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.
We broke the mega trends down to five key categories. Here are the mega trends for conservation agriculture:
According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, in just five years cover crop plantings surged by 50% to 15.4 million acres in the U.S. In eight states, many in the heart of the corn belt, cover crop plantings grew by more than 100% from 2012 to 2017. That trend, maybe as high as 40 million acres, is forecast to continue as soil health, nutrient management and carbon sequestration efforts continue to incentivize the practice.
“Agriculture is the only industry that can prove it can sequester more carbon than what Mother Nature's already sequestering,” says Lowell Catlett, futurist, economist and former dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University.
Cover crops and keeping a crop always growing on the nation’s farmland is one way to pull carbon (CO2) from the atmosphere. In the next decade, more private companies or even government incentive programs are expected to arrive, ready to pay farmers for keeping that carbon locked in the soil.
“We already have people that are looking at buying carbon credits and more will emerge and create even bigger markets,” says Catlett.
Estimates already put the global CO2 market at more than $160 billion dollars as more businesses and countries look to offset emissions with tangible sequestration methods.
Farming above ground may soon get just as much attention as what’s happening below ground. New discoveries are finding that microbes, like bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa, have real potential for major breakthroughs in agriculture.
“I call it subterranean agriculture,” says Catlett. “We're going to manage below the surface just as much as above it thanks to the growing interests in the microbe arena.”
According to Markets and Markets Research, the agricultural microbial market will be worth $6 billion by 2022.
If precision agriculture claimed its crown from 2010 to 2020, Hyper-Precision is going to win the title in the next decade. The idea is to maximize profits in every inch of the operation by only using the exact resources the crop needs for maximum yield.
“This is optimized farming seed by seed,” says Agricultural Futurist Jack Uldrich. “Every single seed planted at its optimum depth, how much water does the plant really need and what inputs does it absolutely need and still increase yield.”
The global precision farming market is expected to be worth roughly $10 billion by mid-decade. Experts say combining that kind of investment with advances in technology, data handling and artificial intelligence will only spur relentless innovation. New GPS satellites are set to come online this decade that are three times more accurate and provide a more reliable signal.
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.