19 September 2022, USA: The food industry isn’t short of challenges right now. Growers face rising fertilizer prices and the effects of climate change, while food providers are dealing with increased transportation costs and low consumer sentiment.
Thankfully, innovators have developed a range of solutions to combat these difficulties and bring agriculture into the 21st century. These four are firmly on our radar …
Humans have been mechanizing agriculture for centuries, but recent advances are particularly sophisticated. One exciting development is the advent of “grippers” – advanced robotics that can pick up and hold food like a human hand. For packaging materials that need to be folded sharply, fruit picking and other manual work, grippers are set to revolutionize the industry.
2. The Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT is infiltrating almost every sector – and agriculture is no exception. By integrating sensors, drones, satellite imaging and intelligence-based autonomous systems, farmers can obtain more granular insights than ever before – and use this information to grow food more efficiently and sustainably.
For example, farms can use sensors to detect nitrogen levels in crops, and combine this with satellite data to produce a variable rate application (VRA) map. This can be uploaded to a smart tractor, which then automatically disperses fertilizer according to the varying nitrogen levels across the field.
3. Sustainable Food and Packaging
With agriculture making up 11% of GHG emissions, scientists have been looking for sustainable alternatives – especially when it comes to proteins. Some companies have developed plant-based proteins that mimic the properties of traditional meat, while others are working to perfect lab-grown meat.
Mycoproteins (protein from mushrooms) can also be used to make meat substitutes.
What’s more, our fungal friends are the basis for a new type of packaging. This uses 12% of the energy consumed in plastic production and emits 90% less carbon dioxide. Crucially, the product also decomposes within 30-90 days.
4. AI-driven vertical farming
Vertical farming is growing! The market is set expand by 25.2% annually this decade. In this exciting new field, innovative companies are deploying artificial intelligence to streamline the growing process. This high-tech approach allows 40% more plants per growing area, saves up to 95% of the water used by traditional processes, and has a 30-40% higher growth rate.
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