“The exciting thing about the 4th Agricultural Revolution is that ALL of the technology that we need to make Per Plant Farming a reality already exists,” says Sam Watson-Jones, President and Co-Founder of Small Robot Company (SRC).
The company was profiled in the REAP Start-Up Showcase at REAP 2017, and has launched several of its robots at the conference.
Ahead of REAP 2022 we asked Sam how he saw the future of agriculture and role of robotics.
“The future of food production will be shaped by Per Plant Farming – this is the way that the majority of the world’s farms will be operating by 2040.
“Per Plant Farming requires two elements. Firstly, Per Plant Intelligence – the ability to gather data and to understand every single plant in a field, and every square inch of soil. Secondly, Per Plant Action – the tools to take action at that same level of granularity.
“There are huge parts of agriculture that we simply don’t understand in enough detail at the moment. But huge, organised and integrated data sets (gathered by robots, sensors, satellites and so on), supported by the power of Artificial Intelligence will enable a transformation in how we understand our farms and our soils, and off the back of this we will see a transformation in how we take action.
“Very soon it will be unusual for a farmer to take any decision on their farm without the support of AI, and very soon it will be unusual for a farmer to apply a blanket application of anything in their field. We will move towards a system of Per Plant Farming.
“The technology is there, but the challenge is in finding the right business models to accelerate adoption and to attract investment so that these solutions can be scaled. But the tech is there – it already works and farmers are already finding it useful.
“Maybe this is an obvious answer, but all of the above – they should not be mutually exclusive.
“We need to take a soil first approach, but we also need remote management and high tech to support this soil first approach so that we are taking the right decisions. We also need our farm businesses to be more diversified.
“Off-land approaches clearly have a future, but they will not be the answer in isolation, and diversified land use management should be a foundation of everything we do.
“Importantly, ‘High Tech’ is not a contrast to either of these approaches – it should be seen as a tool to support all other approaches.”
From yield mapping and precision livestock through to digital twins and cloud computing, at REAP 2022 we will be exploring the technology and looking at the implications from a field to landscape level. Making technology farm-centric is core to Agri-TechE’s mission so a key feature of the conference will be a panel of farmers and producers discussing the emerging technologies and future scenarios.