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The Theme - the EITA-New Agriculture Workshop

(Basel, Switzerland - Alvin Wei-Cheng Wong)


 "The Future of Agriculture (Agriculture 4.0): Challenges, Opportunities, and Future Directions"




1. Overview

- Our Current Food System 

"By 2050 the earth's population will likely reach 9.5 billion people, requiring an 80% increase in agricultural production. Achieving this will require innovative technologies to make agriculture more efficient and optimize existing inputs." -- (MIT) 

Along with an increasing population, the world faces climate change, rising fossil fuel prices, ecosystem degradation, and water and land scarcity -- all of which are making today's food production methods increasingly unsustainable. Our current dominant food system focuses on increasing yields of a limited number of crops and animals, a system that is highly dependent on inputs to increase yields in the short term. This system, however, ignores biological realities, pollutes the environment, harms public health, and cannot be sustained in the long-term.

[Water Tech (AI) - University of Trento, Italy]

- Working Toward a Sustainable Food System 

The agricultural sector is one of the most crucial sectors for mankind. With exponentially increasing population and scarcity of resources, the agricultural sector is under constant strain. One thing is clear that traditional methods of farming cannot feed the masses for a long time. There is a need for the agricultural sector to revolutionize. 

A sustainable food system is designed to provide healthy and safe food now and in the future. Such a system would protect the health and well-being of ecological and human communities, both on and off the farm, without compromising the health of future generations or their ability to produce safe and healthy foods.

Steps toward a sustainable food system reduce pollution and make responsible use of natural resources, such as air, water, and soil. The ultimate goal is to build a system that is biologically diverse, resilient, and healthy, using farming methods that can work in the long-term because they are informed by ecological realities.

- Advances in Technology are Key to The Future of Agriculture

Agriculture will soon need to become more manufacturing-like in order to feed the world’s growing population. Crops will soon need to become more drought resistant in order to effectively grow in uncertain climates. Farms will soon need to learn how to harvest more with less water. If farms are to continue to feed the world’s population they will have to do so in manners both independent of, and accommodating to, the planet’s changing and highly variable climes. That necessitates the smart application of both proven and cutting-edge technology. Advances in technology are key to the future of agriculture as farmers strive to feed the world with limited natural resources.


2. Agriculture 4.0: The Future of Farming Technology

- Digitalization of Agriculture

Technology is changing the world, and farming is catching up. The introduction of everything from automated farm equipment to a wide array of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors that measure soil moisture and drones that keep track of crops have changed the business of agriculture. Some experts even call this movement agriculture 4.0. The goals of agriculture 4.0 are mainly increasing the productivity of the crops while ensuring a higher environmental sustainability. In plain words: to produce more and better with less. 

Agriculture 4.0, securing agriculture’s digital future through inter-operable solutions and digital technologies, is a farming management model based upon observing, measuring and responding to inter and intra-field variability in crops. Agriculture 4.0 will no longer depend on applying water, fertilizers, and pesticides uniformly across entire fields. Instead, farmers will use the minimum quantities required and target very specific areas. 

Farms and agricultural operations will have to be run very differently, primarily due to advancements in technology. Future agriculture will use sophisticated technologies such as robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and GPS technology. These advanced devices and precision agriculture and robotic systems will allow farms to be more profitable, efficient, safe, and environmentally friendly.

- From Industry 4.0 to Agriculture 4.0 

The Industry 4.0 trend is transforming the production capabilities of all industries, including the agricultural domain. Connectivity is the cornerstone of this transformation and IoT a key enabling technology that is increasingly part of agricultural equipment. The development of the connectivity of agricultural tools is leading to important progress in agricultural practices. They enable the development of precision agriculture and increase the transparency of the industry.

Agriculture 4.0 is about connectivity. Beyond the introduction of new tools and practices, the real promise of agriculture 4.0 in terms of productivity increase resides in the ability to remotely collect, use, and exchange data.


3. Food and Agricultural Biotechnology

- The Role of Biotechnology in Ensuring Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture

Agricultural biotechnology, also known as agritech, is an area of agricultural science involving the use of scientific tools and techniques, including genetic engineering, molecular markers, molecular diagnostics, vaccines, and tissue culture, to modify living organisms: plants, animals, and microorganisms. Agricultural Biotechnology is developed to cope up with current challenges which are usually cannot be solved by traditional practices. Agricultural Biotechnology also helps in climate adaptation, stress management, and disease management. Biotechnology has introduced modern technologies to deal with the global food crisis.

