As this information becomes available, consumers will begin to use the data collected from sensory technology and traceability more regularly before purchasing a food product. Uldrich predicts this will influence producers to change their practices to meet the demands of the consumers. For example, a shopper may be able to scan a package of meat with their smartphone and find out where it was raised, the ingredients of the feed it ate, and where and when it was processed.
“Producers should stay on top of this technology because it will present opportunities for small- to mid-sized operations to create niches tailored to specific audiences in a cost-effective way,” he says. “Customization made possible by [sensory technology] is going to allow innovative producers to figure out how to deliver exactly what individuals want.”
This movement will be the crossroad of modern day traceability and the customization trend ingrained in the expectations of the next generation.
Traceability and data capture will not be the only benefits to advancing sensory technology; other benefits will include increased production and safety.
Production will increase as precision agriculture, the utilization of information technology to maximize the efficiency of land and minimize inputs, becomes the norm and will be brought to a new level of sophistication. The continued computerization of agriculture will be made possible by increasingly sophisticated sensors so small, reliable and inexpensive they will spark a widespread adaptation by producers of all sizes.
“It’s not unrealistic to expect that farmers will be able to afford and deploy these sensors anywhere in their field to be able to better detect the first onset of a disease or toxins growth, and detect with high level of specification the needs of the crops,” Uldrich says.
From an animal ag standpoint, the use of computer chips will allow for easy tracking and monitoring of livestock growth, health and identification. Kay Johnson Smith, executive vice president of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, noted wireless technology will also provide an efficient and inexpensive tool in accessing business-improving resources, such as disease and health information, best management practices, weather and other types of forecasting to aid in planning.
For grain handlers, sensors will be used in elevators to track grain though a facility with greater accuracy and enhance its ability to monitor grain quality by removing the human error and oversight from the equation. As sensors are deployed throughout an operation, efficiency will heighten as data is utilized for remote management.
“Grain handling facilities have already started to utilize advancements in [human machine interfaces] and sensor technologies to accurately and efficiently display and record the operational performance of their machines within the plant to improve safety and reliability,” says Johnny Wheat, senior vice president and director of 4B Components USA Ltd. Along with the Internet and mobile devices, plant managers have access to their operation from anywhere in the world.”
Biotechnology addresses food supply concerns
“Feeding a growing population is both an opportunity and an obligation for the U.S. food and agriculture industry,” says Joel G. Newman, American Feed Industry Association’s (AFIA) president and CEO. “This is a watershed moment for the industry. As leaders in developing and implementing new technologies, we will make the necessary improvements to meet the challenge.”
All bets are on biotechnology to feed future populations while minimizing the impact on the environment. In addition to crop protection, GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are credited for gains in average global yields. Industry leaders are optimistic that advancements in the field of genomics will continue to transform agriculture in major and unexpected ways.
Notably, researchers are on the verge of sequencing the genomes of a variety of different crops allowing for growth with fewer inputs, thereby decreasing the costs for producers. In addition, the cultivation of new varieties of crop to grow in areas where it was previously biologically impossible would solve land shortage issues; however, this trend would alter export and commodity markets as new crops become available regionally for the first time.