Land available for farming is shrinking, and the demand for food is growing. As a result, agriculture and food distribution will need to find new, more efficient means to produce and deliver food. New technology in IoT and advances in smart agriculture – like GOLEM and KRAKEN – might still make it possible to meet the growing demand for food.
Indoor Agriculture: A Growing Trend
One proposed solution to food shortage, especially in urban areas, is indoor agriculture. Several companies are pioneering the idea of growing food — mostly leafy greens — indoors using a combination of high-efficiency bulbs, temperature control, and humidifiers to create ideal growing conditions year-round. While this type of growing uses more energy than traditional outdoor agriculture, it avoids the challenges of weather, drought, and disease that plague outdoor farms. Indoor farms can predictably produce high yields, even in the dead of winter.
These indoor farms usually take the form of vertical farming. This means that the farms involve plant beds stacked atop one another in a shelving system. Each shelf gets its own lighting, and IoT devices like moisture sensors and thermometers notify the farm’s staff about conditions that are outside the ideal growing conditions. High density countries like Japan and Singapore are already seeing great success with indoor farms. However, not all plants grow well indoors, and larger plants like grains and vegetables require more space, making them economically unfeasible for indoor agriculture right now.
Smart Outdoor Agriculture
The traditional farm has changed dramatically over the past 100 years. At the turn of the 20th century in the United States, the majority of the population worked in agriculture. Today, less than 2% of the country works on a farm. Technology has driven the change in demand for human labor. Bioengineered crops, new fertilizers and pesticides, and high-tech machinery have made higher yields and larger farms possible.
Over the next 50 years, as the need for food continues to grow, new advances in agriculture will come from bioengineering and IoT. Cameras and sensors will allow farmers to monitor their farms with greater accuracy and plan how to maximize yields. Soon, smart farms could become almost completely automated, with a handful of people monitoring autonomous tractors and irrigation systems that plant and maintain hundreds of acres of bioengineered crops. These advances will be necessary in order to reach the 70% increase in production required by 2050.