Whether through trade opportunities, environmental regulations, or the supply chain, governments directly affect farm policy. Rarely has it been more apparent than in January of this year when President Biden signed a sweeping executive order aimed at curbing the effects of global warming and making the agriculture industry, as a whole, more climate-conscious. The order directs federal agencies to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and immediately address disproportionate health, environmental, economic, and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities. Another important aspect of the EO is the fact that it requires federal agencies to invest in “climate-friendly infrastructure and jobs” – a major stepping stone for the U.S.
As the Biden administration rolls out these changes, it’s crucial companies invest in new technologies. If farming experts, growers, seed companies, and digital agriculture specialists embrace the possibilities of artificial intelligence ("AI"), machine learning ("ML"), the internet of things ("IoT"), the agriculture industry can put the boot on the neck of climate change. Digital transformation could potentially ensure farmland is ready to meet the ever-growing demands of food. So, over the next several decades, it’s important those in the agriculture industry are not only prepared for this digital revolution but willing to embrace it.
The Ever-Changing Landscape of the Agriculture Industry
History shows how technology has continually pushed the agriculture industry to new heights. In the late 1700s, the Industrial Revolution brought forth the cotton gin. As they moved into the 1800s, farms and farmers embraced grain elevators, gas-powered tractors, and chemical fertilizers. And in the 1900s, farmers and growers began experimenting with satellite imagery to monitor their crops. Today, we see more and more companies capitalizing on the benefits of sensors, drones, and other IoT applications, ultimately improving crop yield and performance.
But how can we make this technological embrace universal? And how can we streamline this concept of digital farming?
First, it’s necessary to understand the benefits of these technologies over traditional methods or practices. While satellite imagery was revolutionary at the time, that data cannot replace what you can capture with a drone. DroneDeploy is capable of surveying lands, generating crop data and recommending prescriptions based on that data, monitoring plants’ maturity and health, and performing automated stand assessments, eliminating the need for time-consuming, laborious, manual stand counts. Drone technology stretches the possibilities of precision agriculture, replacing lost time and money with positive yields and, potentially, significant returns.
While some may see this as an added cost today, unable to keep pace with a positive ROI, many companies are already reaping the benefits. And with the world’s population expected to reach nearly 10 billion in 2050, there will inevitably be a substantial rise in demand for food. During this time, forecasters expect global agricultural production to increase by 69%. For the high-tech smart farms of the future, it’s imperative to capitalize on IoT analytics to increase production capabilities. If the agriculture industry can create an ecosystem of connectivity, it will be far more likely it meets growing food demands while simultaneously preserving resources.
How Do We Reduce Carbon Emissions?
The Biden administration has also set its sights on reducing carbon emissions, with the hope of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, and it called on farmers to lead the charge. This makes sense, too. The EPA estimated that the agriculture industry accounted for 9.9% of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. But most experts agree that farmers have the potential to sequester that carbon through regenerative agriculture practices and avert the worst impacts of climate change. Research even suggests removing that carbon in the atmosphere and replenishing soil worldwide could result in a 10% carbon reduction.
At DroneDeploy’s recent Field Day event, one particularly spirited session included “What to Expect Under the New Administration: A Discussion on Farm Policy.” Jenny Conner Nelms, Senior Policy Advisor of Agriculture for The Nature Conservancy, had this to say: “There is an immediate window to enact policy to put us on a better path to reduce carbon emissions.” Andrew Walmsley, Director of Congressional Relations at American Farm Bureau Federation, added, “We need to answer the question: how can agriculture be the solution to solving carbon emissions?”
This posit seemed to be the consensus. While all agreed we need policies and business leadership to spearhead climate change and carbon emissions, it was more difficult to agree on how best to go about it.
The Biden administration has proposed a carbon bank, essentially a multibillion-dollar account that will pay farmers to capture carbon from the atmosphere. And while the idea has been met with some criticism, it marks arguably the most aggressive step toward curbing climate change through farm policies.
On the technology side, DroneDeploy has taken massive strides toward updating our technology to make farmers more efficient while improving their workflows. Nowhere is it more apparent than our recent partnership with Corteva Agriscience. Karis Gutter, Corteva’s North America Government & Industry Affairs from Corteva, had this to say at Field Day, “From a Corteva’s perspective, we’re excited about tools and technologies we have that will help get us to net-zero carbon emissions.” As tools evolve and technology gets better (and as these policies become official), we feel poised to respond to the challenges facing sustainable agriculture.
Working Toward Seamless Smart Farming
We need to work faster. There are fast swaths of farmland, but also rising demands for food and an uncertain supply chain. In the coming years, the agriculture industry will undoubtedly need to adopt automation best practices. Because automating agricultural workflows will allow farmers, growers, agronomists, and seed companies to work faster and more efficiently.
As these policies shift, broaden, and narrow over the years, those in the agriculture industry should feel certain in the tools they are using – just as they were confident in gas-powered tractors and elevator grains, they can be confident in DroneDeploy.