Over the past years, the agricultural sector has been evolving tremendously in regards to increased automation, increased productivity rates, as well as increased use/better quality fertilizers and seedlings leading to more efficient cultivation of land. With technology at the center of it all, the agricultural sector is slowly finding ways to incorporate technology into its system.
Sustainable agricultural technology or, “AgTech,” as it is simply referred to, is the current emerging economic sector that has proven to have the potential of reshaping agriculture globally by dramatically increasing the productivity of the agriculture system while reducing the environmental and social costs of current production practices.
Given the current population rate and high demand for food, AgTech innovations are absolutely essential in addressing this demand. According to Plug and Play, there are currently six major AgTech innovative trends that are being adopted with the aim of shaping the future of farming and agribusiness. They include: Indoor vertical farming, modern greenhouses, livestock farming technology, farm automation, block chain and artificial intelligence.
Indoor vertical farming
Indoor vertical farming allows farmers to grow their produce in a closed and controlled environment by using shelves mounted vertically. Compared to traditional farming methods, it takes up significantly less land and is often associated with city and urban farming. With a reduced supply distribution chain, food gets to the consumer’s table faster and fresher while also reducing its carbon footprint on the planet. Here in Kenya, it is a trend that is quickly catching on, with organisations such as Hydroponics Africa being pioneers of hydroponic technology in East and Central Africa with the support of organisations such as Kenya Climate Ventures.
These days, smart systems are enabling greenhouses to grow crops faster, more efficiently, more sustainably and in almost every external condition. They are increasingly emerging in large-scale and urban centered given that the market has developed in the recent years. To meet the current market demands, they are also capital-infused through venture funding and other sources to build out the necessary infrastructure.
Livestock farming technology
Livestock technology has the ability to enhance and improve the productivity capacity, welfare and management of animals and livestock. Plug and Play states that new developments in the past 8-10 years have made huge improvements to the industry that make tracking and managing livestock much easier and data-driven. It is also important to note that data-driven decision making leads to more efficient and timely decisions that increases the productivity of livestock.
Farming automation popularly known as smart farming is a variety of tech innovations in traditional farming to optimize the food production process and improve quality. Currently, advanced farming technology is an essential part of the farmers daily work. Most companies are now working on robotics innovations such as drones, autonomous tractors and robotic harvesters , with the aim of scaling up farming methods. These innovations are key to easing up the farmer’s work, help in increasing the yield and reduce the use of pesticides by 90% in the long run.
Block chain technology in agriculture allows the traceability of information in the food supply chain thus improving food safety. It provides a secure way of saving ad managing data, which facilitates the development and use of data driven innovations or smart farming. Its structure ensures that everyone along the food value chain is able to generate and securely share data points to create an accountable and traceable system.
Digital agriculture has the potential to make agriculture more productive and consistent as well as to use time and resources more efficiently. Technologies such as sensors, satellites, Unmanned Aviation Systems (UAS), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics have the ability to gather information 24 hours per day over an entire field. In return, they monitor soil condition, temperature, humidity and plant health. This helps farmers have a better understanding of what is going on the ground more accurately and in real time therefore enabling them to take action and make decisions more effectively.