05 May 2022, Ireland: Over the next 40-50 years, the world will need to grow the same amount of food as in the last 10,000 years combined to feed everyone on Earth. That equates to 70% more food worldwide. We cannot meet this goal without sustainability and innovation. The need to support sustainable global food production is the result of not just one, but several factors.
Population growth is the biggest factor. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), it would take 1.6 Earths to produce all the renewable resources we use. And worse, the human population is expected to use the equivalent of two Earths of renewable resources per year by 2050. In addition, the climate is changing and impacting everything from the availability of water to the destruction of land, and supply chains are still feeling the effects of Covid-related disruptions.
New Heroes of the Sustainability Movement: Farmers
Although sustainability efforts from industries such as energy and transportation hold promise to reduce our carbon footprint, they are still years away from creating long term impacts. One industry however – farming – is poised to make an impact now with the right solutions. Advancements in precision agriculture and innovations in technology are enabling farmers to be the heroes of the sustainability story, they may just not know it yet.
The “green revolution” of the 1970s brought about new crop protection products, increased mechanization and major productivity enhancements that fueled the agriculture industry for many years to follow. Now, more than half a century later, advancements have started to plateau, primarily because innovation there has not kept pace with population growth and ultimately the growing demand for food.
There are several challenges facing farmers today which demand an innovative approach to overcome. First, there is higher global demand for food production coupled with more scarce and costly resources. Climate change, new regulations and supply chain disruptions are also contributing to the lack of accessibility to fresh, quality food and land has become more expensive. This means farmers need to do more with less. Embracing innovative ideas and sustainable practices will help farmers in their pursuit to feed the world, earn a profit and set the farming industry up for success when it comes to addressing these challenges.
Precision Agriculture Sparks New Wave of Innovation
Fortunately, technology now exists that can help solve these ongoing challenges. For example, precision agriculture solutions allow farmers to decrease the amount of water needed for crops and, at the same time, enable them to capture carbon in the soil, thereby reducing the degradation of the environment. Today, 70% of all conventional spray does not reach the target weed and/or crop and results in drift and runoff, wasting countless dollars.
Fate Sparrow, a farmer in Lilly, Georgia, implemented new spraying technology that uses MagrowTec’s patented and innovative Magnetic Assist Technology to change the fluid properties as it moves through the sprayer to reduce drift and improve plant contact. As a result, he was able to reduce his chemical output by more than 33%, and, at the same time, increase the number of acres he covered from 500 to between 800 – 1,000 per day.
He also reduced his water usage, needed one less expensive sprayer, greatly-reduced his labor requirements, had no downtime as there is little or no maintenance with the technology.
Delivering products such as pesticides on target to minimize waste leads to better efficacy and disease control, higher yields, and less chemical and water usage.
In addition, fewer errors, less time, more accuracy, and better yields all translate to better productivity and a greater return on investment. This type of precision agriculture technology delivers optimal plant protection helping farmers be more profitable and sustainable, and with this savings, they can invest in machinery, labor, and other needs. There is a third way, i.e., they no longer need to compromise between profitability and sustainability. This creates a win-win for the farmer, dealer, consumer and of course the planet.
Industry Collaboration is Win-Win for Farmers and the Environment
To reap all the benefits of this new wave of innovation, there needs to be collaboration between governments, big corporations, small and large farmers, landowners, and technology companies. Governments around the world have launched new carbon footprint initiatives to meet carbon net zero targets, but without financial support in the form of grants or low interest loans, it will be difficult for farmers to access this innovative technology at the scale needed to meet food demand.
Farmers today are inundated with companies offering the next big thing, but they also need better access to testing and data to be able to discern where the most impactful opportunities lie. The agriculture industry and its surrounding ecosystem need to help develop test centers and ways to independently evaluate technology so that farmers don’t waste their time and money on products that don’t deliver.
A solid partner ecosystem is important to sustain growth and success in the ever-changing world of agriculture technology. Partners bring key industry expertise as well as geographical coverage, thereby helping growers around the world take full advantage of the power of technology.
Despite the current challenges facing the farm industry, sustainability and innovation are critical to ensure the health of the global food production system for the long-term. Now, let’s help farmers everywhere in our collective quest to support the sustainable intensification of global food production.