When we say that the world’s population is growing geometrically and food production is growing arithmetically, we are referring to the fact that the population would quickly exceed the ability to feed itself. Population explosion is not only depleting the natural resources because of over consumption and degradation, it might also lead to gigantic inevitable famine. Keeping this in mind, scientists across the world are working on agricultural innovation and developing technologies to deal with world hunger and nutrition deficiency. Here are some of the recent developments in the respective field.
Vertical farms, typically known as “Indoor Farms” are inhabited buildings in urban areas, where food is grown using advanced technology. This is different from house gardening as crops in vertical farms are grown in stacks without using soil or sunlight. Mostly used for local consumption, scientist uses artificial lighting, climate control and in many cases hydroponics to grow food.
This approach is generally practiced for salad greens and herbs and is produced in large quantity as other vegetables requires more space and longer production cycle. Also, food grown in such environment takes less time as compared to crops grown in a field. These vertical crops use 95 percent less water, 50 percent less fertilizers and zero pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.
Seasonality isn’t a factor for such farming and there’s no risk of seed contamination or poor weather. Other benefit includes low transportation costs and less degeneration as most of these farms supply food to local restaurants and supermarkets.
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Genetically Modified Crops
GM crop refers to the use of biotechnology to genetically engineer certain traits of crops like pest resistance, herbicide resistance and increased nutritional value to enhance the productivity. This biotechnology is critical in food technology that aims to revolutionize the way we grow and eat food.
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Several genetically modified crops are in development stage to grow them in new habitats. This will intensify yield productivity and feed more people. With this technology, scientists around the world are aiming to eradicate hunger, solve food scarcity and provide adequate nutrition.
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Precision agriculture also known as satellite farming, is referred to the use of satellite imagery and GPS tracking systems to monitor soil levels, crop yields and weather patterns. This process aims to increase productivity in the farm without any compromises. Also, there are tools such as soil testing kits and weather analysis software to examine nitrogen and phosphorus levels in soil and air respectively.
With the help of this satellite technology, farmers can locate the exact location in field and ascertain how valuable the area is. Prior to this system, the entire field was considered as one unit but now farmers can discover areas that are more productive for different crops. These will prevent wastage of seed, fertilizer and pesticides. It is also significant from an environmental standpoint as farmers can follow sustainable practices and use less resources in their fields.
In general, farms used for farming are measured in hectares as they cover large areas for mass production. Hence, monitoring the productivity of each area becomes a difficult task. So, drones can be a great help here and they are becoming a popular alternative. With drones, farmers can trace exactly where an unhealthy or damaged plant is and accurately use fertilizers and pesticides.
The impression of 3D printed food isn’t accurately mouth-watering but the technology can disrupt the food industry at various level. People can print their food at home by using 3D printer, which will be rich in nutrients and pesticide-deficient. Apart from industrialists around the world, NASA has used 3D printer to make pizza, possibly a step forward to supply astronaut meals in space.
Internet of ‘Farming’
Sensors plays a crucial role in food technology and Internet of Things has already entered farm in the form of irrigation technologies and crop yield monitoring. For instance, an application called WaterBee is collecting data about soil content and environment condition using wireless sensors to decrease water waste.
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Scientists are using seed vaults, a giant storage unit that acts as a safe haven for the world’s large variety of edible plant seeds. They are to be used in the event of a nuclear war or catastrophic natural disaster. The withdrawal was first experienced during the ongoing civil war in Syria in 2015 from the Svalbard “doomsday” Global Seed Vault.
‘Right to food’ is one of the sustainable development goals of United Nations Development program but technological development in agricultural sector is long pending. The above achievements are definitely groundbreaking but the road ahead is patchy and gloomy for agriculture sector. If you have anything to share or have an opinion, please comment in the section below.