Predictions for the decade ahead
The final day of the Produce Marketing Association Tech Knowledge conference concluded with what makes these kinds of events so stimulating: predictions about the future.
To be more specific, a panel of growers and other industry leaders looked ahead to what the farm of the next decade might look like.
Here are a few of the developments to keep an eye on:
–In two years, big data will dominate how farming operations take place.
–In five years, vertical and urban agriculture will come to maturity. These kinds of agriculture already hold great promise in developing economies but will also find a home in the United States.
–In 10 years, biotechnology will be generally accepted and will be a common practice in agriculture. Despite the present-day naysayers, biotech will advance in its efficiency and be understood as the best technology available to feed the growing numbers of people on the planet.
–There will be more mechanization, a trend that is already underway with drones and robots. The next step is satellite technology. One of the presentations on the first day of the conference noted that satellites would be used to harvest solar energy and send it down to energy consumers on Earth.
–Growers will be looking at new uses for plants other than traditional produce. They will be looking at other ways to use plant material and other markets for these new products. These alternative uses may not be the primary source of income, but should provide incremental returns to growers.
–The convergence of emerging technologies will squeeze the inefficiency out of everything done on the farm.
–Consumers and government regulators will demand transparency of information.
–Careers in agriculture will be more alluring to college graduates as ag becomes more technology-intense. I had lunch with a recent college graduate working with a large produce operation. His degree is in accounting, but he’s putting it to work rooting out inefficiencies, tackling food safety and traceability tasks for his employer.
In a world that is sure to be even more hot, flat and crowded (to borrow the title of Thomas Friedman’s book), agricultural technology shows every promise of doing what it has done before: turning scarcity into abundance.