The farms of future will play an increasingly important role in combating complex economic, social and sustainability issues. Find out how.
In 1940, the average farmer supplied enough food for approximately 10 people. Now, some 80 years later, breakthrough advancements in equipment, genetics and digital tools have enabled farmers to feed more than 160 people who live far beyond their immediate communities. During the Great Depression, an orange from Florida was considered a luxury due to logistic and transportation hurdles. Today, we all benefit from a global food chain that enables consumers in New York City to eat fresh fruits from South America in mid-February.
We now live in an era where the hindrance of seasons and geography go mostly unnoticed by the everyday consumer, and widespread famine and hunger are distant thoughts for much of the global population. While progress is undeniable, agriculture still faces unprecedented challenges. In only a few decades, our planet could be home to more than 11 billion people, and current agricultural production practices will need to adjust to produce more food with fewer resources.
Changing consumer demands
In addition to their ongoing mission to feed the world, farms and agribusinesses are also under increasing pressure to help counter climate change. Consumers in growth economies are demanding more animal proteins, while consumers in developed economies demand greater transparency with smaller carbon footprints. Given that more people are moving to cities and farther away from their food source, this would seem to create an unsolvable paradox. How does a food industry with significant reliance on transportation and geographic concentration reduce its carbon footprint?
The disconnect many people have from what they are eating has spawned intense interest among many urban consumers to visit farmers markets and take part in other food-gathering activities that bring them closer to the source of their food. Yet, despite consumer interest in getting closer to the source of their food, the next wave of change in agriculture will be marked by players who find a way to deliver solutions that advance the global food supply chain. To that end, it will be characterized by the deployment of emerging technologies, sustainable practices and innovative business models on farms on a global level. A key feature of this next wave will be the emergence of farms as lean, next generation enterprises that deploy digital technologies that are more likely to be found in a manufacturing operation than a traditional farm.