THE FUTURE OF FARMING

A project with editorial contributions from The Economist Group

Farming and its latest advances are intimately connected to safeguarding the planet. This doesn’t only happen with the use of alternative fuel sources but, also, perhaps above all, through the development of more and more advanced technology. This trend is not only ethically worthwhile, but also contributes to creating greater economic efficiency. This is a commitment and a vision that New Holland Agriculture has pursued for more than a decade with its Clean Energy Leader strategy.

The Future of Farming is an important editorial project that has been developed along with the Economist Group, designed to focus attention on key data and produce in-depth discussion of the future, not only of agricultural mechanisation, but of the world’s population.



Articles from The Economist

Legume-shaped sensor packages may help preserve stored crops

Crop storage and the internet of things: Cool beans


Crop storage and the internet of things: Cool beans

HANDING a farmer a fistful of magic beans with the promise that they will improve his business might sound like something out of a fairy-tale. But, as Arthur C. Clarke put it, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The sensor-filled “beans” developed by Andrew Holland, an electronics engineer from Swaffham Bulbeck, near
Cambridge, England, are not only advanced technology. They could also, Mr Holland says, provide an answer to many a farmer’s prayers.

Mixed into the contents of a granary, his beans would report continuously on the temperature and humidity, both of which encourage rotting if they are too high, and on carbon-dioxide levels, which reflect the amount of insect breath exhaled, and thus the level of infestation. At the moment these things have to be measured (if they are measured at all) using hand-held instruments that are plunged into the grain pile at regular intervals by
farmhands.

© 2016 The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved. From The Economist, published under license. The original article, can be found at: http://www.economist.com/node/21694517



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BUILDING a wall of trees across the width of Africa is a tall order. Solving the twin problems of land degradation and desertification poses a greater challenge still.

The Economist explains: What is Africa’s “Great Green Wall”?


The Economist explains: What is Africa’s “Great Green Wall”?

BUILDING a wall of trees across the width of Africa is a tall order. Solving the twin problems of land degradation and desertification poses a greater challenge still. But more than 60 years after it was first proposed, just such a project is underway at the edge of the Sahara. The opening ceremony of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro thrust it into the limelight, with footage of its progress. On completion, it is set to be the world's largest living structure, three times the size of the Great Barrier Reef. What is Africa’s “Great Green Wall”?

In 1952 Richard St Barbe Baker, a British environmental scientist, proposed planting a swathe of trees across the southern reaches of the Sahara. The trees would block the wind and sand that move southward from the desert and improve the quality of the soil by binding sediment together and adding nutrients to the mix. Although Mr Baker was unable to convince others of his plan during his lifetime, the idea has since taken root. In 2005, Olusegun Obasanjo, then president of Nigeria, revisited Mr Baker’s proposition, seeing in it an answer to some of the social, economic and environmental problems afflicting the Sahel-Sahara region. An estimated 83% of rural sub-Saharan Africans are dependent on the region’s land for their livelihoods, but 40% of it is degraded—worn away by soil erosion, human activity and scorching temperatures—leaving much of it unfit for use.

© 2016 The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved. From The Economist, published under license. The original article, can be found at: http://www.economist.com/node/21701094


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Since 2006, New Holland Agriculture’s Clean Leader Energy Strategy has been at the forefront of agricultural mechanization.

The Clean Energy Leader Strategy: farming a sustainable future


The Clean Energy Leader Strategy: farming a sustainable future

The keys to the future? Sustainability, efficiency and “doing more with less”.

Since 1900, the world’s population has increased three times more than in the entire history
of humanity, going from 1.5 bn to over 7.5 bn people today. The United Nations predicts
reaching the benchmark of 9.7 bn by 2050.

As the demand for food keeps rising, people are also becoming more and more aware of the
great social, economic and environmental costs of an unbalanced growth: food insecurity,
waste and environmental degradation are only a few examples. The question is not only how
will we feed everyone, but how can we do so in a sustainable way?


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Unused TV spectrum and drones could help make smart farms a reality

Precision agriculture: TV dinners


Precision agriculture: TV dinners

ON THE Dancing Crow farm in Washington, sunflowers and squashes soak up the rich autumn sunshine beside a row of solar panels. This bucolic smallholding provides organic vegetables to the farmers' markets of Seattle. But it is also home to an experiment by Microsoft, a big computing firm, that it hopes will transform agriculture further afield. For the past year, the firm's engineers have been developing a suite of technologies there to slash the cost of "precision agriculture", which aims to use sensors and clever algorithms to deliver water, fertilisers and pesticides only to crops that actually need them.

