The connected farm and modern technologies will empower more women to run farms and to take leadership positions in the industry, says Wade Barnes, CEO Farmers Edge, who shares his predictions for 2021 with us.
Today, brains – not brawn – are the new key to a farm’s success as technology closes the gender gap. In addition, because farm families are getting smaller, all farm kids are getting the same exposure and field experience. Technology makes that old notion of only boys on the field a thing of the past.
It’s truly exciting to see this shift taking place and I believe 2021 will be a breakout year for women in the industry. Just looking at our staff at Farmers Edge, we are seeing many more women occupying technical roles such as precision technology specialists who install hardware for our growers and software engineers working for our innovation hub, which has increased more than where we were even just five years ago.
In 2021, we may see new regulations on nitrous oxide. While less abundant than CO2, Nitrous oxide is 300 times more harmful to the environment and it’s increasing in the atmosphere. Agriculture is among the largest contributors of nitrous oxide because it is produced as a by-product of nitrogen-based fertiliser.
In 2021, we’ll increase the adoption of data-driven fertiliser applications that will apply precisely the right amount needed to reduce nitrous oxide emissions. Mandates or not, using technology to prove you’ve reduced your nitrogen applications will become even more important.
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In 2021, you can bet we’ll start to see carbon credits in the $ 30-50 per acre range. That kind of money will certainly get the attention of growers.
Agriculture has been dabbling with carbon credits for a decade through small pilot programs. Now we’re seeing broader interest and activity across North America, from both government agencies and large corporations.
As the protocols get defined and the markets develop, growers will start to identify the opportunities that fit best for them. Those looking to generate carbon credits will turn to their digital tools and farm management platform to capture the required data from their fields and operations to easily monitor and fulfill the reporting requirements.
Consumers will pay more knowing the farmer is doing everything to safeguard the environment
Consumer demand will also make carbon offsets attractive. More consumers are worried about where their food comes from so if a grocery chain can legitimately market their bread as being from farms that have reduced their carbon emissions, that bread will go for a premium. Consumers will pay more knowing the farmer is doing everything to safeguard the environment.
Plant-based eating is on the rise globally, and the market is expected to surpass US$ 35 billion by 2024. Fueling this trend is burgeoning consumer demand for transparency and knowing precisely where their food has come from and how it was cultivated, directly back to the farm of origin.
Growers will rely on digital tools that tell in detail how protein-rich crops like canola, lentils and peas were grown, harvested and transported to the consumer, through automated audit reports. This information will also enable growers to earn premiums on crops that meet stringent quality standards, including organic and non-GMO.
Beyond crop traceability, growers will continue to use digital tools to determine which variety of crops they will grow, where to plant them for the best yield, and how to manage supply and demand to help prevent shortages of specific crops.
Not too long ago, peas fell out of favor among growers, but we are now seeing a resurgence of peas to support the production of foods with plant-based protein.
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The COVID-19 pandemic showed the fragility of our global supply chains and awakened consumers to the importance of agriculture. While people dealt with shortages of toilet paper and office furniture, there was never a shortage of food. People everywhere have a renewed appreciation for farmers now, which is tremendous.
In 2021, growers will digitise their farms at a faster rate and use farm platforms to engage electronically with partners, insurance agents and bankers to conduct routine business, instead of meeting face to face as part of their pandemic mitigation strategy. Growers and agricultural professionals will also increase investment in personal protective equipment for their staff and establish better social distancing in the field to mitigate the risk of the virus spreading.
Today, the USDA still requires agents and brokers to meet face to face with growers even though a digital platform saves time and money. With the pandemic, the USDA will finally see the advantage of a safe, remote option as more growers who use digital farming practices that maximise yield and mitigate risks will be rewarded by insurance companies with lower premiums that match precisely the right level of risk.
While the USDA has been slow to embrace the digital transformation in how crop insurance is underwritten, how claims are filed and processed, and how acreage reports are created and delivered, they will make big moves forward in 2021 to embrace agri-insurance technology.