PwC’s reports on expert views bring to light that agricultural consumption is set to increase by nearly 70 per cent by the time we hit 2050, projected to reach 9 billion in the same year. The World Bank’s predictions aren’t as high as that, with their projections predicting that food production will have to increase by 50 per cent to account for the global population figures we’ll be faced with by 2050. Either way, it’s clear that agricultural practices will need to continue developing and become more efficient.

The fortunate thing is that technology is seeing a constant evolution, advancing through developments made to aid the agricultural industry. Two main development areas come to light as particular points of interest, those being drones and autonomous vehicles – each of which could assist farmers in the future.

Farming drones

To the agricultural industry, the lucrative drone market offers various benefits, including their ability to be deployed for planting alongside the efficiency they bring to irrigation. Drones can also be used to spray and monitor crops, with the monitoring side of things taking the form of time-series animations to display the exact development of crops while detailing any production inefficiencies. This was only previously achievable through the use of satellite imagery, a technology which naturally proved to be only available to a select few, large-scale commercial farming groups because of the high costs associated with it.

Autonomous farm vehicles

As is the case with drones, the market for autonomous vehicles also looks promising and steps have already been taken to showcase how autonomous vehicles can come to the assistance of those in agriculture. For example, a team of agricultural engineers from Shropshire’s Harper Adams University, including Johnathan Gill, Kit Franklin and Martin Abell, set out to create an autonomous tractor which has the ability to perform tasks such as seeding, drilling and spraying of land while steered by a farmer who controls it from a remote control-room. The team is also looking into how they can get an automated combine harvester to harvest the same field as well.

Effects on integral and peripheral industries

Autonomous vehicles used in farming alongside farming drones perhaps make for some of the integral technological developments set into motion by what the future of farming looks like, but it goes way beyond that. Such technology will still need to be put together making use of a traditional supply line, which means that in addition to engineers and technicians who will make it their speciality to develop and improve these integral technologies, many other peripheral industries will develop as well, some of which will naturally start to tilt their specialties more towards the high-tech farming industry.

Already we’re witnessing some of these specialisation paradigm shifts in the insurance industry, with the likes of Lycetts offering farm insurance which covers modern farming equipment such as farming drones and autonomous vehicles, in addition to the farming insurance coverage they already offer on traditional farming machinery, buildings, office equipment and even produce.