A bio-based revolution is underway worldwide, and it is fundamentally changing how the world produces and consumes food, feed, fiber, materials, chemicals, fuel, and energy. Food may benefit directly from genetic tailoring and potentially from producing meat directly in a lab (or In vitro meat). Biotechnology is already part of the agriculture industry's efforts to improve crop yields. 

- Plant Physiology for Crop Production

Ensuring food security for the increasing population is one of the challenges for next decades. As frontiers of crop production, plant physiologists are the most responsible for the improvement of crop production steadily. However, there are several challenges which hindering crop production which includes various abiotic and biotic stresses as loss of soil productivity and natural biodiversity. 

With the present global climatic change, these abiotic stress factors are taking place more frequently than earlier times leading to the vulnerability of crop productivity, and creating challenges for the farming community to feed the ever-growing population of this universe.

Exploring the physiological bases of plant stress tolerance is very important in developing plant stress tolerance. To address this issue researchers are working in understanding the physiological and molecular mechanisms of abiotic stress responses and tolerance. A remarkable progress has also been made in developing crop varieties tolerant to environmental stress.

- Genetic Engineering in Agriculture: The Future of Food

Genetic modification has led to crops varieties that better (potential benefits) tolerate drought, pests, and herbicides, and are fast growing, increased supply with reduced cost and longer shelf life, among others. Genetically engineered foods have had foreign genes (genes from other plants or animals) inserted into their genetic codes. Genetic engineering can be done with plants, animals, or bacteria and other microorganisms. It allows scientists to speed this process up by moving desired genes from one plant into another, or even from an animal to a plant or vice versa. Today, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, corn, and soybeans have been genetically altered through biotechnology. Many more foods contain engineered ingredients and more are being developed. 

According to NIH, we have been genetically engineering plants since the 1990s. Potential risks of genetically engineered foods include: modified plants or animals may have genetic changes that are unexpected and harmful. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) may interbreed with natural organisms. This could lead to the extinction of the original organism or to other unpredictable environmental effects. Genetically Modified (or GM) plants may be less resistant to some pests and more susceptible to others. 

- Synthetic Biology for Sustainable Food

Synthetic biology (or “synbio") is an emerging field where engineering meets biology, and it almost seems to have developed in tandem with the arising need for sustainability. 

Synthetic biology, the next stage of genetic engineering, which allows efficiently reprogramming unicellular life to make fuels, byproducts accessible from organic chemistry and smart devices, is an extreme form of genetic engineering. It is an emerging technology that is developing rapidly and entering the marketplace. In essence, synthetic biology is about designing and building workhorse organisms that can make things more efficiently than nature (or make things we might need that nature doesn't make at all). 

Generally, genetically engineered foods take desired genes from one organism and cut and paste them into another organism. Synthetic biology instead treats genes like computer code, remixing DNA sequences to create foods (and medicines and biofuels and lots of other things) that are not seen in nature. There’s lots of contention around GMOs, and similar issues surround synbio. 

The products of synthetic biology are virtually unregulated, have not been assessed adequately for impacts on our health or environment, and are not required to be labeled. Synthetic biology could have serious impacts on the health of people and ecosystems, on our planet's biodiversity.

- Agrigenomics: Transform the Future of Agriculture

With the fact of growing global population, changing climate, and environmental pressure, there is an urgent need to accelerate breeding novel crops with higher production, drought or heat tolerance, and less pesticide usage. Advances in genomics offer the potential to speed up the process of developing crops with promising agronomic traits. Agrigenomics is the application of genomics in agriculture to improve the productivity and sustainability in crop and livestock production. Using modern technology, farmers, breeders, and researchers can easily identify the genetic markers linked to desirable traits, informing cultivation and breeding decisions.

Today’s agricultural researchers have many tools at their disposal for studying plant and animal genomics. Microarray and next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies are useful for studying various aspects of plant and animal genomics, including genotype, gene expression and regulation, and epigenetics. These approaches offer the throughput, sensitivity, and precision needed to evaluate genetic markers and discover new ones associated with traits or disease.


4. Digitization for the Future of Agroecology and Smart Agriculture

- Agriculture Move Towards Digital Revolution 

Digital technologies, from GPS-based and sensor-driven work machines, drone applications to robotics, agriculture is becoming a digital industry. Digital technologies can support farmers in providing safe, sustainable and quality food. Not only do they help farmers “produce more with less”, but they can also contribute to fighting climate change. Existing and new technologies such as the Internet of things (IoT), blockchain technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, robotics, cloud, and big data can contribute to making processes more efficient and can lead to the creation of new products and services. 

