I once wrote an article about my trip to India and the experiences I had there seeing different types of farms. One thing I’ve found over my years as a writer is just how many myths there are surrounding agriculture, and some of these myths include the topics of GMOs.
Near the Ajanta caves outside of Jalgaon India I got to speak with farmers who grow GMO cotton and hear firsthand how it benefits their farm operations. Biotechnology has allowed farmers from all around the world improve yields, further protect their crops from diseases, insects, or weather elements. It allows them to be more sustainable, and in the realm of cotton, pesticide application has been reduced drastically while improving farmer profits.
Technology. A word we have all come to appreciate and use every day. But, in other countries, they just don’t always have the tools and technology we have here in the states. But do they want it? Will things improve?
Although my experience in India proved farming to be very different than what Americans are used to, many African nations have the same struggles. While we have too much affordable food in our first-world society, Africa is facing some challenges within certain crops like bacterial wilt or lethal microsis. Fortunately, scientists are currently working on developing solutions through biotechnology. Africa would like more Ag technology, but sometimes politics or economics get in the way. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has put together this great video that explains it. Robert Saik, one of Canada’s leading agrologists, also explains some of the world’s ag challenges in his TED talk here.
Agriculture may not always be as tech savvy in other countries, but tech infrastructure for mobile devices is usually quite good, which makes for a good comparison. When curious about farming tech and the future of global food security, I reached out to Julian Sanchez from John Deere. Sanchez is Director of the John Deere Technology Innovation Center, and leads various teams that focus on identifying and developing solutions that help Deere deliver a connected customer experience. His teams support R&D efforts in areas such as mobile solutions, Internet of Things, advanced sensors, and user experience. When asked about agriculture in India, he had this to say:
“India is a great example of a country that has offered opportunities for ‘technology leaps,’ where the evolution of a specific technology, ‘leaps’ a lifecycle set of solutions. For example, the rapid adoption of cell phones and smart phones in India, relative to other parts of the world, resulted in a leap over investment of traditional telecommunication infrastructure in favor of infrastructure supporting cellular technology. This trend of ‘technology leaps’ has similar effects in the agricultural world. From the perspective of a Deere engineer, we work closely with our marketing teams to understand the local needs of farmers all over the world, and work to innovate solutions that can help them be more productive and effective. To that end, we have seen farmers in India adopt a wide range of technology solutions, including digital products, such as a telematic system that sends machine data from the tractor to the farmer’s smart phone via SMS technology.”
As we work towards feeding nine billion people with precision agriculture, mobile tech, farm equipment that can drive itself, drones, improved sensors and automation, it is very exciting to see what challenges may be overcome and how technology will improve agriculture in all parts of the world.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.