What exactly is Agriculture 4.0?

3 minute read

In its latest launch of new tractor models New Holland firmly committed itself to Agriculture 4.0, a term that has started creeping into the public consciousness without real discussion as to what it actually is.

Agriculture 4.0

There is no precise definition of its meaning and it will no doubt come to be used as a general umbrella for all sorts of technologically-driven developments in agriculture that depart from present day practices.

Its origins lie in a report from the World Government Summit, a global think tank based in Dubai, which in its own words “is a global, neutral, non-profit organisation dedicated to shaping the future of governments”.

Nonconformist Consultants

The report, entitled Agricultural 4.0 and published in 2018, was written and prepared by Oliver Wyman, a global consultancy group that “promises to deliver breakthrough impact through collaboration”.

It goes on to claim that “very little innovation has taken place in the (agricultural) industry of late” and that to have any chance of feeding future generations “we need to disrupt the system”.

Within the document it outlines what it believes are the major issues that afflict the world’s food supply.

Briefly, they are an increasing population, scarce natural resources, climate change and food waste.

Technology in New Holland
According to the Agriculture 4.0 report, there has been little technological development in farming

These are bold statements, and although there can be little argument about the possibility of food shortages, its call for a fourth industrial revolution, powered by an almost total reliance upon digital technology, has raised some important questions in academia.

Agriculture 4.0 Is Already Underway

It is also argued that such a revolution is already taking place and has been for some time.

Robotic milking of cows, for instance, has been around for 25 years now and automated milk recording for even longer.

Yet, despite all the talk of the wonders that robots will bring to agriculture during that time, they are still scarce on farms.

Vertical farming in Moscow
Russia is also exploring the concept of vertical farming. Image: Government of Moscow

To move forward the industry needs to learn more and be willing to embrace new innovations.

Ideas such as artificial meat, vertical farming, hydroponics, seawater farming, algae feedstock are all included as methods by which food production may be expanded.

Innovations like this will assist growers and take their produce to another level..

Academics from Cambridge University note:

“Smart technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and the ‘internet of things’, could play an important role in achieving enhanced productivity and greater eco-efficiency.”

A Cautious Approach

Fendt with implement
Fendt is a leader in agricultural technology

John Deere is investing heavily in robotics and smart farming, as is Fendt. Both of these companies are firmly committed to connectivity and greater automation.

First published in Agriland

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