Using tech to feed the nation

Simple Cyber: BunduNetworX

By Dewald Smit and Dee During

By 2050, the world’s farmers will have 9.8 billion people to feed. Simply put, traditional farming methods are not sufficient to feed a growing world population. In South Africa alone, floods, droughts and other phenomena linked to climate change are making it even more difficult for farmers to produce enough food.

Although it cannot work in isolation to solve the problem, technology certainly has a role to play in securing the future of food. As the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) dawns, farmers need to make use of its interconnected technologies to transform the way they farm.

Here are some of the ways in which farmers can use technology to implement more efficient and sustainable agricultural practices:

SMART FARMING: Smart farming incorporates technologies such as geographic information systems, GPS, remote sensing technologies, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things (IoT) and big data. Here’s an example of how it works:
1 Sensor technology and other kinds of agricultural devices and equipment analyse conditions of the soil, animals and the weather (such as animal health, soil nutrients, soil moisture, crop health, water levels and climatic data).
2 This real-time data is fed into a centralised data-capture and analysis system.
3 AI systems process this data and make autonomous decisions to improve efficiency then and there. For example, releasing the required chemicals, nutrients or seeds to crops by machinery in the field.

Drones are used for remote sensing, surveying and assessing. They can also be used for the precision application of pesticides. Picture: Jonathan Lampel/Unsplash

DRONE TECHNOLOGY: Drones are becoming more and more popular for remote sensing, surveying and assessing. They can also be used for the precision application of pesticides to crops.

ROBOTICS: Using robots for tedious operational tasks can help farmers maximise efficiencies and use their human resources more effectively. In an ideal situation, these robots will be controlled by AI to further reduce the need for human time and intervention.

Tasks that lend themselves well to automation include planting and packing. For example, a robot can easily identify ripe berries and harvest them without damaging the crop.

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Main picture: Gabriel Jimenez/Unsplash