Today, digitization - the increasingly integrated use of aggregated data services and tools - is seen as part of a fourth industrial revolution which involves “a fusion of technologies” that can blur the lines between physical, digital, and biological realms. Digitization can also play a role in creating a better life in rural areas.

Burrowing Owls_011419A
(Burrowing Owls - Jeff M. Wang)

- Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems

Crops experience some environmental stresses which include drought, water logging, salinity, extremes of temperature, insects, birds, other pests, weeds, pathogens (viruses and other microbes), etc.. The ability to tolerate these stresses is a very multifaceted phenomenon. In addition, the inability to do so which renders the crops susceptible is again the result of various exogenous and endogenous interactions in the ecosystem. 

Modern agriculture, food production and distribution are major contributors of greenhouse gases. Agroecology is the study of ecological processes that operate in agricultural systems that are productive but also resource conserving. It links ecology, culture, economics, and society to sustain agricultural production, healthy environments, and viable food and farming communities. For example, fertilizers such as nitrogen often end up in water sources, and contribute to the acidification of soil. They also cause global warming, causing soil microbes to emit unexpectedly high levels of nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas with 300 times as much heat-trapping power as carbon dioxide. In today's changing society and globalized world, public awareness about ensuring safety and security in the food systems, global climate change and environmental sustainability, and the fiscal and ecological costs of our growing material and energy needs have increased dramatically. 

- Agriculture Begins to Tackle Its Role in Climate Change

Farming is a tough business where success depends on a range of factors, including the weather. Hard frosts and flooding can be particularly damaging to those who grow crops and rear livestock, while severe droughts also have the capacity to wreak havoc.

Solar radiation, temperature, and precipitation are the main drivers of crop growth; therefore agriculture has always been highly dependent on climate patterns and variations. USDA’s framework for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry, to help farmers, ranchers, and forest land owners in their response to climate change, spans a range of technologies and practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon storage, and generate clean renewable energy. As a matter of fact, renewable energy and farming are a winning combination. Wind, solar, and biomass energy can be harvested forever, providing farmers with a long-term source of income. Renewable energy can be used on the farm to replace other fuels or sold as a "cash crop."

Modern agriculture aims for the production of high quality food and animal feed as well as raw materials in sufficient quantity for a wide variety of industrial applications. Further objectives consist of preservation of resources and protection of the environment. In order to successfully meet these challenges scientists have to understand the various aspects of environmental stresses in view of the current development from molecules to ecosystems (contemporary crop stress research). Emerging agriculture technologies that give farmers ways to make precise, targeted responses to crop stresses are expected to figure prominently in the efforts to make farming more efficient, sustainable and of high quality.


5. Shaping the Future of Food Security and Agriculture

- Digitization, Technology, and Farming

Urbanization will continue at an accelerated pace. By 2050, it is expected that approximately 70% of the world's population will be living in urban areas.. Income levels will be many multiples of what they are now. To keep up with rising populations and income growth, global food production must increase by 70 percent in order to be able to feed the world. At the same time, water supplies will come under increasing pressure as the population rises. 

The answer to these daunting challenges lies in real-time precision agriculture, data gathering and analysis, and the use of robotic machines (Autonomous Farming), UAVs, geomatics or 3S (Remote Sensing/RS, Geographic Information System/GIS, and Global Positioning System/GPS) services (Satellite-guided Farming), the Internet of Things, sensors technology and big data analytics, wireless sensor network (WSN), RFID, cloud computing, etc. to conserve water and improve crop yields. More specifically, the means to achieve these goals are to use Precision Agriculture (or Smart Farming), an application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Agriculture (or e-Agriculture), to collect and act on copious amounts of real-time data (Big Data) on weather, soil and air quality, crop maturity and even equipment and labor costs and availability. E-Agriculture, an emerging field focusing on the enhancement of agricultural and rural development through improved ICT processes, involves the conceptualization, design, development, evaluation and application of innovative ways to use ICT in the rural domain, with a primary focus on connected agriculture.

