Smart Farming: The Growing Role of Precision Agriculture and Biotech
Fast Company|Winter 2020/2021
Efficiency and sustainabiility go hand-in-hand, with an added bonus: farmers improve crop yields

Farming has always involved risk. Risk of pestilence, water shortages or excess, and weather events are only a few of the conditions affecting successful crop growth. Applied nutrients and crop protectors help plants thrive but can result in environmental harm. Given sustainability concerns, growing tomorrow’s food supply is even more fraught with challenges. The world’s population continues expanding, but available farming land is actually shrinking, inside and outside the U.S. And the demands are growing. Currently, the planet contains 7.6 billion inhabitants, but the population is expected to expand to 9.8 billion by 2050. Farmers are tasked with feeding the world, but increasingly, they need to do so with fewer resources.

The good news is that agricultural technology designed to address this growing need is booming. Smart farming technologies are gaining steam, with innovations ranging from seed breeding to seed feeding to the ability to monitor crops and conditions in real-time using sensors and internet of things (IoT) capabilities. Farmers can incorporate current and past weather data and field performance history, weaving in localized data for planning and crop management.

FROM THE LAB TO THE FIELD: BIOTECHNOLOGY INNOVATIONS

Agricultural innovation includes biotechnology, a market projected to grow 7.07% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2019 and 2025, with nearly $90 billion spent in 2018. Biotechnology innovations include seed breeding techniques and tools to modify organisms to affect yield, size, or color.

Pivot Bio uses biology to produce better sources of nitrogen to feed crops and protect natural resources. Chemical fertilizer often becomes runoff into waterways after rain, contributing to dead zones. Nitrous oxide is also released into the atmosphere, adding to global warming. Pivot Bio’s products combat those problems while helping improve farmer productivity. The company created a solution using microbes that adhere to plants’ roots, delivering nitrogen when needed. The product is applied in-furrow, along with the seeds.

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