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Increasing productivity in farm to table sector with technology

By Karen Graham     Jul 14, 2017 in Technology
The world's population is expected to reach 9.7 billion people by 2050 and combined with the effects of climate change, our agriculture and food industries are presented with a great many challenges, opening the door to innovation at many levels.
A growing global population, coupled with extremes in weather brought on by climate change, has already resulted in a number of promising new innovations in the agricultural and food production sector worldwide, according to Strategy+Business.
One of the greatest needs is solving the challenges facing these two important sectors, and this is where differing technologies can actually partner in creating innovative solutions. Today, in India, a country with a very large rural sector engaged in farming, Pune-based startup AgroStar has developed a mobile commerce platform that helps farmers buy supplies and raw materials.
A farm worker plowing his cotton field at Chinawal village  India.
A farm worker plowing his cotton field at Chinawal village, India.
abhiriksh/Wikimedia Commons
AgroStar customers using either a mobile app or the “missed call” technique, have instant contact with their suppliers. AgroStar now connects with over 150 brands, including multinationals such as Syngenta, while serving over 7.0 million farmers in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
A growing need to find a way to feed our future population
While Agrostar's mobile app solution is just one of many innovations that help farmers to connect with suppliers, there is an increasing need for greater investment in research and development (R&D). According to the United Nations, with the world's population reaching 9.7 billion by 2050, at the same time, we will require a 70 percent increase in agricultural production.
We are already seeing the impact of climate change and food scarcity in a number of countries in parts of Africa and the Middle East, where the risk of starvation has increased dramatically. Due to budget and other constraints in many countries, the bulk of agricultural R&D investments has moved to the commercial, rather than the private sector.
A toxic mix of erratic rains  abnormally high temperatures and floods have wreaked havoc on farming ...
A toxic mix of erratic rains, abnormally high temperatures and floods have wreaked havoc on farming, writing off the bulk of this year's crop in southern Africa
Alexander Joe, AFP/File
In higher-income countries, agricultural R&D has seen an increasing convergence of advances in the fields of biology, agronomy, plant and animal science, digitization and robotics. The innovations created have strengthened crop yields, the productivity of farming machinery and most importantly, sustainability.
CRISPR -  revolutionary new tool to cut and splice DNA.
CRISPR - revolutionary new tool to cut and splice DNA.
Illustration courtesy of Jennifer Doudna/UC Berkeley
Boosting crop yields through CRISPR-cas9
CRISPR-cas9 is a new genetic engineering tool that offers gene-editing that is faster, and wider in scope than older methods of gene-editing. It is said to have big implications for food and farmers.
According to Jill Wildonger of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, “It really opens up the genome of virtually every organism that’s been sequenced to be edited and engineered.”
In the United States, 90 percent of soybean, cotton and corn crops are grown using GMCs, while in Europe, GMCs have run up against a barrier due to health concerns. This is where CRISPR technology can play a role in avoiding the features in GMCs that are a cause for concern.
Agribusiness giant Syngenta AG s  MIR162 genetically modified corn.
Agribusiness giant Syngenta AG's MIR162 genetically modified corn.
CRISPR has been "road-tested" in crops, including wheat, rice, soybeans, potatoes, sorghum, oranges and tomatoes. By the end of 2014, research into agricultural uses for CRISPR increased, including a spectrum of applications, from boosting crop resistance to pests, to reducing the toll of livestock disease.
The big difference in CRISPR and gene-editing is that during the CRISPR process there are no genes added to the plants. With CRISPR, a small snippet or two of the genome itself is removed.
The Internet of Things in agriculture
The IoT will allow for constant monitoring of food as it grows and is being processed and transported, ensuring that crop production is efficient and done safely. And the IOT can further aid in the manufacturing of food production, from factory to shipping and ultimately to the supermarket, at all times keeping track of every nuance of the process.
Kakaxi lets you monitor your crops in real time.
Kakaxi lets you monitor your crops in real time.
Kakaxi is one example of an innovative tech company. According to the company website, their "device uses sensor technology to capture and broadcast accurate, hyper-local weather data. The device uses an ultra-wide camera to capture a time-lapse video of food growth, is solar powered, and connected to 3G. Easy to read graphs detail on-farm conditions via Farmer Dashboard accessible by smartphone or computer."
Kakaxi is just one of many companies working in the IoT field and we can expect to see many more sensors, beacons and RFID technologies coming out in the very near future.
More about farm to table, Crispr, IoT, Agriculture, R&D Investment