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New Agriculture and ICT Convergence

(Jungfrau, Switzerland - Alvin Wei-Cheng Wong)

Smart Farms: Silicon Valley meets Central Valley



- Overview

Why is agriculture important? A key to why agriculture is so important to business and society is its output – from producing raw materials to contributing to global supply chains and economic development. The major branches of the agriculture are Agronomy, Horticulture, Forestry, Livestock, Fisheries, Agriculture Engineering and Economics.

End hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. Hunger is the leading cause of death in the world. Our planet provides us with enormous resources, but unequal access and inefficient disposal leave millions of people malnourished. If we promote sustainable agriculture with modern technology and fair distribution systems, we can sustain the world's 8 billion people and ensure that no one ever suffers from hunger again.


- Agronomy

Agriculture affects global trade because it links with other economic sectors, supports job creation and encourages economic development. Countries with strong agricultural sectors saw job growth in other sectors, according to USAID. Countries with improved agricultural productivity and robust agricultural infrastructure also have higher per capita incomes as producers in these countries innovate through technology and farm management practices to increase agricultural productivity and profitability. 

Agronomy is the science and technology of producing and using plants by agriculture for food, fuel, fiber, chemicals, recreation, or land conservation. Agronomy has come to include research of plant genetics, plant physiology, meteorology, and soil science. It is the application of a combination of sciences such as biology, chemistry, economics, ecology, earth science, and genetics.


- Ecological Agriculture

Ecological agriculture (agroeconology) is a new policy trend to stabilize human food production, protect wild habitats, and protect honeybees. In fact, it's hardly anything new. Most ecological farming methods date back to the days of small family farms, where many different crops were grown and most of the land, such as wetlands and field edges, was left undisturbed. 

Ecological agriculture improves pollination, which in turn improves crop yields. Ecological farming takes advantage of the natural ecosystem services, such as water filtration, pollination, oxygen production, and disease and pest control. 

In fact, agroecology has been the way of most farming in human history. Agroecology rejects genetically modified (GM) crops, fertilizers and pesticides. Ecological farmers limit insect damage to crops by avoiding large monocrop plantations and preserving ecosystem diversity. Ecological agriculture restores soil nutrients through natural composting systems. It also avoids soil erosion caused by wind and water erosion, which is typical of many agricultural areas being industrially farmed.

The practice of ecological agriculture involves building the strengths of natural ecosystems into agroecosystems, purposely disturbed to produce food and fiber. The overall strategies include using practices that (a) grow healthy plants with good defense capabilities, (b) stressing pests, and (c) enhancing populations of beneficial organisms. These are accomplished by enhanced habitat management both above ground and in the soil. Many of the practices that contribute to the overall strategies are well known—such as intensive use of cover crops or reduced tillage. 


- Computational Agroecology

Factors such as population growth, climate change, depletion of natural resources, soil erosion and the use of fossil fuels in agriculture have led to growing concerns about food security, requiring a fundamental rethinking of traditional farming practices. New ways to help farmers design, develop and manage sustainable farming practices by using breakthrough computational tools.

The new field of research, called computational agroecology, aims to combine technology and agricultural expertise to develop a variety of agricultural landscapes based on natural ecosystems, allowing farmers to explore thousands of potential designs of optimizing food production without fossil fuel-derived pesticides.


- ICT in Modern Agricultural Technology

The infusion of new, advanced agricultural technologies is moving the global agricultural sector forward and changing the way producers grow, harvest and distribute agricultural products. The application of technology in agriculture or e-agriculture accelerates agricultural and rural development by adopting innovative methods to improve existing information and communication processes. It has revolutionized smallholder agriculture in several agrarian economies in particular and helped address several challenges associated with traditional forms of agriculture.

Technology has become a critical business for every farmer, agricultural retailer and agronomist. The increase in the adoption of agricultural technologies should come as no surprise to anyone. Agriculture is highly land and labor intensive. Farmers use technology to improve efficiency and manage costs. The development of digital technologies and the modernization of agriculture have led to the emergence of new concepts (not to mention new terms!). These terms include precision farming or farming, digital farming and smart farming. These terms are often used interchangeably, but have subtle differences in meaning.