- Digitization in Agriculture - From Precision Farming to Farming 4.0 

Precision farming is an agricultural concept involving new production and management methods that make intensive use of data about a specific location and crop. Sensor technologies and application methods are used to optimize production processes and growth conditions. In contrast to conventional agricultural methods, using digital data can increase resource and cost efficiency as well as reduce environmental impact. 

Precision agriculture technology and techniques can maximize food production, minimize environmental impact, and reduce cost. For example, Instead of prescribing field fertilization before application, high-resolution crop sensors inform application equipment of correct amounts needed. Optical sensors or UAVs are able to identify crop health across the field (for example, by using infra-red light). Predictive analytics (machine learning) can be used to make smarter decisions, to maximize food production, minimize environmental impact and reduce cost. Livestock biometrics, collars with GPS and RFID, can automatically identify and relay vital information about the livestock in real time. Equipment telematics allows mechanical devices such as tractors to warn mechanics that a failure is likely to occur soon. Intra-tractor communication can be used as a rudimentary "farm swarm" platform.


6. Vertical Farming and Controlled-Environment Agriculture

- Urbanization and Its Implications for Food and Farming

As our metropolitan areas start to sprawl out into the countryside the sustainability of traditional farming methods is seriously coming into question. It is estimated that the US loses at least 1.5 million acres of productive farmland to urbanization every year. But what kind of alternatives are being produced to satisfy our rapidly increasing demand for sustenance? Increasing urbanization and the high environmental and monetary costs of delivering power, water, and food to cities, suggest that a low impact form of controlled environment agriculture (CEA) is becoming more and more widespread in urban settings. 

Controlled environment agriculture (CEA), more commonly known as Vertical Farming, is the process of growing food or other agricultural products within factory-style situations, without the typical natural resources associated with plant production, such as soil and sunlight. These resources are instead provided via the use of innovative lighting and nutrient delivery technologies.

Farming has migrated from the fields to the cities and moved into the developed environment. CEA involves a combination of engineering, plant science and computer-managed facility control technologies used to optimize plant growing systems, plant quality and production efficiency while optimizing resources including water, energy, space, capital and labor. Environmental impacts of urban CEA can be aggressively reduced through carbon neutral energy supply, water recapture and recycling, and siting on pre-existing or underutilized structures. 

- Vertical Farming - A New Future for Food Production 

Vertical farming is a system of food production in controlled, indoor environments. This allows factory style precision agriculture. This approach can reduce the environmental impact and the influence of environmental variability associated with future climate change on food production. Vertical Farming allows for faster, more controlled production, irrespective of season.

Vertical Farming is a revolutionary approach to producing high quantities of nutritious and quality fresh food all year round, without relying on skilled labour, favourable weather, high soil fertility or high water usage. It is fully enclosed and climate controlled, completely removing external environment factors such as disease, pest or predator attacks.

With state-of-the-art, clean technology (Photonics in agriculture) utilizing specialized Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) and a totally controlled growing environment without sun or soil (i.e., sensor-controlled hydroponic and aeroponic agriculture systems.), vertical (and rooftop) farming or urban agriculture would cultivate plant or animal life within dedicated or mixed-use skyscrapers in urban settings. Instead of having a single layer of crops over a large land area, vertical farming have stacks of crops going upwards in existing underutilized warehouses or multi-story buildings. Indoor farms run by artificial intelligence (AI) and lit by LEDs can be more efficient than field agriculture.

- The Green Promise of Vertical Farms

Next-generation LED grow lights provide artificial light used for plant growth. They offer low power, high-efficiency, uniform light pattern, homogenous light distribution at precisely the right wavelengths and color ratios needed for superior photosynthetic response. Plant light has photons from the blue to red (400–700 nm) part of the spectrum. This is called growth light. Plant growth is a function of photosynthesis. One simple example is in horticulture where synthetic blue and red light from low-cost light emitting diodes (LEDs) are programmed for efficiently controlling the growth rate and color of vegetables, flowers, ornamental plants, and fruits. 

Profitability in commercial horticulture requires the ability to cost-effectively and consistently provide plants with optimum growing conditions from germination through to harvest. Today's vertical farming monitors and controls the levels of air, water and nutrition to provide optimum growing requirements with a fully integrated intelligent computer management system.

- Advantages of Vertical Farming

The advantages of vertical farms are numerous, including year-round crop production, faster harvest cycles, predictable results, protection from weather, use much less water than traditional farming, superior food safety and less environmental impact, support urban food autonomy and reduced transport costs. Vertical farms are a new, environmentally friendly way to provide the huge amounts of fruits and vegetables demanded by cities across the globe. 

