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High-tech harvesting

Mankind must find new ways of boosting agricultural output to meet society’s rising demands. Today in its infancy, IT-assisted farming has a major role to play and early adopters will benefit from immediate gains, says DR JOSEPH REGER, Chief Technology Officer at Fujitsu Technology Solutions.

Mankind is staring down the barrel of a gun if it stands in the way of using technology to enable smart farming of the future. Continued global population growth and the growing reliance on agriculture to provide replacements for fossil fuels mean there is no alternative but to take farming high-tech.

Existing global resources are already under strain ‚ and it’s becoming ever clearer that today’s low-technology farming methods are simply not good enough for the future: we must find improvements to ensure harvests abundant enough to cope with ever-increasing demand.

Dr Joseph Reger, Chief Technology Officer at Fujitsu Technology Solutions

Crop failures and famines will have an increasingly global impact ‚ and can more easily be avoided in the first place by turning to technology-assisted farming to help determine critical factors such as the best time to sow, and the optimal time to reap. Then there is the additional benefit of greatly improved early warning systems for any factors that may lead to crop failure.

It is quite obvious that the IT industry has not paid enough attention to agriculture. Nor is there an immediate fix. The application of technology to achieve tangible gains in farming first requires the collection and processing of massive amounts of data ‚ to then provide suggestions for optimization.

However, it is vital that we make a start. To enable innovation, we need very flexible IT infrastructures, ideally where no upfront investment is required: environments where projects can run quickly, where capacity is available on-demand ‚ which means cloud computing.

The biggest benefit of harnessing cloud computing to improve agriculture is that the infrastructure is already there. Domain experts in agriculture can run IT-assisted farming projects without first needing to become technology specialists.

In Japan, Fujitsu is already deploying technology in the paddy fields to determine the optimum time for rice crop harvesting. This answers the question of ‚how do my agricultural activities increase the yield or deliver higher efficiency’.

Fujitsu is also taking an interest in a project in Germany that is working towards improving the quality of Sp√§tlese (late harvest) wine ‚ in this case, the goal is not to increase the quantity of the crop, but to improve the quality. Here, technology can also play its part.

As agriculture goes high-tech, the agricultural technology revolution will not require farmers to put down their hoes and pick up a mouse. Instead, we predict the growth of specialist project groups with an expertise on agricultural and associated disciplines, such as ecosystems. Storage and server capacity is simply purchased as a cloud service for the duration of the project ‚ then released.

Is it a surprise that the targeted use of technology can make a huge difference in agriculture? Not really. That’s because today, the penetration of IT is rather low ‚ so it is much easier to make a difference. Early adopters of smart farming will enjoy big gains.

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