4 Innovations that are changing the future of farming

Floating farms? Apps to track your cows? This week we take a look at some of the concepts and gadgets that are set to transform the farming industry going into the future.

Farming is an essential industry for feeding our 7-billion strong population, and it's set to become even larger with current UN projections estimating that by 2050 we will have 9.1 billion humans sharing this planet. That's a third more mouths to feed than there are today.

Demand for cereals (for food and animal feed) is projected to reach some 3 billion tonnes by 2050. Annual cereal production will have to grow by almost a billion tonnes (2.1 billion tonnes today), and meat production by over 200 million tonnes to reach a total of 470 million tonnes in 2050, 72 percent of which will be consumed in developing countries, up from the 58 percent today.
- Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations

So what will these farms of the future look like?

1. Floating Farms

Yup, we're not making this up.

The team at Forward Thinking Architecture have come up with this innovative design in order to face the current challenges of growing cities and land consumption.

The concept farms would be adaptable to population size and local food production needs. The advantage of the floating design is that the farms can be located close to densely populated urban areas with water access (this could be a sea, a lake or a rivers) such as New York, Tokyo and Mumbai.

Image: Forward Thinking Architecture

2. Indoor, Vertical Farms

Think vertical gardens, only much, MUCH bigger!

The low-waste, high-yield AeroFarms are both soilless and sunless. Seeds are sown, germinated, and grown on reusable sheets of fabric. When they reach seedling stage, the plants are sprayed with a nutrient-rich mist, significantly reducing water demand.

Instead of needing the sun to grow, these farms warm their leaves by the cosy glow of adjustable LED lights.

"We're 75 times more productive per square foot annually than the field, and even ten times more productive than a hydroponic greenhouse. We use over 95 percent less water than growing out in the field."

Marc Oshima, AeroFarms' chief marketing officer.

READ: The world's biggest vertical garden is going to be built in New Jersey!

Image: AeroFarms

3. Drones

Drones are becoming a technological buzzword of the 21st Century, with everyone from the military to avid photographers getting in on the craze. Believe it or not, Japan and Australia have been using drones in agriculture since the 1980s.

Farmers are using their flying robot friends for all sorts of purposes: monitoring crops, chasing down lost livestock and managing extreme weather disasters such as bushfires and floods when land access is dangerous.

According to the UN, the "agility and quality imaging abilities" of drones make them "advantageous as a mapping tool for environmental monitoring".

UNEP's handy table gives us just a glimpse at all the applications for drones in agriculture and land management (source).

READ: Drones could plant enough trees to save our planet!

Image: CNBC

4. Farming with your smartphone

Farmers are using their smartphones more than ever thanks to an ever-growing list of apps aimed at making farming more productive and efficient.

Examples of apps include soil quality management, early detection livestock diseases, checking in on how a pregnant animal is going, and more accurate weather mapping.

See a fabulous infographic on smart farming here.

Image: CSIRO

What you can do

Turn your garden bed into a mini-farm to grow your own food

Large yards with plenty of sun can grow enough vegetables and herbs to significantly supplement your household needs, and even small homes and apartments can have herb pots.

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