Vertical farming only uses 10% of the amount of water that traditional farming methods use. The water from transpiration is also re-used so most of it doesn’t get wasted. Also currently 70% of all accessible potable water is used for agriculture this can be decreased using vertical farming. Another advantage of vertical farming is the area required to grow crops/plants. land is much less than when using traditional farming methods since vertical farms can be expanded upwards. Vertical farming also grows food organically since no pesticides will be required as there are no pests to damage the crops. So it is healthier, safer and more eco-friendly. Finally the price is another advantage of vertical farming. In the start vertical farming may be very expensive but after the first few years it will become a cheaper form of farming. Also the price for the crops/plants grown in vertical farms will also decrease.

- Disadvantages of Vertical Farming 

There are also some disadvantages to vertical farming such as that there will be less jobs as there is not a need for people transporting the crops. This will cause a lot of people to be left jobless and there will also be job losses for farmers. It leads to potential loss of traditional farming jobs. It displaces entire agricultural societies. Initial cost of installation is not attractive to the developers. The dependence on technology is a big disadvantage to vertical farming. If a vertical farm loses power for one day then it will be a big loss in production. Also if the power stops all the crops growing will die since they rely on the artificial atmosphere, which maintains a constant temperature of 40 degrees Celsius and constant humidity. They rely on data collected from sensors in order to maintain ideal growing conditions. Finally, only limited variety of plants or vegetables can be grown. This is due to the fact that all plants are not suitable to be grown in the controlled and limited environment.  


(Jungfrau, Switzerland - Alvin Wei-Cheng Wong)

7. Powering the IoT Ecosystem: IoT-Driven Smart Farming

- Agriculture Has Been a High-risk, Labor-intensive, Low-reward Industry

The main phases of the agriculture industry include crop cultivation, water management, fertilizer application, fertigation, pest management, harvesting, post-harvest handling, transport of food products, packaging, food preservation, food processing/value addition, quality management, food safety, food storage, food traceability (from farm to smartphone to table), and food marketing. All stakeholders of agriculture industry need information and knowledge about these phases to manage them efficiently. Till now, agriculture has been a high-risk, labor-intensive, low-reward industry. Farmers are very likely to be impacted by unexpected environmental changes, economic downturns, and many other risk factors. 

- The IoT in Agriculture - A Way Towards Smart Farming 

Modern farming relies on data. From climate change patterns to soil monitoring and livestock health records. All that data needs storage and for the information to be scalable the cloud is the obvious choice. With the emergence of Internet of Things (IoT), more smart devices are able to connect to the Internet with intelligent data feedback mechanisms. What does this mean for the smart farm?

Smart Farming is an emerging concept that refers to managing farms using modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to increase the quantity and quality of products while optimizing the human labor required. The Internet of Things (IoT) plays a crucial role in smart agriculture, because IoT sensors capable of providing information about their agriculture fields.

Climate, crops, livestock and even machinery all have feedback mechanisms. Sensors can be used to increase yield and standard of crops and improve quality of life for livestock as a result of data reports and analysis. GPS, monitoring sensors and weather stations all contribute to removing the human elements of guess work and gut instinct which will ultimately lead to a better product.

IoT is transforming the agriculture industry like never before by empowering farmers and growers to deal with the enormous challenges they face. IoT deployment in agriculture can address many challenges and increase the quality, quantity, and cost-effectiveness of agricultural production. Once an IoT-enabled smart system is in place, farmers can easily track a variety of environmental variables and take informed decisions. 

- The IoT-based Smart Farming

The agriculture industry must overcome increasing water shortages, limited availability of lands, difficult to manage costs, while meeting the increasing consumption needs of a global population. It is forecast that by the year 2050, the Agricultural IoT will increase food production by 70% and be feeding up to 9.6 billion people. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a worldwide network of intercommunicating devices. It integrates the ubiquitous communications, pervasive computing, and ambient intelligence. IoT may have a bigger impact on farming than perhaps any other industry. IoT sensors allow farmers to track crop yields, soil nutrition. rainfall, etc. with a previously unheard of level of precision. IoT is transforming the agriculture industry and enabling farmers to contend with the enormous challenges they face. 

