In 2018, the World Government Summit (WGS) launched “Agriculture 4.0: The Future of Agricultural Technology”, a report addressing the main challenges in agriculture – demography, scarce natural resources, climate change, food waste – to meet future global demands.
In 2020, the UN estimated that around 800 million people (one tenth of the world’s population) were undernourished, a condition made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. The WGS report predicts that by 2030, 650 million people will still be undernourished and highlights the need to produce 70% more food by 2050.
This mammoth challenge provides a strong impetus for governments to pursue an “unusual business” approach to agriculture and food security, driven by innovations spurred by Industry 4.0. Klaus Schwab, organizer of the World Economic Forum, quotes that today, Industry 4.0 puts the world “on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally change the way we live, work and interact with each other. . In its scale, scope and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humanity has experienced before.
The first industrial revolution harnessed the energy of water and steam; the second electrical energy withdrawn; the Third uses electronics and information technologies, while the Fourth (Industry 4.0) builds on the Third, characterized by a fusion of technologies, blurring the boundaries between the physical, digital and biological spheres, and giving birth to Agriculture 4.0.
Agriculture 4.0 is essentially the digitization of agricultural operations. For example, the use of drones captures agricultural images and data in real time. This lets farmers know which areas need water and pest and nutrient management, enabling the precise application of inputs by a fleet of agribots. Smart tractors with GPS-controlled steering perform precise land preparation, significantly reducing costs. In breeding, sensors are attached to the animals, allowing real-time monitoring of their general well-being. This data is stored in the farmer’s computer, serving as evidence for a digital farming operations platform. Additionally, blockchain technology captures the entire process from when the crop is planted and harvested until it reaches the market and is purchased by consumers as a raw or processed product – the origin identified by traceability.
The WGS report further states that agricultural operations will be run very differently, primarily due to advanced technologies such as sensors, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, aerial imagery, GPS and satellite technologies. ‘information. Farmers will no longer depend on manually applying water, fertilizer and pesticides to entire fields. Instead, they will use drones to apply precise amounts of inputs to precisely targeted areas. These advanced devices enable farms to be more profitable, efficient, safe and environmentally friendly.
Science-based innovations, massively deployed through a decentralized, provincially-led extension system and catalyzed by digital technology, will play a key role in addressing food scarcity, dramatically reducing grassroots hunger.
Agriculture 4.0 will require strategic partnerships between governments, private investors and developers of innovative agricultural technologies. In the Philippines, Agriculture 4.0 can be pursued with the government establishing an integrated digital platform for agricultural advisory services in partnership with the private sector. An integrated digital platform will completely transform the agricultural value chain by providing farmers with access to timely information, enabling mass adoption of advanced technologies. Moreover, it will bring transparency and efficiency in the supply chain and connect farmers to national and global markets to ensure better incomes.
Agriculture will be the focus of economic recovery under the next administration. Therefore, beyond its schemes, the Department of Agriculture (DA) must intensely pursue digital agriculture through research for development and implement it with local government units through systems agricultural and fisheries extension programs run by the province. In doing so, the DA will transcend its traditional distribution and regulatory functions to ensure food security, reduce dependence on food imports, and increase farmer productivity in an innovation-driven agricultural economy.
Agriculture 4.0 is, indeed, the future of global agriculture and the driving force behind the modernization of agriculture in the Philippines.
Dr. Rex L. Navarro is a member of the Coalition for Modernizing Agriculture in the Philippines. He was an Associate Professor and former Director of the Institute (now College) of Communication for Development at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.
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