DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGY IN THE AGRI-FOOD SECTOR HAS ARRIVED
Smart farming is becoming the norm in developed countries
This is a report funded by Microsoft on the disruption taking place in the food sector in New Zealand and around the world. I have been saying for some time that small farmers who carry on the traditional forms of farming will increasingly struggle to survive.
Certainly, there is evidence that this transformation has taken hold in the US with 80% of farmers using some kind of smart farming technique (Smart AKIS, 2017) and that it is an emerging phenomenon in Australia and Europe. It is also evident that many in the New Zealand agri-food sector have been at the vanguard of smart farming developments.
The objective of this research was to examine the influence of cloud computing and related disruptive technologies in the agrifood sector, with a specific focus on business effectiveness, sustainability, and biosecurity. The research incorporated a review of academic and industry literature, 12 interviews with agri-food industry participants and technologists working in or alongside the sector, and five case studies involving agri-food firms from broad acre pastoral farming, horticulture, aquaculture, agrifood processing, and agri-food services. It is evident that technology is a pervasive factor throughout the agrifood services.
Anyone concerned with the future of food production should take the time to read this report.
With increased globalisation in the agrifood sector, competition will continue to increase, resulting in opportunities for increased exports. At the same time, food safety and security, sustainability, and socio-economic issues arise. The collection of data for decision-making, coordination, and communication among agri-food stakeholders becomes increasingly complex as the ’paddock to plate’ value system extends around the globe. This results in a sector that needs to meld organisational efficiency with global demand while maintaining and improving the quality of the food safety and balancing the environmental concerns for future sustainability. In order to overcome the issues raised, all components of the system need to work together through joint initiatives to develop and sustain new approaches for the sector. At the heart of that cooperation will be enabling ICTs (Schiefer, 2004).
We have been challenged to improve this sector for the future. As Distinguished Professor Moughan notes, “we live in amazing times for technology, and if we can harness all of that technology, we can not only increase value and be more productive but also be better for the environment…. We have a lot to offer the world, but to produce more food, and better food, we need to start thinking smarter, not necessarily bigger” (Massey University, 2015).
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