PERREAULT Magazine March 2014 - Page 40

On a 7,000 acre farm in California, a large combine drives itself with sub-meter accuracy and lays down fertilizer only in areas pre-determined by the device’s yield mapping software to need additional nutrients. Half a world away, on a rooftop in Berlin, Germany, sits an aquaponic farm that produces both vegetables and fish. It uses the fish waste to fertilize the plants and the plants to purify the water. Both trends, in there separate ways, foreshadow how the agriculture industry will feed the 500 million new people expected to be added to the world’s population by 2020. What follows is a glimpse into the world of farming circa 2020.


Using data supplied from the latest private Chinese satellite, as well as information provided from a low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), a businessman working for a Russian agricultural conglomerate in Moscow monitors a self-driven combine a thousand miles away on a farm in the Krasnodar region of Russia. The combine steers itself with sub-micron accuracy in the middle of the night and disperses a tightly controlled amounts of genetically modified corn and soybean seeds in perfect alignment.

So accurate is the GPS and UAV data that the combine retraces its previous trips over the soil with near-perfect accuracy and no land is unnecessarily lost due to soil compaction. The increased accuracy (from sub-meter to sub-micron levels) has allowed the conglomerate to squeeze an additional 20 acres of land production for every 1000 acres it farms. Comparable yield increases have been experienced elsewhere around the world as many of the precision agricultural tools have become so affordable that even mid-sized farms have incorporated them into their regular farming practices.

Because the conglomerate can now access the latest weather forecasting models as well as operate around the clock, it was able to plant its crops at a time optimized for both reducing water usage and ensuring the maximum growth potential of the half-inch of rainfall expected to begin falling in a few hours. Furthermore, because the precision agriculture technology could plant and space corn and soybeans at an appropriate distance from one another, it was able to minimize the use of fertilizers. (This is because the nitrogen from the soybeans benefited the corn). Planting the two crops together also prevented soil erosion and reduced run-off. It was now estimated that five percent of all farmland now employed elements of intercropping or “companion planting.”






(Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Jack Uldrich's forthcoming book, 20/20 Foresight: A Futurist Looks Ahead to the Ten Trends That Will Shape the World of 2020, that he is writing with the able assistance of fellow futurist Simon Anderson. This chapter takes a look at the future of agriculture.)

Jack Uldrich is a renowned global futurist, independent scholar, sought-after business speaker, and best-selling author.

Perreault Magazine / March 2014 40