Modern agriculture aims to produce high-quality food and animal feed with sufficient quantities of raw materials for various industrial applications. Further goals include protecting resources and protecting the environment. Given current developments from molecules to ecosystems (contemporary crop stress research), to successfully address these challenges, scientists must understand all aspects of environmental stress. 

Emerging agricultural technologies provide farmers with the means to respond to crop stress in an accurate and targeted manner and are expected to play an important role in improving agricultural efficiency, sustainability and quality.


- New Agriculture and ICT Convergence 

When talking about modern agricultural technology, the role of ICT as a decision support system for farmers needs to be acknowledged. With the help of ICT, farmers are able to keep abreast of all the latest information. This includes data on weather, agriculture, and newer and more advanced methods of improving crop quality and yield.

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 high-quality food. Not only can they help farmers "do more with less", but they can also contribute to combating climate change. 

Existing and new technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, robotics and big data can help improve process efficiency and help create new products and services. Digitization can also play a role in improving lives in rural areas.

The International Society of Precision Agriculture ( ) adopted the following definition of precision agriculture in 2019: 

‘Precision agriculture is a management strategy that gathers, processes and analyzes temporal, spatial and individual data and combines it with other information to support management decisions according to estimated variability for improved resource use efficiency, productivity, quality, profitability and sustainability of agricultural production.


- Digital Agriculture

Digital agriculture is the seamless integration of digital technologies into crop and livestock management and other processes in farming. For farmers, digital farming offers the opportunity to increase yields, save long-term costs and eliminate risks.

The essence of digital agriculture is to create value from data. Digital farming means going beyond the existence and availability of data to develop actionable intelligence and meaningful added value from that data. Digital agriculture combines the concepts of precision agriculture and smart agriculture. 

For farmers, digital farming offers opportunities to increase farm yields, save long-term costs and eliminate risk. Many see digital farming as the future of the agricultural industry.


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- Smart Agriculture

Basically, smart agriculture is applying information and data technology to optimize complex agricultural systems.  The focus is on accessing data and how farmers can use the collected information intelligently. The goal is to increase the quality and quantity of products while optimizing human production. Or, more simply, produce more food with less investment and the same amount of land.

Technologies used in smart farming range from IoT and robotics to drones and artificial intelligence. With these tools, farmers can monitor field conditions without having to travel to the field. This enables them to make decisions for entire farms, many or even individual plants. 

Environmental and machine metrics are collected using sensors to provide them to farmers to make informed decisions to improve every aspect of their jobs, whether livestock or crop farming. The ultimate goal is to increase the quality and quantity of crops while reducing waste and optimizing the use of human resources. 

The entire process of smart farming is managed by software and monitored by sensors, resulting in lower overall prices, higher overall yields, higher quality of availability, and ultimately better customer experience. Automation has made huge strides in production efficiency, quality improvement and sustainability. Smart farming isn’t just for big farming companies. It also enables the development of family farms, organic farms and other small businesses.


- Precision Farming

For decades, farmers have employed advanced tools to help them collect and analyze agricultural data to improve crop yields. Soil content, moisture, nutrient trends and weather systems for any square foot of land are some of the data points available to farmers with today's technology. Additionally, capturing land and crop data and integrating this data into software for marketing, forecasting and production is the new "norm." 

The Internet of Things (or IoT) is proving to hold promise for new levels of data and control. It is expected to be a powerful driver, transforming agriculture and food into an innovative network of connected objects. There is a strong belief that IoT will truly be a game-changer for agriculture and the entire food chain, leading to huge increases in productivity and sustainability. 

But in order to apply all this data and participate in this transformation, farmers need to collect, communicate, store, retrieve and analyze this data. Farmers need to be deep and ahead of their decision-making cycles. That means they need the latest information and insights.

Topics include:

  • Field natural resource variability, including soil and crop variability and characteristics.
  • Manage variability, including sampling techniques and methods, nutritional and crop protection chemical recommendations, and crop quality.
  • Engineering technology, focusing on sensor systems, computing technology, positioning systems and control systems for site-specific applications.
  • Adoption and Economics of Precision Agriculture Management.
  • Environmental cover, including sediment, leaching, runoff, and drainage associated with field spatial variability.




[More to come ...]

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