Farming doing a ''phenomenal amount" to innovate with few resources, says Agri-Food Solutions

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Farming doing a ''phenomenal amount

There is an impressive amount of innovation taking place in the farming sector considering the low-profit margins on which most of the industry operates, according to Edwin Moorhouse of U.K.-based Agri-Food Solutions. 

Speaking at the London Produce Show and Conference held in the British capital from June 6-8, Moorhouse also said he believes those focused too heavily on traditional farming methods are going 'in the wrong direction' and that the innovators will be the 'true survivors'.

During a seminar entitled "Ag-tech: Why it adds value for the entire supply chain", Moorhouse explained that ag-tech is advancing rapidly and is expected to play a key role in the management and security of food production in the future, with growers all over the world facing serious challenges related to labor availability, climate, and rising input costs.

"We’re facing tough times, but the industry are survivors and we believe that actually if we keep investing in ag-tech – there’s so much out there we can do – it will help us to survive," he said.

Moorehouse highlighted that a lot was going on in terms of ag-tech innovation with few resources in the farming sector, which continues to be squeezed by lower retail prices and rising costs.

"The farming business works on a 1% or 2% profit margin. It's a tiny amount to actually be able to invest in innovation, so it's tough. Actually, farming is doing a tremendous amount to innovate with what little resources it’s got," he said.

Many of the key decisions being made on farms nowadays are data-driven, Moorhouse said. He said that innovation and new technologies have dramatically increased the availability of data, but emphasized it was crucial for growers to understand and interpret the information correctly.

Lots of farmers now use satellites and drones to accurately measure growing and soil conditions, often with such precision that they can see what is happening with individual plants. 

"Where do I think we’re going to go in terms of looking at ag-tech and farming? Why worry about fields any more? We can start to think about farming in blocks...each block has a requirement, we can manage each block separately and give the block what it actually wants. In the ultimate world were going to start looking at individual plants," he said.

Sensors are also commonly used on the front of tractors, creating a real-time normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) map which then feeds through to the mechanical application on the back so it can adapt accordingly, he added.

Production forecasting models were also becoming "much more powerful", he said, with UAVs able to take a picture of a crop and tell the farmer, for example, how many heads of lettuce there are, what size they are and when they are going to mature. In addition, he said machines are now commercially available that move up and down fields of crops spot treating individual weeds using lasers and herbicides.

"It's real-time technology and this is where we're going. There's a load more to come out of this arena, and it's only going to get more powerful," he said.

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