations to ensure workers are working as efficiently and productively as possible.

With benefits around increased capacity, lower overheads, and streamlined supply chains, this is one of the major areas affected by innovations in agriculture. It also stands to be the most affected by AI farming innovation. Another knock-on effect of the inclusion of technology innovation in agriculture is the potential to attract, develop, and retain talent. It can also assist in retaining existing staff – giving workers a data-driven understanding of performance and improvement so that they can work to their best potential.

At a logistics level, the recent truck driver shortage experienced in the UK is another area that demands enhanced efficiency to keep supply chains sufficiently mobilised. This is another area in which smart technology harnesses the power of data to ensure the smooth running of supply chains from farm to fork.

Smart Farm Security

In 2021, NFU Mutual reported that over £9 million in agricultural vehicle thefts were reported, while the total value attributed to rural crime in the UK was £43.3 million for the reporting period.

This affects productivity, requiring downtime in the wait to replace lost equipment, lost resources, raised insurance premiums, and interrupted operations. New innovation in agriculture smart security systems from Smarter Technologies Group includes a range of data-based tools around alert and response for farmers in response to crime.

Powered by the Internet of Things, data is transmitted to a remotely accessible dashboard. Sensors, tags, pressure pads, and gateways collect data across multi-location and remote areas. The system alerts farmers in real-time to undesirable changes when it comes to unauthorised access, electric fence failure, gate status, door and window opening, storage levels for things like fuel and feed, and even footfall. They can also be used to monitor and locate high-value equipment, vehicles, and machinery.

A full farm view – anytime, from anywhere

These smart technologies are powered by the Internet of Things. They communicate data to remote dashboards over Orion, The Real-Time Data Network. This means farmers get a comprehensive view of their farming operations, even over multiple locations 365 days a year, 7 days a week. The data is collected in real time and alerts can be set to notify farmers and farm managers of changes outside of the norm, inspiring meaningful reaction across customisable metrics. This empowers farmers to calculate resources, reduce wastage, and increase yields for high levels of productivity.

Smart farming technologies for profitability and sustainability in action: The benefits

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. Some of the benefits and features include:

Sensor feeds

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.

Minimised inputs

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.

Happier consumers

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.

Smart farming technologies for sustainable agricultural development: 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.

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.

Full supply chain effect

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

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. 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.

Optimal maintenance schedules

Maintenance not only keeps your equipment running – and running at its best – but prevents operational downtime. It also affects 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.

Smart farming technologies for sustainable agricultural development from Smarter Technologies Group

What are the new technologies in agriculture? Smarter Technologies Group’s smart farm solutions are informing data-inspired management for precision farming. This system of tags, sensors, pressure pads, and gateways is easily integrated into existing systems.

The reporting capabilities of these smart agricultural innovations is extensive, collecting data insights on everything from temperature and atmospheric conditions and gas and smoke detection to moisture levels, movement, and inventory management. Aside from the alert functionality, the ability to collect, analyse, and strategise around actual daily data is a long-term tool for productivity enhancements. Contact Smarter Technologies Group for more information today