• Saanvi Malhotra

Code Savvy Presents: AgTech

The Intersection of Agriculture and Technology

In this month's episode of Code Savvy Presents, we will learn a little more about how our agricultural industry is utilizing technology to innovate, while still focusing on the good stewardship of our natural resources.


We recently had the opportunity to interview Donna Niles from Cargill's Growth Ventures and Emerging Products division to learn a little more about the work they're doing, particularly around fostering new innovation in the AgTech space.

For even more information about AgTech, please check out the blog below from our intern, Saanvi Malholtra, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Computer Science dept.


Introduction


As our world’s population grows, so does the demand for food and water. Earth’s population is set to reach 9.7 billion people by 2050. However, it is predicted that the world’s water supply will fall 40% short of meeting our water needs as a planet by 2030. With societal pressures to farm more sustainably and environmental pressures such as climate change mounting, many experts point towards Agricultural Technology as a way to address a lot of these concerns.


What is AgTech?


AgTech or Agricultural Technology is defined as “the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture, and aquaculture with the aim of improving yield, efficiency and profitability for farm managers and growers.”


It is a very significant way to address balancing the rising demand for produce by making sure farmers still are able to make a profit. The farming industry has been slow to have developments occur during the last decade because of investors see it as risky to invest in as well as showing little interest in the industry.


However, Research Hub predicts that Millennials' different mindsets on farming will shift this perspective and that Millennials will drive 75% of the technological advancements and changes that will occur in farming.


Examples of AgTech


Advancements in technology have made contemporary farming much more efficient. Some of these advancements include technologies such as robots, drones, aerial images, moisture and temperature sensors, and weather forecasts. Here are some of the biggest advancements in AgTech that are contributing to furthering the field:


Weather Tracking


Weather modeling is a rapidly growing sector. There are specific services that provide farmers with advanced weather services such as notifying them about dangerous weather like hail or frost. Receiving these notifications can often help farmers prepare and take the precautions necessary to ensure minimal damage to their crops and their profits.


Minichromosomal Technology


One of the coolest and most interesting advancements in AgTech is minichromosomal technology. A minichromosome is defined as a “small structure within a cell that includes very little genetic material but can, in layman’s terms, hold a lot of information.” These tiny structures can aid agricultural geneticists to add hundreds of customizable traits to any plant. An example of a trait they might add could be drought tolerant. Consumers are known to be wary of altered produce but minichromosomal technology dodges this issue by making sure that the plant’s original chromosomes are never altered.


Vertical Farming


With the increased demand for fertile land and limited supply, vertical farming comes in handy in making sure that available land is used to the best of its capacity. In vertical farming, food is farmed and produced in vertically stacked layers, much like something from a science fiction novel. It is predicted that it will become financially viable within this decade and vertical farming technology might change the face of urban farming forever.


Soil and water sensors


Perhaps one of the most important technologies in today’s farming landscape includes soil and water sensors. These sensors are easy to use and relatively inexpensive making them popular among farmers. These sensors are useful in predicting when to water and fertilize the crop by detecting moisture and nitrogen levels in the soil. This increases efficiency while reducing costs while also being more sustainable by making sure water and fertilizer aren’t overused.


How to get involved


If this article makes you interested in pursuing a job in the Agricultural Technology sector, it is recommended that you pursue a degree in Agricultural Sciences. Some people also transfer over to agriculture from the technological side of things so it is also possible to get a degree in Computer Science or Data Science and pursue a job in AgTech from there.



Conclusion


AgTech is a growing field that is cutting edge. There are many technologies currently being developed in the sector as outlined above. AgTech is a unique solution to the population and food scarcity problems we are going to increasingly face in the coming decades so it is sure to be a field that explodes in popularity soon.


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