21st-century agriculture gets connected
As the world population grows, so does the strain we put on the environment. The need for sustainable agricultural systems has never been greater, and communications technology is becoming essential to their development. The technological innovations that are emerging in the agricultural industry combine mobile broadband and machine-to-machine communication to help increase productivity, while also delivering environmental benefits.
For example, in Italy, Panzano winemaker Luca Orsini and his family make Chianti Classico in their organic vineyard. A wireless monitoring system, with sensors in the vines, sends information through GPRS, helping the Orsini family run their vineyard and produce the best wine possible. Meanwhile, in Macedonia, a pilot project, Agro Info, has been launched to provide agricultural pricing and market information to farmers through free SMS. And in China, real-time remote-monitoring technology helps to control water quality in the ponds where Chinese mitten crabs are raised.
These developments have contributed to improving soil, nutrient and water quality, as well as enabling more efficient methods of harvesting, storing, processing and transporting farm products to market.
It makes me think of my own garden. Cultivation here is certainly not carried out on an industrial scale, and my family doesn’t depend on the crops for a living, but still, it would be nice to see the industrial development spill over to small-scale household farming. It would benefit families in poor rural areas, who have to fight really hard against the powers of nature – drought and rain. And it would benefit those creating inner-city farms on their roof tops and balconies, helping them to cultivate and enjoy their own vegetables. I’m sure there is an opportunity in this: apply industrial thinking to small-scale conditions and create the solutions to help me and other household farmers monitor and manage our gardens in order to maximize their potential. Not only will it help us save money, it will protect the environment and allow us to enjoy fresher local produce.