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New Agriculture

Jungfrau_DSC_0274
(Jungfrau, Switzerland - Alvin Wei-Cheng Wong)

 

 Smart Farms: Silicon Valley meets Central Valley

 

Digital technologies, from GPS-based and sensor-driven work machines, drone applications to robotics, agriculture is becoming a digital industry. Digital technologies can support farmers in providing safe, sustainable and quality food. Not only do they help farmers “produce more with less”, but they can also contribute to fighting climate change. Existing and new technologies such as the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, robotics and big data can contribute to making processes more efficient and can lead to the creation of new products and services. Digitization can also play a role in creating a better life in rural areas. 

Crops experience some environmental stresses which include drought, water logging, salinity, extremes of temperature, insects, birds, other pests, weeds, pathogens (viruses and other microbes), etc.. The ability to tolerate these stresses is a very multifaceted phenomenon. In addition, the inability to do so which renders the crops susceptible is again the result of various exogenous and endogenous interactions in the ecosystem. 

Modern agriculture, food production and distribution are major contributors of greenhouse gases. Agroecology is the study of ecological processes that operate in agricultural systems that are productive but also resource conserving. It links ecology, culture, economics, and society to sustain agricultural production, healthy environments, and viable food and farming communities. For example, fertilizers such as nitrogen often end up in water sources, and contribute to the acidification of soil. They also cause global warming, causing soil microbes to emit unexpectedly high levels of nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas with 300 times as much heat-trapping power as carbon dioxide. In today's changing society and globalized world, public awareness about ensuring safety and security in the food systems, global climate change and environmental sustainability, and the fiscal and ecological costs of our growing material and energy needs have increased dramatically. 

Solar radiation, temperature, and precipitation are the main drivers of crop growth; therefore agriculture has always been highly dependent on climate patterns and variations. USDA’s framework for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry, to help farmers, ranchers, and forest land owners in their response to climate change, spans a range of technologies and practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon storage, and generate clean renewable energy. As a matter of fact, renewable energy and farming are a winning combination. Wind, solar, and biomass energy can be harvested forever, providing farmers with a long-term source of income. Renewable energy can be used on the farm to replace other fuels or sold as a "cash crop." 

Modern agriculture aims for the production of high quality food and animal feed as well as raw materials in sufficient quantity for a wide variety of industrial applications. Further objectives consist of preservation of resources and protection of the environment. In order to successfully meet these challenges scientists have to understand the various aspects of environmental stresses in view of the current development from molecules to ecosystems (contemporary crop stress research). Emerging agriculture technologies that give farmers ways to make precise, targeted responses to crop stresses are expected to figure prominently in the efforts to make farming more efficient, sustainable and of high quality.

 

Possible Research Topics

 

More Information on New Agriculture

 

[MIT]: The Open Agriculture intiative (OpenAg) - Farming for the Future - An open source ecosystem of food technologies to create healthier, more engaging and more inventive food systems. Grow local, from anywhere.


 

[More to come ...]


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