On the cusp of a tech revolution (Editorial)
Technology has been part of agriculture since the first plow went in the ground but, here lately, advancements have farming on the cusp of a technological revolution.
This is the fourth such revolution, say Drs. David Rose and Jason Chilvers, in a recent journal article; the first three marked by transitioning from hunting and gathering food to settled agriculture, mechanization resulting from the Industrial Revolution and the post World War II “green revolution” in the developing world.
This “Agriculture 4.0” as it’s been coined will play an important role in simultaneously increasing agriculture’s production and sustainability.
Increased production addresses food insecurity, robotic technology can compensate for labor shortages and “precision agriculture, in combination with more productive crop varieties/livestock and the use of decision support systems to foster evidence-based decision-making can lead to the smarter use of inputs with greater rewards,” Rose and Chilvers, two researchers at the United Kingdom’s University of East Anglia write.
But they also urge caution as new technology hits the market and is implemented on farms.
Each of the previous revolutions in agriculture came with their own controversies, some that remain lightning rod issues between an impressionable and often naive public and shrinking farm community.
“In light of controversial agri-tech precedents, it is beyond doubt that smart farming is going to cause similar controversy. Robotics and (artificial intelligence) could cause job losses or change the nature of farming in ways that are undesirable to some farmers. Others might be left behind by technological advancement, while wider society might not like how food is being produced,” said Rose.
“In the context of the fourth agri-tech revolution, responsible innovation would mean anticipating impacts at all scales: On-farm, across farming landscapes, throughout the food chain, as well as considering effects on rural communities and publics as a whole,” the researchers write.
They put it more plainly elsewhere in the article: “We should ask what the direction of travel is, and whether we want to go there as a society.”
Getting a society to reach a consensus on just about anything is a tall order. The more likely outcome is for the wider public to continue using its purchasing power to move food companies and farmers on how food is grown.
The popularity of Certified Organic food has grown every year and farmers answered.
Locally grown crops have seen similar demand, especially in the Mid-Atlantic region, and farmers have answered.
With limited resources from land to labor, innovation will have to be part of farming, just as it has been for centuries, to continue the progress of civilization. The wider public will have input on agricultural production and innovation. Farmers will continue to act responsibly with their land and crops.
And while innovators are asked to consider the public and societal impact of new technology, we ask the wider public to consider the impact of their choices on the farmer.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925