Even in our modern world, farming remains a core industry. Human beings engaged in agribusiness are working day and night to increase crop yield and livestock growth. Mixed reality (MR) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies represent some of the latest and most exciting avenues these agribusiness innovators are pursuing to transform classical farming into smart farming. The new term "mixed reality" (or "hybrid reality") is becoming more popular these days. It refers to the layering on of digital or simulated information onto the real world: a mixing of "real" reality and "virtual" reality, leading to one "mixed" or "hybrid" reality.
The world's human population currently stands at around 7.6 billion and is projected to reach 11.2 billion by 2100. We will therefore need a food production and distribution system that can accommodate another 3.6 billion people--ideally while consuming as little additional land and leaving as small an environmental footprint as possible, in order to maintain vital ecosystem services and conserve Earth's remaining wildlife. That's clearly a challenge given that around half of the world's habitable land is under agriculture of some kind--with a high proportion of this used for livestock farming (Figure A). Figure A (click to see a larger version). Percentages are based on 2014 figures. In a widely reported recent study, Poore and Nemecek (2018) note that a shift away from meat and dairy consumption would go a long way towards relieving pressure on agricultural land and reducing environmental impact: "Meat, aquaculture, eggs, and dairy use 83% of the world's farmland and contribute 56 to 58% of food's different emissions, despite providing only 37% of our protein and 18% of our calories." Moving to a diet that excludes animal products, say the study's authors, could reclaim 3.1 billion hectares of global farmland (a 76% reduction), while reducing food's greenhouse gas emissions by 6.6 billion metric tons of CO2eq (a 49% reduction), among other environmental benefits. Of course, it will take time to effect a major shift in dietary preferences--primarily in developed countries--and global land use patterns, although emerging technologies like lab-grown meat may have an increasingly important role to play here.
As you may read from our first article farming robots are shaping agriculture and will feed humans of the future. Economics will demand a leap from theoretical concept of artificial intelligence to its practical application in agriculture, many experts suggest. But this process has already begun and is irreversible. Automated irrigation systems, crop health monitoring, face recognition systems for domestic cattle, CBR systems for fishing industry and many others are clear examples of how AI can be the Holy Grail for the farming industry. Irrigation systems are as old as man itself since agriculture is the foremost occupation of civilized humanity.
According to the UN projections, world population will rise from 6.8 billion today to 9.1 billion in 2050 that signifies food production has to be raised to feed the one-third more mouths. And, the agriculture industry is accountable for fulfilling humans' need for food, energy, and shelter (To a great extent). Furthermore, the agriculture industry composes less than 5 percent of the combined GDPs of the world. But, there is one more distressing fact revealed by Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of agricultural workers is projected to decline 3 percent from 2012 to 2022. Why is this employment supposed to reduce?
This article was originally published as a TechRepublic cover story. Marcus Hall was nine years old when he first drove a tractor on his family's sprawling Iowa farm, eschewing Tonka trucks and Matchbox cars for long rides on heavy machinery. Growing up on a multigenerational family farm is common in an agricultural state like Iowa, where nearly 27 million acres are devoted to cropland--out of the 35 million acres that make up the state. Hall grew up with all the trappings of a future farmer, but a penchant for technology led him down a more experimental path--to the test farm of ag equipment giant John Deere. As manager of the test farm, Hall gets to run field trials of John Deere's high-tech farm equipment before it goes to market. "I just enjoy being out on the tractor," says Hall. "Plus, it's fun being part of this type of technology and the leading edge of what's out there." Download this article as a PDF (free registration required). It's a warm, breezy day in late May 2018, when we meet up with Hall at John Deere's test facility in Bondurant, IA. The farm sits on an unassuming patch of land framed by two-lane roads.