Smart Agriculture: The Future of Farming

Smart agriculture is a relatively new term that refers to the leveraging of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies to grow crops more effectively and efficiently. The smart agriculture market is expected to boom over the following decades as advances in technology are made and it becomes more accessible. Currently, the smart agriculture market is valued at $18.12 billion; it is expected to increase to $43.37 billion by 2050. Additionally, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has fully committed to investing into smart agriculture research, per their latest science and research strategy. Of the five priority areas the USDA wants to allocate efforts upon, two are centered around smart agriculture. The first priority noted is to accelerate innovative technologies and practices in agriculture. The second is to drive climate-smart solutions, as agriculture makes up of 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, and the use of smart agriculture significantly reduces greenhouse emissions by negating waste and maximizing efficiency.

Smart Agriculture Systems (SAS) are focused on ridding farmers of guesswork and empowering them to make data-driven decisions, resulting in greater yields of higher quality crops produced with maximum efficiency. According to the New York Times, drones are being utilized to conduct remote inspections; tractors equipped with auto-steer systems and GPS receivers are used for plowing, cultivating, and harvesting with acute precision. Large tech companies have begun creating SAS that allow farmers to acquire valuable soil data, equipment data, farm practice data, and high-definition visual imagery to maximize yield optimization. Farmers are quickly beginning to see the benefits of integrating SAS on their farms.

The Bigger Picture

Embracing smart agriculture is necessary to combat many larger-scale issues that revolve around food, as there are several substantial benefits of its implementation. Here are a few impactful uses and implications for the integration of smart agriculture:

  • Innovative supply chain solutions: Investing in smart agriculture will lead to better supply chain solutions in the agriculture industry, and potentially spark innovation in other industries’ supply chain networks. AI can be leveraged to predict weather patterns, allowing farmers to gather insights, and make data-driven decisions to better navigate managing their crops during times of unfavorable weather conditions. Food storage can become more developed to avoid spoilage, fend pests, and optimize inventory space, increasing efficiency.
  • Combat food scarcity and a rapidly growing population: Food scarcity is a problem, especially as the population is projected to reach 7 billion by 2050. Smart agriculture allows farmers to minimize food spoilage, optimize resources, and better approach the difficulties of feeding a quickly-growing population.
  • Address labor shortage issues in agriculture: It is no secret that agriculture is experiencing a labor shortage. Manual labor in agriculture is often incredibly physically demanding and typically leaves a lot to be desired regarding work-life balance, repelling prospective workers; increases in real estate and land prices also act as barriers to entry. Implementing SAS tackles these issues by leaning on technology rather than people, neutralizing the labor shortage. It also gives those in the industry the opportunity to acquire more desirable skills and reduces manual labor; smart agriculture will attract more educated workers who are there for the long run.

Looking Forward: Dynamic Environments and AI

The future of agriculture is smart and draws upon intelligence and technological savviness, opposed to the arduous efforts of traditional agriculture. Forbes is predicting the rise of Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) and vertical farms. CEAs are a form of farming that recreates the exact environments in which plants thrive, making for superior crop quality. Vertical farms are farms where crops are grown stacked upon each other, typically in large warehouses, to maximize space and increase efficiency. These types of environments greatly benefit from smart agriculture and are likely to become more widespread as SAS technology develops over time, making them even more attractive alternatives to traditional farming.

Transitioning from cloud-based services to Edge AI is another trend that is predicted to take off. Edge AI, a combination of Edge Computing and AI, allows for data to be quickly acquired and used to make autonomous decisions real-time without relying on central servers or an internet connection. SAS software is predicted to become open-sourced. This will likely drastically reduce the costs that come with implementing SAS. Shifting to open-sourced software will encourage competition in smart agriculture, driving innovation in the process, by giving farmers the tools they need to find the best ways to optimize their farming operations.

Smart agriculture is quickly beginning to change the farming landscape and has major implications.


Contact Converge to help you cultivate your supply chain with your smart agriculture partners.


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