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Agriculture 4.0 Is Helping Farmers Do More With Less

The fourth agricultural revolution promises to grow more food on less land while feeding more people.

With cornstalks swaying on a gentle breeze and cattle in quiet contemplation of the cud, a farm would not seem to be a hotbed of revolution.

But make no mistake, agriculture is squarely in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution. Emergent, game-changing technologies are driving economic, environmental, and social change in the global food system.

And in the face of rising hunger, populations and a changing climate, everyone from policymakers to billionaires is paying attention.

The United States’ Association of Equipment Manufacturers published a study in February 2022 investigating how new technologies might help farmers do more with less.

On average, new technology triallers achieved a 4 per cent increase in crop production, 7 per cent reduction in fertiliser use, 9 per cent reduction in herbicide use, 6 per cent reduction in fossil fuel use, and 4 per cent reduction in water use.

Farmers are applying Internet of Things (IoT) technology to track crops remotely, using sensors to detect weed growth, water levels and pest invasion. And we’re not only seeing this on traditional farmlands. 

Farm66, located inside a Hong Kong skyscraper, is using IoT to help manage a 2,000-square-metre indoor farm. The IoT-enabled agricultural industry is estimated to reach US$4.5 billion by 2025.

In China, drones are being used to survey 20 million hectares of cotton, providing insights into pest protection, fertiliser and herbicide application, irrigation, and harvest timing to drive productivity.

Meanwhile, AI and machine learning are being deployed across Australia’s changeable environment to predict weather conditions, temperature, water usage and soil conditions.

Big Data has enormous potential to radicalise the industry by reducing future variables and uncertainty. Relying on cloud computing to analyse massive data sets, farmers are able to closely monitor environmental conditions in real-time.

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