Innovations are popping up left, right, and centre. I am amazed by the sheer amount of new technology that emerges these days – let me mention a few examples which were highlighted in Future Farming in 2020.
A new molecule which increases the temperature of plants has been found, and this molecular heating effect allows crops to grow in winter as well, for example.
Additionally, researchers now know which types of chloroplasts use sunlight most efficiently. With these new insights, they expect to soon be able to grow plants which use up to 1.5% of the available sunlight, as opposed to the current 0.5%. This could lead to a drastic increase in yield that no other cultivation measure could compete with.
Another remarkable discovery is a gel which, when mixed with soil, absorbs water from the air during cooler nights. During the day, the sun activates the water-retaining gel, releasing the water into the soil and to the plant roots.
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2020 also marks the year when a plant first communicated with satellites, via an implanted microchip (4) powered by the plant’s own energy. This allows the crop itself to “tell” a grower if it needs water or fertiliser.
Also in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), green (i.e., environmentally friendly) crop protection products, sensors, and robotics, it is almost impossible to keep up with the latest developments, but the speed at which new innovations pop up forms a sharp contrast with the slow pace at which they are being embraced by farmers.
A revolution will only succeed when the individual puzzle pieces of the latest technologies interlock and can be scaled up
The current agricultural system, based on the 3 ingredients of fertiliser, chemistry, and mechanisation, flourished at the beginning of the last century, but society and governments alike hope that this system will soon make way for more sustainable methods of food production.
Such a revolution, however, will only succeed when the individual puzzle pieces of the latest technologies interlock and can be scaled up. This could very well result in an agricultural system that is currently beyond our imagination.
However, if this spark does not ignite a fire in this exciting and effervescent cocktail of new technologies, it will simply remain an evolution – not a revolution.