When most people think about farming we tend to think of hard working men tilling away in fields and harvesting produce one tomato at a time. In the developing world this image does hold up to reality to some extent. However, in the developed world agriculture is becoming a lot more high tech and a lot less manual. Using the same information technology that revolutionized medicine, today’s farmers are producing better crops, tracking the fitness of cattle, and replacing human workers with robots. These changes will be the greatest boost food security has seen. It isn’t all good news as this farming automation happens. Many jobs will be lost to these new technological updates.
The use of sophisticated technology to improve agriculture isn’t a new idea. Genetically modified crops and cattle have been used for decades and have given us improvements in our fruit, our beef, and many other food staples. The use of this automation is bringing agriculture into new areas. There are now strains of barley that can produce their own ammonium fertilizer. The internet of things, the sharing of data between appliances, may spur even more success. For example, irrigation systems could be hooked up to sensors that provide water to crops as it is needed. This innovation is going to be key to feeding world’s constantly expanding population. By 2050 it is projected that Earth will serve as the home of 10 billion humans.
The potential for this technology to change the world will also have its drawbacks. Most of this innovation requires very little human labor, spurring unemployment rates for rural residents living in industrialized countries. In the developing world, where urban job opportunities are fewer, agricultural automation will have an even more devastating impact as farmers generally makes up an even larger portion of the overall workforce. In the same way that Uber has caused problems for taxi cab drivers, automation may drive these farmers out of business as well.