TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP FOOD CRISIS14/10/2022
The World Food Programme estimates that 45 million people are currently on the brink of famine. Last year, the UN estimated that about 800 million people were already living with hunger. Ending hunger is classified as the second of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals to achieve by 2030, yet statistics are so alarming that call for quicker actions.
Food insecurity has doubled in the past two years, food prices are spiraling and – although food supplies have been first disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic then by the Ukrainian conflict – global hunger is an ongoing, long-standing problem that needs to be addressed promptly. Hope comes from technology, whose recent advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), automation and robotics can help agriculture and farmers.
Since food waste is still one of the major issues, as the world discards nearly $1 trillion worth of food every year, an improved use of AI that allows real-time processing of data and perfected device-to-device communications now provide an important flow of farming information: these are used by global providers to better guide growers in order to increase yields and reduce waste.
Moreover, all those AI processes that rapidly analyze massive volumes of data can now identify patterns and predict events, thus leading to improved crops yields, higher quality and enhanced food safety.
As we all know, the use of drones has improved irrigation systems inspections; still, their application has recently bettered also general, routine checks. Rather than having expensive, in-person visits by experts, farmers can now rely on the efficiency of these devices which, by taking and processing thousands of images per minute, can provide an almost error-free, panoramic vision of the crops.
Drone data can be also stored and used to better predict future failures, prompt automated actions to repair the damaged asset and improve the overall supply chain effectiveness.
Technology can also support a better handling of the farm-to-table journey during which food is subject to spoilage. Since insect infestations are its leading cause, ad-hoc sensors can fill the gap created by blind fumigation in the storage container. Not only they can measure the concentration of fumigant, humidity and temperature levels in real time but they can also transmit data wirelessly to a cloud-based analytics platform.
This can be in turned used from remote (on a smartphone) by farmers and fumigators alike to create predictive and prescriptive analytics that are critical to the success of a treatment.
As the world populations is expected to grow from 8 to 10 billion people by 2050, saving food by improving the way it is produced and distributed worldwide is crucial. So is using technologies, in order to provide smarter crop management and ensure that every person can be fed with healthy, sustainable food.
It is true that some of these new technologies are not affordable yet for all the farmers, especially the ones in developing countries; it is also true, though, that more and more tech companies are already making their innovations more accessible, thus keeping the light of hope on.