- May 17, 2019
- May 16, 2019
- May 06, 2019
Every ninth person in the world is hungry, according to the World Food Programme. A staggering 800 million people in the world go to bed hungry every day, based on an estimated world population of 7.6 billion in December 2017.
The world does produce enough food to feed every human on the planet - and more. In 2010, the world produced 20% more food than was needed to feed everyone, a 2016 study by Germany’s Potsdam Institute indicated. By 2050, this surplus is anticipated to grow significantly. Most countries and regions, even undernourished ones, produce raw surplus food.
The absence of a globally efficient food distribution system is a key factor, but population increases, climate change, the loss of arable land, pests and disease also play their part in undermining the world’s food supply. The internet of things (IoT) is rising to the occasion and striving to meet global demand but the effect of drought on many regions of the world remains potentially devastating.
What IoT Can Do?
Robots Tracking Crops
Robots are helping scientists track crops and how they grow in drought situations. Knowledge gained from the 3D images and data the robots create and collect could help agriculturists develop corn that is more drought resistant.
To develop 3D images of corn plants in the field, the research team developed a combination approach of a mobile sensor tower and autonomous robot vehicles equipped with three levels of sensors and an additional robotic arm.
The tower inspects a 60-foot radius of a given field to identify areas affected by environmental stresses, while the vehicle collects data on individual plants. The sensors have the ability to measure various heights of the corn plant in order to reconstruct the 3D image.
Measurements taken from the tower alert researchers if plants are under stress such as heat or drought, and the tower then signals the mobile robot to go to a particular area of the field and collect data on individual plants.
The robots can collect data on temperature, humidity, and light intensity at three different levels on the corn plant. This is referred to as plant phenotyping, which assesses growth, development, yield, and other characteristics.
One proposed solution to food shortage, especially in urban areas, is indoor agriculture. Several companies are pioneering the idea of growing food — mostly leafy greens — indoors using a combination of high-efficiency bulbs, temperature control, and humidifiers to create ideal growing conditions year-round. While this type of growing uses more energy than traditional outdoor agriculture, it avoids the challenges of weather, drought, and disease that plague outdoor farms. Indoor farms can predictably produce high yields, even in the dead of winter.
These indoor farms usually take the form of vertical farming. This means that the farms involve plant beds stacked atop one another in a shelving system. Each shelf gets its own lighting, and IoT devices like moisture sensors and thermometers notify the farm’s staff about conditions that are outside the ideal growing conditions. High density countries like Japan and Singapore are already seeing great success with indoor farms. However, not all plants grow well indoors, and larger plants like grains and vegetables require more space, making them economically unfeasible for indoor agriculture right now.
Improve The Existing Distribution Network
In South and South-East Asia, almost 90% of wasted calories from food are lost during storage and transport, according to World Bank estimates. Even in developed countries, the IoT can make the distribution network more efficient and productive. It can provide better monitoring and access to real-time data for decision-making. For example, it can track cargo vehicles on the road, detect congestion and create alternate routes, and monitor conditions inside the containers. These are already viable commercialized technologies in deployment.
Over the next 50 years, as the need for food continues to grow, new advances in agriculture will come from bioengineering and IoT. Cameras and sensors will allow farmers to monitor their farms with greater accuracy and plan how to maximize yields. Soon, smart farms could become almost completely automated, with a handful of people monitoring autonomous tractors and irrigation systems that plant and maintain hundreds of acres of bioengineered crops. These advances will be necessary in order to reach the 70% increase in production required by 2050.