The IoT applications in agriculture include water supply management, integrated pest management or control (IPM/C), food production and safety, livestock management, soil and plant monitoring, precision agriculture, greenhouse environment monitoring and control systems, monitoring of food supply chain, etc. With the Internet of Things (IoT), farmers may be able to deliver the crops directly to the consumers not only in a small region like in direct marketing or shops but in a wider area. This will change the whole supply chain which is mainly in the hand of large companies, now, but can change to a more direct, shorter chain between producers and consumers. 

- The IoT-based E-Farming

In IoT concept every device or object is connected to each other. These connected device or objects will work without taking any help of humans or human interaction. Main aim of IoT is to connect the human and device through Internet. In this every object is connected or assigned with its own unique identifier so that everyone can access it through Internet. IoT devices can sense vital information to ensure food is delivered efficiently and safely. 

Through e-Agriculture, i.e. IoT and smart agriculture using automation,.farmers stand to benefit from more efficient farm management, fewer inputs, reduced leaching and, therefore, less damage to the environment. Monitoring environmental factors is the major factor to improve the yield of the efficient crops. It includes monitoring temperature and humidity in agricultural field through sensors. 

Cloud computing would enable corporate sector to provide all the necessary services at affordable cost to farmers in rural areas. Farmers have adopted the smartphone, which has proven invaluable in enabling them to access market information and deal with everyday problems that threaten their crops and livestock. Wireless payment software enables farmers to electronically process sales at the market, while also catering to online buyers in the restaurant or grocery sector.


8. Precision Farming - Tomorrow’s Technology for Sustainable Agricultural Development

- Sustainable Agriculture Will Never One-Size-Fits-All

The global population is expected to reach 9.7 billion people by 2050, which means double agricultural production in order to meet food demands. Factors such as climate change, population growth and food security concerns have propelled the agricultural industry into seeking more innovative approaches to protecting and improving crop yield. Farm enterprises require new and innovative technologies to face and overcome these challenges. 

With the world needing to provide roughly 70 percent more food by 2050 - even as climate change, land degradation, watery scarcity and other challenges threaten productivity - it is clear that agricultural systems must transform. Precision farming, or precision agriculture, is an umbrella concept for IoT-based approaches that make farming more controlled and accurate. 

In simple words, plants and cattle get precisely the treatment they need, determined by machines with superhuman accuracy. Too often in agriculture, a one-size-fits-all approach of applying uniform amounts of water, fertilizers, and pesticides is standard procedure even though it isn’t reliably effective. Now agricultural businesses can tailor crop management decisions by using modern precision agriculture techniques – scientifically proven approaches that analyze remotely sensed data such as satellite and UAV imagery.

- Farm Management Systems for Precision Farming 

Precision agriculture is a farming management concept based on observing, measuring and responding to inter and intra-field variability in crops. The farmer’s and/or researcher’s ability to locate a precise position in a field lets him create maps of the spatial variability of as many variables as can be measured (e.g. crop yield, soil pH, soil moisture, soil depth, soil type, soil texture, terrain features/topography, pest populations, nutrient levels, organic matter content, etc. ). These variables are at the heart of precision agriculture and are key to defining amendment strategies, or ‘recipe maps.’ The reason precision agriculture can be an effective practice is it defines more accurately the needs of specific locations of individual fields. To implement precision agriculture for efficient crop management, farmers need to know the status of crop and soil throughout the crop production periods from planting to harvesting. Once the crop status is known, farmers can make correct management decisions, so that they can save time, labor, and money and thereby increase yield and profit. Precision farming has become possible due to the convergence of three groups of modern technologies: information and (wireless) communication technologies, monitoring and measuring technologies (including remote sensing and GIS, yield monitoring and GPS), and automated process control technology.

- Precision Agriculture Technologies and Autonomous Farming

Precision agriculture technologies and autonomous farming offer many exciting opportunities for more profitable and environmentally compatible farming. Once adapted to farm conditions, these technologies (wireless, cloud-connected systems) will provide a completely new level of accuracy in measuring plant growth, in monitoring on farm growing conditions and in operating farm equipment (sensory-enabled farming). Sensors help agriculture by enabling real-time traceability and diagnosis of crop, livestock and farm machine states. 

Automated processes (agricultural robots) will replace routine, labour-intensive agricultural work, such as harvesting, fruit picking, ploughing, soil maintenance, weeding, planting, irrigation, etc.. Irrigation on a farm land, for example, will involve linking sprinkler systems to plant sensors, soil sensors and nearby weather stations. The technology will ensure that exactly the right amount of water reaches the growing plants as and when needed. 

