With another new year coming in, it is always a good time to start reflecting on the previous year and looking ahead to what is next. As we come into the new decade of the 2020s, it is interesting to think about what is to come with the future of agriculture in the next 10 years. We are now 30 years from the 2050 “deadline” we all hear about and have significant opportunity to combat challenges in our industry in the next decade.
So, what’s next for the future of agriculture?
The next 10 years will bring about some exciting advancements, opportunities, and challenges. Below are a few of the categories and changes we might see in the coming years. No one can predict the future, but based on current trajectory of technologies and agribusiness, some of the changes we may see in the next few years are significant to our industry.
This is one near and dear to many of our hearts in precision agriculture and digital farming, but instead of looking at the next satellite resolution or the sensor to the future, looking at how the technology is used and adopted in the next 10 years is critical. For more adoption and use, the next decade will have to bring technology that is available, affordable, and usable. Having more bells and whistles only matters if we can trace back or realize an immediate ROI on the farm for the decisions that we are making.
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The technology advancements already available are astounding but cost or use is prohibitive to making everyday decisions when margins are tight. We will continue to hear about AI, machine learning, sensors and IoT, data management, and the technologies will move more into everyday use than in an early adopter or innovator phase. The Global Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Agriculture Market Analysis projects the market to grow at a significant CAGR of 28.38% during the forecast period from 2019 to 2024 alone. These technologies and advancements for our sector of agribusiness will grow and advance significantly in the next 10 years.
As connectivity, rural broadband accessibility, and technology intelligence gets better and better, automation is on track to make revolutions in the next 10 years — with both equipment, implements, and decision making alone. The market for agriculture IoT is expected to grow from USD 11.2 billion in 2018 to USD 20.9 billion by 2024; it is projected to grow at a CAGR of 10.4% from 2019 to 2024.
We’ve all seen the autonomous cars and models of tractors, but the next decade may bring more automation outside of the box than we have seen before as technology, connectivity, and data science improves. Automatic irrigation systems based on weather and crop demands, more storage fans and temperature controls automatic, automated job creation, and easier alerting on potential threats to production or marketing are all in the pipeline now across agribusiness but may become more available and confident in the next decade.
Size of everything in the next 10 years is certain to change. As the next decade will more than likely be a turn from an older generation of farmers to the younger and new generation, many decisions on size — from equipment, to farms, to labor — all will change in the 2020s, based on need or opportunity from a new generation of decision makers.
Will farms be more apt to consolidation and getting larger, or will smaller farms create niche marketing opportunities to sell to their consumers? If farms do get larger, do we see less price volatility due to risk management of utilizing precision technologies and a more global scale of reliable production? Where does global production move by commodity with more advancements not only domestically, but internationally? With equipment, can we get any larger, or do smaller, swarm-type fleets begin to make the main stage on the farm in 2020-2030? Will labor pools decrease as the move from rural to urban areas continues into the next 10 years? Many unanswered questions surround size in the coming years.
We continue to hear about transparency, especially the last few years about things like blockchain, consumer demand, and regulation. In the next decade, these terms may become more about what is happening as the “norm” and less about buzzwords. With easier data collection on farm, opportunities to sell to specific consumers for food, fiber, or fuel sources may drive more consumer interest from the farm. As regulation continues with government interest in topics such as climate change or water availability, providing records and the bread crumb trail of production could become a necessity for all farms to produce and sell into an open market. Having data records available for audits, insurance, financing, and others, create new opportunities for farms to be better prepared for the tasks ahead.
As the modern farms of the next 10 years change, agribusiness surrounding and supporting them will also start to see shifts in the day-to-day functions. We’ve already seen announcements on new pricing models, such as outcome-based pricing, and beginning to see more suppliers and retailers move to offering e-commerce platforms for customers to purchase inputs and supplies. Another large event that we witnessed the last decade that will continue into the 2020s will be the consolidation of businesses, whether by merger or acquisition. Investments in ag technology are still high and maturing as well. Last year was a “record breaking year” for the industry that included $16.9 billion in funding spread across 1,450 investments, and it doesn’t look like it is slowing down. New market opportunities both for businesses to begin supporting new farmers and emerging areas will be opening, as well as new opportunities for supporting business in growing countries such as India and Brazil.
The key component to everything we do in agribusiness and technology is support, and that component won’t end in the future. Technology won’t replace good people — farmers, agronomists, sales people, etc. — only help to contribute to make things easier, more effective, and more impactful. New farmers will need help navigating a complex world of decisions, new generations of students and enthusiasts will come into our world, and we will continue to grow and collaborate to better our industry for the future. There is nowhere more exciting than agriculture right now, and the next 10 years will continue that path.
No one can see the future, but as we move forward into the next decade it is exciting to see where we have come from in agriculture and where we are going. The last 100 years have been a whirlwind, and to think of the advancements coming is exciting and a challenge for all of us in agriculture to foster adoption of technology but also of change as we work towards our goal of providing profitable farms and a sustainable world.