The perception of farming is still traditional, but the industry has gone a long way from using hoes and sickles. The agricultural industry has developed numerous innovations and advancements that help preserve food security and increase crop yields for the entire population.
Agricultural innovations increase productivity of farms and commercial growers, while maintaining sustainable farming to ease the impacts of agricultural practices on the earth. These innovative ideas present a look into the future of agriculture, as well as food production.
Hydroponics is part of sustainable agriculture, where crops are grown in soilless mediums, and provide nutrient rich solutions directly to roots. Water is pumped through gullies, carrying nutrient rich solution, and plants take in a steady stream of water flowing through the trays.
Hydroponics may or may not include UV lights to aid growing plants, as well as air pumps to aerate the water flowing through the system. There are multiple types of hydroponic systems: ebb and flow systems, NFT systems, deep water culture systems, drip systems, and more. Hydroponics aims to grow more crops with less space and resources.
The vertical farming system was conceptualized to meet the demand in urban farming. Vertical farms make use of tall, upright structures when farming, utilizing the minimal space available in urban settings. Vertical farming may be done in conjunction with hydroponics, aeroponics, or traditional farming.
Vertical farming is a broad term for farming setups that are grown perpendicular to the ground. Vertical farms aim to make use of available space, particularly in small-scale farms. As a result, farmers are able to increase their productivity while using less space than traditional farming.
Aquaponics harmonize farming and fish ponds by planting crops directly above indoor ponds, allowing the plants to take in nutrient rich waste excreted by fish. In return, the plants purify the water in a symbiotic relationship with the fish. This type of sustainable agriculture mimics natural pond ecosystems, allowing flora and fauna to coexist.
Aquaponics use more than just fish wastewater to provide plants with nutrients, farmers add beneficial microbes into the water. These beneficial bacteria transform fish excrement into nutrient rich waste that is easier for plants to absorb.
Like hydroponics, aeroponics grows plants in a soilless medium. Unlike hydroponics, aeroponics uses very little water to keep crops hydrated. Growers provide plants with a mist of nutrient solution instead of a flowing stream of water, and this technique was initially conceptualized for growing plants in space.
Aeroponics is a type of vertical farming, where plants are suspended in levels, and hydrated with a timed mister. This reduces the chances of root rot, and aids in pest management as the roots are not waterlogged in a steady stream.
Aeroponics is considered a highly-sustainable farming method, using 90% less water than hydroponic systems. As roots are provided ample exposure to oxygen, crop yields tend to grow faster, and contain increased nutritional value.
Commercial farms can reach up to 22 million acres - which is a lot of ground for traditional farm equipment to cover. Automated farm equipment takes out the guesswork in tilling, seeding, growing, harvesting, and packing for transport.
These innovations solve labor shortages and time constraints by using automated tools and machinery to operate the farm non-stop. Automated farm equipment can be customized to meet the demand and requirements of different farms, and produce higher yields than with manual labor.
Besides commercial equipment, urban growers and small-scale farmers have automated farm setups to simplify and streamline their hydroponic farms, aquaponic farms, or vertical farms. These setups are tailored to urban gardening, using UV grow lights and automated misting mechanisms to support vertical farming solutions.
ModularFarms is a company that specializes in customized and automated vertical farming systems. The company uses steel containers similar to shipping containers for their setups, with columns of vertical farming setups inside. These custom setups are scalable, and can be done in urban settings.
CubicFarms is another one of these companies providing vertical farming setups in steel-built containers. Unlike ModularFarms, CubicFarms systems are environment-controlled and fully-automated, with vertical farming setups rotating in a v-shaped motion to optimize the light and water requirements of different crops.
Plantscaping is the combination of farming and architecture where plants grown in and around buildings provide resources for the people working or living in the structure. It is a type of sustainable agriculture combined with green building that promotes sustainable lifestyles through these vertical farms.
Plantscaping does not only provide resources and food for people in the building, but it purifies the air and lowers the internal temperature of the building as well, removing the need for man-made air systems.
Bee vectoring is coined by Bee Vectoring Technologies - a company that specializes in commercially-reared bees as part of pest control, disease management, and pollination of agricultural crops. These bees are released into farms to control the pest population without the use of pesticides.
This farming practice combines the forces of nature with agriculture, allowing bees to perform their instinctive tasks, while keeping the farm free from pests and diseases. Bees are also released to pollinate crops, using nature to grow food as organically as possible without compromising crop yield.
The Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) is used to upgrade the current GPS technologies available to farms. The tech provides improved GPS and satellite tracking using stationary receivers strategically placed in the farm, and provides accurate data for land surveying.
Through RTK, farmers can get a detailed description of the optimal yield, expenses, and required manpower for the farm, as well as plant density of crops to be planted, and land treatment plans to increase soil fertility.
Precision farming uses sensors, satellites, and drones for data collection, soil management, and crop monitoring. Traditionally, data collection and farm management was done manually, and was subject to human errors.
Precision farming uses devices to scan the farm, and create virtual models that provide accurate descriptions of the current status of the farm. At the same time, these devices monitor the growth and health of crops, as well as the nutrient concentration in the soil. These devices analyze soil fertility, and provide data for farmers to work with.
Agriculture is the world’s largest industry, and an essential one as it entails food security and resource production. Farming practices are evolving to become more sustainable, organic, and yield higher-quality harvests through innovations that are redefining farming.