Dawn of the Next Generation of Agriculture

Some experts believe that by the year 2050, the Earth’s population will reach nine billion people.  This is up from the 7.3 billion in the world today.  Of course when you have more people, they all will demand more food than what we produce today.  Other demands on infrastructure from energy, transportation, and water will also increase.  This will require new solutions to satisfy demand.

Today, we are seeing new advances in technology that are pushing agriculture into the future. Lance Donny, founder of the start-up OnFarm Systems, an agriculture data company, divides up the history of Agriculture into 3 different periods.  First is Agriculture 1.0 from the beginning of the world until around 1920.  This period was marked with a lot of manual labor and some tools.  Agriculture 2.0 ran from 1920 to 2010.  This period was characterized by machines, fertilizers, improved seeds, and farming methods allowed farmers to produce more with less struggle.

Now we have entered into a new age, Agriculture 3.0.  This time is now marked when data is crucial and can become the most important resource.  Data will help a farmer understand how and when to use fertilizer, or insecticide.  Data can help know where the majority of the herd is located on a massive ranch. 

A few years ago, I visited a large dairy.  The technology in dairies today is amazing.  Every time a cow is milked, vitals of the cows are taken.  If the cow has a fever, then after the milking, the computer chip in the cow’s ear tag will open a gate that the cow will walk through to the vet.  If a cow is milked twice a day, that will also produce two check-ups each day for the cow. 

Technological advancements on the farm are huge.  In 2010, AgFunder, a crowdfunding platform for the agriculture industry, saw $400MM of deals.  In 2015, it will exceed $2.1B. The subsector of farming that is producing the most funding this year is in robotics and drones.  This can be expected.  The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International cites a study that commercial drones will generate over $80 billion in economic impact over the next decade with agricultural drones providing the most benefits. 

Yamaha is heavily involved in producing drones and already sells these to Japan, South Korea, and Australia.  Now one in every three bowls of rice in Japan have been treated by a Yamaha drone.  Now Yamaha is looking at entering the US market.  This drone is rather large, and can be used for crop inspection, fertilizer application, or pesticide spray. 

Drone technology is only one of the new inventions in the world of Agriculture 3.0.  We are also seeing robotics for harvesting, GPS drivers of tractors, and various computer applications to monitor animals’ health.  Watch for other advances in technology and how these will play an important role in the future. 

Since we are talking about information, I will make a plug for our classes this fall.  Next week, on Monday and Tuesday, we are teaching Intermediate Ag Lending in Miles City, Montana.  We also have Commercial Real Estate Lending and Beginning Agriculture Lending in Fargo, North Dakota in the first week of November and also have Commercial and Industrial/Small Business Lending during the third week of November in Deadwood, South Dakota.  These are all great opportunities to meet other lenders and increase your knowledge and skill level in your field.  Please contact us for more info.  We would love to see you.