We have witnessed many difficulties this year in the form of Wildfires, extreme weather events, rising sea levels, dying out animal species at unprecedented rates and overall climate change. However, there is a missing link between all these calamities, and that is the way we grow our food according to Karn Manhas.
We all are growing in numbers, and we all need food. However, the ways we produce food is not sustainable in the long run and substantially contribute to environmental change. The current process consumes 34% of the land, 69% of freshwater and gives out a quarter of global greenhouse gases causing pollution of freshwater and leading to deforestation releasing 4 billion MT of carbon dioxide(2017) into the atmosphere.
The global populations expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050. In this scenario, to get the supply of sufficient food, the attitude is more we get is better and to understand that, we mean adding more seeds, more fertilizer, and more pesticides. This approach towards agriculture is taking us to the verge of disaster. In this crucial time, agriculture needs to adopt technology and precision.
Nowadays to increase output, farmers only know to employ “spray-and-pray” techniques and apply synthetic chemicals to their crops. We are becoming more obsessed with output and thereby compromising the vital inputs like soil, air, and water which make farming possible. Instead, we need a circular, regenerative, and restorative system. However, farmers seem to be bound by the industry conventions and are in a helpless condition with limited tools.
Now, all we need is to embrace the potential of agricultural intelligence to reinvent the way we grow food. At root, agricultural intelligence means delivering what a crop needs, precisely at the time it’s needed.
At the advent of future farming, a surge of startups has come up with technologies built expressly to collect agricultural data and helping farmers with the tools to respond to micro-conditions in perpetual flux and revamping their know-how in case of deploying water, fertilizers, and pesticides.
FarmShots and Vine View services use drones to take thermal images of crops of high-resolution for measuring hydration, health and potential diseases. Drones also outperform human speed or efficiency in case doing 3D mapping, seeding and fertilizing.
We now have other innovations even at the level of monitoring an individual plant. The complex ag-bots from John Deere’s Blue River Technology use cameras, computers and artificial intelligence for monitoring crops, weed detection and a “see-and-spray” basis administering of herbicide which in turn reducing its use by up to 90%.
There are smartphone apps like Plantix that compare a photo of a plant against a database of diseases and nutritional deficiencies, and after that suggest a plan of action. Companies like Prospera are even doing whole-farm monitoring and management.
In present times, innovations at the molecular level have become more exciting than before. It’s all about understanding nature to work with it. Machine learning is revealing the intricacies of plant chemistry, customizing the treatments to reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides. Companies like Trace Genomics identify pathogens by testing soil samples and monitor fertility at a DNA level.
The company Terramera of Karn Manhas wants to help farmers to be more efficient and grow more with less. It explores the way of pairing natural materials with both inputs of conventional agriculture and organic to improve intake at the molecular level that will reduce the use of synthetic chemical materials, increase production of crops and optimize plant health. They want to help the next thousand generations by doing things differently on this planet.
It is true that established agricultural systems will not change globally overnight. However, to fight climate change and mounting environmental damage, we need to focus on incremental change and balance economic viability with an ambitious long-term vision. From sustenance farmers to agricultural giants like Cargill and Bayer/Monsanto, all should come together in this movement.
Agricultural intelligence can revolutionize the process of growing our food with minimized resources and optimizing natural inputs. It can even regenerate the land overused for years. While feeding ourselves, we also need to give something back to the planet in return of what we’ve taken from it so far.