Agricultural and Sustainability Trends in 2023
Aside from the tumultuous trading conditions agriculture has faced through 2022 farming remains committed to the agenda to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and attain the goals set for 2030 and beyond. And while we focus on those goals here, mitigation efforts continue in the global arena too.
Consider first, the demands of a growing world population reaching 10 billion by 2050 with a per capita food consumption growth of between 8-12% over the same period.
Assuming current levels of production efficiency and the continuation of current deforestation rates, the ‘business-as-usual’ outlook in meeting this demand makes for hard reading and would see emissions increase by 15 to 20% over the next 30 years. Additional agriculture is already heavily skewed toward methane and nitrous oxide elements, producing 45% and 80% of global emissions respectively.
All of this is hard to address given the socio-economic landscape. Globally one in four people are farmers, that’s more than 2 billion people employed in agriculture needing to engage in reform and 75% of those are on farms of 2 hectares or less, which nonetheless, produce 30-34% of the total food supply.
Against this backdrop, what are the evolving trends to watch out for in 2023?
- Feeding a growing global need
By 2050 the FAO estimates we will need to produce 60% more food to feed this population of 10 billion. Even attaining that, some 300 million will still be exposed to food scarcity. Developing countries will have an increasing role to play in the global economy and food demand. As an example, countries like the Philippines and Columbia are currently setting records for U.S exports and developing countries will continue to account for most of the growth in U.S agricultural exports.
- Artificial intelligence
According to business intelligence research, global spending on smart technology and connected systems in the ag space is projected to triple in revenue by 2050. That includes Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. AI spending alone is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25.5% between 2020 and 2026, eventually reaching £3.2billion. Synthetic data is often used to validate AI models. Synthetic data is based on real-world data and created by a model that uses the parameters of real-world datasets.
A ‘digital-twin’ in a system that emulates real life can be particularly helpful in agriculture, where variables like soil types and weather conditions must be understood for real-world applications. Synthetic data is a powerful tool and current predictions are that by 2030 synthetic data will outpace real data in AI models.
- Precision Agriculture
2023 trends in digital agriculture will include exciting updates in the precision ag space to support crop monitoring and targeted nutrition plans. Decision support systems will be increasingly data driven, optimising crop nutrition plans and utilising key performance sustainability indicator data sets in inform decisions around metrics such as carbon footprint, phased release fertilisers and climate change impacts on modelling.
- Big Data
The internet of things (IoT) is a key driving force in agricultural advancement. It’s a general term for the billions of smart devices that contain small chips and sensors. The proliferation of these affordable, smart devices that are connected to the internet is transforming the efficiency of farming at field level.
One of the key benefits of IoT in agriculture is the ability to apply analytical tools to transform collected data into actionable insights to crop performance and climate patterns. Smart agriculture systems using IoT include remote sensors, robots, drones, and computer imaging. IoT and agriculture are evolving into a global smart agriculture market that is expected to be worth almost £12.8billion in 2025.
Agri-food companies and consortiums will continue to grow their agenda to quantify their impact on sustainability. Scotland is leading in this field and heavily involved in researching and building ecosystem markets to meet net-zero targets and reverse biodiversity decline.
The outcomes and monetarised trades will create new and closer natural capital partnerships between farmers supply on the one hand, and consumers demands on the other, and inevitably will integrate functionality with the developing carbon market values.
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