Use the future to build the present
Resilient Farming
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1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy
1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy

Sub-Field:

3.3.3Resilient Farming

If we are to boost crop yields in sustainable ways, alter the geography of our food growing and distribution networks to respond to our growing urbanisation, and reduce our dependence on environmentally damaging fertilisers, 21st-century society will need to make radical changes to its food production ecosystem. These changes are beginning to emerge.

Advances in genetics are creating crops increasingly able to meet our needs. They can tolerate the higher temperatures and lower water availability associated with climate change, resist diseases and pests, increase the efficiency of their nitrate use, and reduce their need for fertilisers. Genetic tweaks also reduce their intolerance of shade, allowing crops to be planted at greater densities. With a global population set to hit 10 billion by 2050, such advances will be essential, especially since that 10 billion people need to be fed from 0.5 billion hectares of land. This requires an increase in food production per hectare of almost 60 per cent in less than 30 years. Compounding the problem, around 66 per cent of the global population will live in an urban environment, which brings its own challenges on supply chain management and loss of produce on the path from harvest to consumer. Currently this can be as high as 40 per cent in developing countries.

On the positive side, the widening use of sensor technology, drones and data gathering in farming, combined with advanced automation and machine learning, is enabling farmers to operate more independently, cutting wage bills, fertiliser costs and time spent checking fields and livestock.12,13 These technologies are saving farmers money, helping them to widen the slim profit margins that threaten the survival of many small-scale agricultural businesses.

With increasing migration into cities, indoor vertical farming in urban areas will provide opportunities to repurpose obsolete infrastructure to create high-density production facilities close to where the food is needed, reducing transit costs, packaging requirements and spoilage.

Future Horizons:

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5-yearhorizon

Precision farming begins to change industry economics

Precision farming systems exploit information and communications technology to evaluate the key aspects of the farming environment and crop characteristics. With these in place, farmers use automated systems to maximise yields.

10-yearhorizon

New techniques are deployed in the urbanising world

Advances in agricultural sciences allow use of intensive, efficient vertical farming methods to grow staple crops in urban environments, with up to 30 per cent of the food required for an urban population being produced in the urban environment. The resulting minimal food miles significantly reduce spoilage, transportation and packaging.

25-yearhorizon

Soils become a critical issue

Despite warnings from agronomists across the globe, a significant proportion of Earth’s soils are critically degraded: far more than the 2021 figures of 33 per cent — when 50 per cent less food was required. Soil degradation may yet be reversed through the widespread embracing of the principles and practices of agroecology — sustainable farming that works in closer harmony with nature.14

Resilient Farming - Anticipation Scores

How the experts see this field in terms of the expected time to maturity, transformational effect across science and industries, current state of awareness among stakeholders and its possible impact on people, society and the planet. See methodology for more information.

GESDA Best Reads and Key Resources