Following a decade with the introduction of societal shifters like the smart phone and rapid expansion of social media, 2020 could be the starting block for the fastest technological race in agricultural history. Combining big data with cutting edge science, artificial intelligence and cloud connected technology has the potential revolutionize farming in ways only dreamed up in movies. We asked three farm futurists for their predictions for the next decade.
As more of world comes online the amount of data being created is mind blowing. One research group says at the current pace there are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created every day. In fact, most of the data in the world has been created just in the last few years.
“I've been trying to get agriculture to recognize that the people that make money off data are the ones that aggregate it,” says Catlett. “It’s not the ones that freely give it away.”
Real value is already being created as companies, organizations and government’s pool producer data into groups and then mine that information for trends and forecasting. It’s being driven by increasing connectivity, new sensor technology, the internet of things, block chain and artificial intelligence.
We broke the mega trends down to five key categories. Here are the mega trends for connected data:
5G/More Connected Globe
Even though the internet has been around for decades now, more than 40% of the world is yet to get online. As investment pours in for rural broadband and 5G deployment new opportunities will arise for America’s connected farms.
“A lot of baby boomers struggle with tech but in about 10 years many of them won’t be running the family farm,” says Agricultural Futurist Jim Carroll. “The person who's running the family farm will be the kid who's never known a world without technology, without the internet, an iPhone or an Android.”
New sophisticated sensors are helping monitor and manage livestock and crops. Real time monitoring of NPK, plant moisture, evaporation, nutrient levels or even things like THC concentrations in hemp are all possible today.
David Hanson, a biology professor at the University of New Mexico has been attaching tiny, needle-sized sensors to plant leaves that monitor the fluid between cells. He hopes one day to be able to give a plant only as much water as it needs.
"Our system is continuously monitoring every minute to tell you if the plant is happy, is it beginning to get a little unhappy and has it has it seen some really serious stress,” says Hanson. “This is happening all before you'd ever see anything [visually] different.”
Internet of Things/ Block Chain
There may be 4.4 billion people online but connected devices like TV’s, smart watches and refrigerators are driving the online community higher every day. By mid-decade connected devices are expected to top 75 billion.
“We're going to go from billions of things connected to the internet, like our tractors and our smartphones, to in the next decade, it will be cows, cattle, bales of hay, sensors in fields, sensors on farms that all get connected to the internet,” says Uldrich. “We’ll go from a billion to a trillion devices.”
Those connections and that data will need its own language and tracking. The emergence of block chain technology will help keep it all sorted and manageable.
“I think what I get really excited about block chain technology is that it’s going to allow farmers to safely share their data with other farmers and even collectively in a cooperative,” says Uldrich.
As data floods in, sorting, organizing and analyzing that information is increasingly being left to computers. Artificial intelligence is already being employed by companies to find patterns and insights from billions of data points that otherwise might be lost to the thumb drives and SD cards of the world’s desks.
“No human can make sense of all of this data,” says Uldrich. “Things like artificial intelligence, deep learning, and machine learning algorithms are going to help farmers sift through all of this data to come to really powerful insights that will help them increase efficiency, productivity and yields.”
Companies like Bayer are already employing these systems to help with on farm seed selection while IBM is using it for insights into weather prediction.
Meet our Experts
Dr. Lowell Catlett, Ph.D. is a former Regents Professor in Agricultural Economics and the Dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University. He retired in 2015 and spends time speaking about the future from an agricultural perspective.
Jack Uldrich is a popular author and speaker around the country. One of his core presentation focuses on the future of farming, deciphering trends and challenging his audiences to survive and thrive in an era of unparalleled change. In 2012, he published a book on the trends to watch in 2020.
For the past 25 years Jim Carroll has spent his time focusing on the future from a global stage. He’s a speaker and a leading trends and transformation expert. He has shared his insights with some of the world’s largest companies and leaders regarding the future and how to manage during times of uncertainty.