Farming has already undergone three major disruptions over the two past centuries… Firstly, the increase in demand following the industrial revolution at the beginning of the 20th century justified the shift from manual and animal labour to agricultural mechanization. Then, the postwar economic and population boom led to the development of fertilizers, pesticides and other chemical products. Finally, globalisation of demand and rising living standards in Emerging Markets since the 1980s, led to agricultural production’s industrialisation.
But this agricultural model is now losing steam. Demand is increasing due to continued population growth and higher overall living standards in fast- developing countries such as China, while supply cannot keep up and being limited, notably, by stagnating agricultural yields, shrinking arable lands and growing climate concerns. Furthermore, consumers are increasingly sensitive to environmental issues and are rejecting the current, highly industrialised model’s environmentally damaging practices.. This paves the way for a fourth industrial revolution based on several technological solutions.
The first is agricultural robotics, or AgRobotics. Automation of farming machinery can deliver up to five times the yield of previous one, while drones can monitor crops more effectively than a farmer can, and thus replace extensive use of pesticides. Growth prospects for this segment are about +23% per year by 2025.
As for vertical farming, it is an innovative alternative to traditional production: it makes it possible to grow fresh fruit and vegetables above ground, including in urban areas, with little or no chemical use, all year round and close to the consumer. Meat substitutes make it possible to reduce livestock farming’s deeply negative impact on the environment. Representing less than 1% of total meat consumption, these substitutes could reach a 10% market share by 2030.
Finally, waste reduction and improved logistics are another part of this 4th revolution. The latest automated and artificial intelligence-assisted sorting technologies as well as new packaging techniques will drastically reduce crop waste, which currently amounts to about 30% of production.
Agriculture 4.0 will see a structural change in the way we farm in the coming years, with an outcome we believe will be as significant as previous previous leaps forward.