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The Future of Agriculture from The Economist

The British agronomist Jethro Tull invented the seed drill, the horse drawn hoe, and an improved plow. These are now recognized as major technological improvements that helped modernize agriculture in the 18th century, though it took over a century for fierce early resistance to fade away.


Some 300 years on from his contributions, agriculture has continued to change with technological improvements in equipment, resource inputs, genetics and digital information and management systems. The recent review by The Economist of current, developing and conceptual technological innovations in agriculture is a fascinating look at what the near future may hold. Areas of focus include:

  • Precision irrigation
  • Microbial applications for increasing fertility,  drought and salinity tolerance of crops
  • Real time data collection and management systems
  • Robotic applications
  • Development of rice with the more efficient C4 photosynthesis system
  • Crop and animal genetic enhancements
  • Resource inputs and genetic enhancements for fish farming
  • Modification of the chlorophyll molecule to utilize a wider range of light frequencies

The magnitude of enhanced food production needed to feed almost 10 billion people by mid-century will require innovations in these and other aspects of farming. While this is a huge challenge for humanity, the ingenuity underlying the innovations and concepts discussed in this review is reassuring. And, let’s hope resistance to validated progress doesn’t last as long as it did in Jethro Tull’s time.

Read the original article: The Future of Agriculture: Factory Fresh. The Economist, Technology Quarterly, June 2016

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Photo Credits: Seed drill – American Society of Mechanical Engineers; RIPPA – University of Sydney.


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