Precision farming and the tools and devices it comprises will allow the gathering and analysis of real-time data, helping farmers make better decisions. By interconnecting crops, tools and vehicles to smart devices and sensors, farmers will be able to produce more while saving money and conserving natural resources by making the right decision at the right time based on data.


9. Big Data, Cloud, Predictive Analytic, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Agriculture

- Big Data and The Future of Agriculture

The rise of digital agriculture and its related technologies has opened a wealth of new data opportunities. Remote sensors, satellites, and drones can gather information 24 hours per day over an entire field. These can monitor plant health, soil condition, temperature, humidity, etc. The amount of data these sensors can generate is overwhelming, and the significance of the numbers is hidden in the avalanche of that data. 

The agricultural community wants to use big data to help farmers make decisions that will increase yields and deliver safe, nutritious food to communities around the world. Companies are leveraging computer vision and deep-learning algorithms to process data captured by drones and/or software-based technology to monitor crop and soil health. Machine learning models are being developed to track and predict various environmental impacts on crop yield such as weather changes.

(AI Algorithm Flowchart, Karen Hao, MIT)

- The Future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning in Agriculture

Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing many things in our lives, including the way our food is produced. Technologies like machine learning, image recognition, and predictive modeling are being applied in the agriculture industry as ways to boost productivity and efficiency. These approaches could be important steps in the effort to produce more food for a growing global population by helping farmers reduce chemical inputs, detect diseases sooner, buffer against labor shortages, and respond to weather conditions as the climate changes. AI holds the promise of driving an agricultural revolution at a time when the world must produce more food using fewer resources. 

- The Power of Predictive Analytics in Agriculture

Predictive analytics as a whole can be comprised of numerous different statistical abilities from modeling, machine learning, and data mining. Used for agriculture, these methods allow for analyzing of what has happened in the past on the farm, as well as what currently is happening and is going to happen, to make use of the data to predict the future and make decisions that impact the bottom line and end use of on-farm products.

Researchers and farmers use predictive modeling to identify best management practices for getting the best crop and livestock performance under various environmental conditions. To make the most accurate predictions, models based on even the most advanced machine learning algorithms must be rooted in comprehensive datasets. Such datasets often include numerous weather and soil measurements as well as corresponding plant or animal performance assessments under multiple management regimes over multiple years.


10. Robotics, Drones, IoT, AI, and the Future Of Precision Agriculture

- Agricultural Robotics: The Future of Robotic Agriculture

Artificial intelligence robotics is one of new and innovative technologies that promises to provide a solution for the future of farming. An increasing number of farmbots are being developed that are capable of complex tasks that have not been possible with the large-scale agricultural machinery in the past. 

Automation will help agriculture via large-scale robotic and microrobots to check and maintain crops at the plant level. Robotic farm swarms, the hypothetical combination of dozens or hundreds of agricultural robots (small, autonomous robots) with thousands of microscopic sensors, which together would monitor, predict, cultivate and extract crops from the land with practically no human intervention. Farmers could control everything remotely from a tablet

- Drones For Agriculture: Farm and Crop Monitoring by UAV‎

Drones are transforming agriculture - giving farmers new tools to supervise crops and check on fields from the air. The drone flies a path preset by the farmer and captures images of the ground. Users then upload the images to the cloud where a software tool creates a map revealing areas of crop distress and variability. This enables farmers to quickly identify problems and take action fairly inexpensively. You literally push a couple of buttons, the drones flies the field like a lawnmower, collects the data, and processes the data. By making agriculture more data-driven, farms should see greater productivity and yields.

- Ultra-Precision Agriculture - AI, Robotics, Drones and IoT Revolutionizing Agriculture

With drones, robots and intelligent monitoring systems now successfully being used in research and field trials, artificial intelligence, or machine learning, is set to revolutionize the future of farming as the next phase of ‘ultra-precision’ agriculture is on the horizon. Artificial intelligence (AI) advances to make farming smarter. AI is driving efficiency in our current farming methods to increase production and reduce wastage without adversely affecting the environment. As IoT sensors proliferate on farms and drones capture real-time images of the condition of vast amounts of farmland, AI machines will be able to help farmers foresee what their crops and farms are going to need potentially over a year in advance, giving them more time to react to adverse conditions.

Precision Agriculture therefore can help bring in the next green revolution and can produce tremendous wealth in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way (Biomimicry).


