How Renewable Energy and Smart Farming Could Transform Our Food Systems
With populations on the rise across the globe and climate change an ever-growing issue, sustainability is now more critical than ever. Population growth means more resources are used, more waste is produced, and more carbon emissions get released into the atmosphere. And overall, this means more pollution.
Furthermore, something not as many people think about when it comes to rising populations, and climate change is the need for better agricultural systems. More people means more mouths to feed, but currently, a lot of farming and agricultural processes are unsustainable.
The amount of water, energy, and other resources used for farming and agriculture is a major concern. And if we keep using these things at our current rate, we will not be able to sustain our economies and support the billions of people living on the planet. The earth is not infinite and unlimited, and the things we are using up will eventually run out, and the environmental damage we are causing will eventually be irreversible.
Luckily, with advances in technology, there is a brighter and better future in sight for the agricultural industry. Things like smart farming and renewable energy could be the answer to some of the biggest issues facing our modern society and food supply concerns.
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Smart farming, like many things today that use the word “smart,” refers to the use of technology to digitize and optimize its processes. With smart farming specifically, it means using various software, tools, and other technologies to improve agricultural output and reduce the need for as many resources. It also minimizes how much human labor is required.
Agriculture and farming are physically demanding industries, and there is only so much a human person can do. Human labor is no longer enough with how much stress is being put on the farming industry to increase output to meet the demands of a growing population.
So, with smart farming, we can not only be more efficient with our use of resources, but we can also increase output by using technologies that allow us to do more than what human labor alone ever could.
There are six main areas or technologies that make up smart farming:
- Sensing technologies
- Software applications
- Communications systems
- Telematics and positioning technologies
- Data analytics
All of these various systems and technologies can be used to enhance and optimize the many processes and operations involved in farming and agriculture.
There are numerous applications of technology being used today in the agriculture industry. IoT, or the Internet of Things, for example, is one of the latest trends in technology that is benefiting farming and agriculture in a variety of ways.
If you are unfamiliar, IoT is essentially a term used to describe a network of physical objects or devices— “things”—that are all connected through the internet using things like embedded sensors and software. And smart farming is harnessing this tech by using a range of IoT technologies or devices to optimize agricultural operations.
With the right internet network, farmers and other agricultural professionals can harness the full power of IoT tech to benefit them in so many ways. Some of the many applications of IoT technologies in farming and agriculture include:
Precision farming is somewhat of an all-encompassing term for the many applications of IoT that are being used to optimize farming processes. Already, various IoT technologies are being used to monitor soil and crop health, water usage, and equipment, to geolocate livestock and monitor their nutritional needs to prevent disease and enrich their health and collect data to make statistical predictions about crops and livestock.
IoT-driven smart greenhouses are also radically changing the agricultural industry. With traditional greenhouses, you rely on human or manual management and intervention to create a controlled and optimal growing environment—but humans aren’t perfect. Thus, traditional greenhouses often experience production and energy losses, and cost more to run due to human error.
With smart greenhouses, however, everything can be controlled digitally using various IoT technologies, which means everything runs more efficiently. Smart devices can use machine learning to intelligently monitor things like lighting, irrigation, temperature, humidity, and more to create optimal growing conditions. Devices are also used to store data, which can then be analyzed to make adjustments as needed to further optimize processes going forward.
Drones driven by IoT tech are another invaluable agricultural tool. Farmers can use them to assess crop health, monitor irrigation and crop spraying, survey their land, and perform an overall analysis of their fields and crops. Drones also provide a vast array of metrics and data using thermal, visual, and multispectral imaging.
Existing tech and smart farming, such as IoT technologies, are already drastically changing the agricultural industry. But renewable energy and resource systems as well have been having a positive impact for years now.
Rainwater harvesting, for example, allows farmers to consume less from the local water supply by making use of water that is collected in storage tanks when it rains. And renewable energy production using wind, hydro, and solar power allows farmers to power their farms without consuming non-renewable resources, such as coal.
Solar farms have been incredibly useful in reducing the need for fossil fuels, which not only helps reduce the need for non-renewables, but it also reduces carbon emissions that traditionally get released into the atmosphere when fuel is burned.
And vertical farming, which is another smart farming technique that has been around for years, is also now helping to change the industry with the aid of newer technologies. With vertical farming, crops can be grown in larger amounts by making better use of space and growing vertically rather than in traditional, horizontal rows.
All of these current technologies combined with smart, renewable energy systems are starting to make farming, and thus food production, easier and more efficient. There are also countless technologies and smart systems underway that have yet to hit the market—crop picking robots, the Internet of Food, Third Green Revolution—that will only continue to enhance the agricultural industry.
We are only just seeing the beginning of what is possible, which means the future of farming will likely have a significant impact on our economies and sustainability as a whole.