11. Mobile Wireless 5G and Beyond and the Future of Farming

- Four Drivers Paving the Way for 5G

The term "5G" refers to the fifth-generation wireless broadband technology that will transcend smartphones and connect anything from cars, machines and home appliances at speeds 50-to-100 times faster than 4G, with low-latency wireless up to 1GB/s. 5G will offer new consumer and business applications, with near real-time connectivity. 

Farmers worldwide are using IoT technology to optimize agricultural processes including water management, fertigation, livestock safety, and crop monitoring. 5G could enable real-time data collection, allowing farmers to monitor, track, and automate agricultural systems to increase profitability, efficiency, and safety.

Four drivers paving the way for 5G are following: Fiber-optic Infrastructure, Small Cell Deployment, High-frequency Spectrum Availability, Bringing 5G Indoors with Fixed Wireless.

- 5G Enabling Precision Agriculture

The 5G wireless technology could bring reliable, high bandwidth speeds to areas that typically lack coverage, and in turn, enable new precision agriculture capabilities on farm equipment leveraging real-time connectivity. The idea is to have farm equipment that's able to communicate with other machines on the field by streaming data from vehicle to cloud and back down to machine operators in the shortest time possible. 

The 5G wireless technology will pave the way for a new generation of robots, some free to roam controlled via wireless rather than wired communications links and exploiting the vast computing and data storage resources of the cloud. Armed with these capabilities, robots can be precisely controlled dynamically in near real time, and be connected to people and machines locally and globally. In short, 5G will fully enable applications such as the "factory of the future" and many, many others that were previously beyond the capabilities of both cellular and robotics technologies. 

- 5G Deployment in Rural Areas

Rural agricultural communities are demanding high-capacity, low-latency network services to support bandwidth-intensive applications used in various operations, including water supply management, precision agriculture and food production.  5G access could help rural economies grow and add more high-tech jobs, but the cost and return on investment of installing infrastructure is a major barrier. 

5G wireless will likely struggle in rural areas, particularly ones with lots of trees and foliage, and could encounter other issues due to low population density. We see two possible solutions for this issue. First, network service providers can deploy fiber in strategic positions closer to rural areas, delivering the necessary backhaul connectivity for 5G technology enablement and small cell deployment throughout agricultural communities. The second solution is to deploy fixed wireless combined with 5G. Either solution will pave the way and enable rural areas to get the data speeds they need, even where communities are small. 

- The 5G Future and the Role of Satellite

5G will dramatically change how satellite is integrated into mainstream, achieving full interoperability within the end-to-end 5G network. Satellites can bring 5G to areas where terrestrial connectivity companies consider it too expensive to build fiber-optic cables. 5G provides the ultimate opportunity for the satellite industry to break out of its niche and for satellite service providers to offer a much wider range of services, while enabling mobile and fiber operators to leverage satellite connectivity to expand their coverage areas and offload their networks through critical functionalities like multicasting, backhauling, and mobility access where satellite is a better access technology. 

Rural areas especially stand to benefit from satellite connectivity. There are ranchers and farmers in sparsely populated area that would desire existing broadband or mobile service and it’s not there today. It’s hard to envision that 5G is going to create a business model that is going to put small cells on every fence post in areas like that. Satellites can link central 5G stations to small cell stations in rural communities, a service known as trunking. Satellites can also “backhaul” connections directly to local cell stations for extremely remote locations like islands.

The possibility for satellite 5G is to cover areas that will not be covered by terrestrial 5G. Inherently, terrestrial 5G will never be able to reach the coverage of 4G in the next five, perhaps even 10 years, as it requires densification of the radio network - base stations - which will be achieved mainly via small cells. We're still years from realizing the true potential of rural 5G. Airplanes, trains, boats and other vehicles that frequent regions of the planet beyond the reach of cellular companies will continue to rely on satellite links. 

- Connecting agriculture: LoRa, NB-IoT, LTE, and 5G 
Low-power wide-area (LPWA) networking technologies like LoRaWAN and NB-IoT, among others, are helping farmers to connect their work to the Internet, as we have heard. This connectivity provides a platform for them to start to introduce new automation and intelligence into their operations. 

But LPWA networks won’t cut it, say some, if farming is to make use of the very latest analytics and automation tools. Again, connectivity is the biggest barrier, according to another provider, in the form of US firm Viasat, providing satellite broadband for military, government, and commercial markets.



<updated by hhw: 7/18/21>



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