© 2016 The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved. From The Economist, published under license. The original article, can be found at: http://www.economist.com/node/21707242


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If agriculture is to continue to feed the world, it needs to become more like manufacturing, says Geoffrey Carr. Fortunately, that is already beginning to happen

Factory fresh


Factory fresh

TOM ROGERS is an almond farmer in Madera County, in California’s Central Valley. Almonds are delicious and nutritious. They are also lucrative. Californian farmers, who between them grow 80% of the world’s supply of these nuts, earn $11 billion from doing so. But almonds are thirsty. A calculation by a pair of Dutch researchers six years ago suggested that growing a single one of them consumes around a gallon of water. This is merely an American gallon of 3.8 litres, not an imperial one of 4.5 litres, but it is still a tidy amount of H2O. And water has to be paid for.

© 2016 The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved.
From The Economist, published under license. The original article, can be found at:http://www.economist.com/node/21698612



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Rich countries export air pollution, and its associated mortality, as they import goods

Global air pollution: Airborne particles cause more than 3m early deaths a year


Global air pollution: Airborne particles cause more than 3m early deaths a year

GOVERNMENTS fret over traffic and other local nuisances that create filthy air. But research just published in Nature by Zhang Qiang, of Tsinghua University in Beijing, and an international team including environmental economists, physicists and disease experts, suggests the problem has a global dimension, too. Dr Zhang’s analysis estimates that in 2007—the first year for which complete industrial, epidemiological and trade data were available when the team started work—more than 3m premature deaths around the world were caused by emissions of fine particulate matter (known as PM2.5, because the particles in question are less than 2.5 microns across).

© 2017 The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved.
From The Economist, published under license. The original article, can be found at:http://www.economist.com/node/21719780



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As water becomes ever more scant the world needs to conserve it, use it more efficiently and establish clear rights over who owns the stuff

Water scarcity: Liquidity crisis


Water scarcity: Liquidity crisis

“NOTHING is more useful than water,” observed Adam Smith, but “scarcely anything can be had in exchange for it.” The father of free-market economics noted this paradox in 18th-century Scotland, as rain-sodden and damp then as it is today. Where water is in ample supply his words still hold true. But around the world billions of people already struggle during dry seasons. Drought and deluge are a costly threat in many countries. If water is not managed better, today’s crisis will become a catastrophe. By the middle of the century more than half of the planet will live in areas of “water stress”, where supplies cannot sustainably meet demand. Lush pastures will turn to barren desert and millions will be forced to flee in search of fresh water.

© 2016 The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved.
From The Economist, published under license. The original article, can be found at:http://www.economist.com/node/21709530



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Growing enough food for future generations will be a challenge. Here’s how to meet it

Agricultural technology: Feeding the ten billion


Agricultural technology: Feeding the ten billion

ONE of the extraordinary things about the modern world is that so much of it takes food for granted. For most of recorded history, the struggle to eat has been the main focus of human activity, and all but a handful of people were either farmers or farm workers. Starvation was an ever-present threat. Even the best years rarely yielded much of a surplus to carry over as an insurance against leaner times. In the worst, none but the powerful could be sure of a full stomach.

Now most people in rich countries never have to worry about where the next meal is coming from. In 1900 two in every five American workers laboured on a farm; now one in 50 does. Even in poor places such as India, where famine still struck until the mid-20th century, the assumption that everyone will have something to eat is increasingly built into the rhythm of life.

© 2016 The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved.
From The Economist, published under license. The original article, can be found at:http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21700394-growing-enough-food-future-generations-will-be-challenge-heres-how-meet-it-feeding


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By 2050, there will be 9.7bn people on the planet, bringing increased demand on the world’s resources.

Executive roundtable: The future of agriculture


Executive roundtable: The future of agriculture

By 2050, there will be 9.7bn people on the planet, bringing increased demand on the world’s resources. When you consider that already one person in eight does not have enough food, the burden of 2bn extra people could be devastating if action is not taken. What the agricultural sector does now is vital if we are to prevent food insecurity, but it is already under a number of pressures such as reducing its environmental impact.

New technology, the likes of big data and innovative farming practices promise possible solutions but there are challenges. When farmers are under financial constraints and absorbed in their daily operations, adopting new technology is not a priority. Meanwhile, politics are at play. Whose ultimate responsibility is it to feed the extra mouths: should countries be encouraged to be more self-sufficient or is it the collective responsibility of everyone to work together?


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Farming has an impact on soil, on water and on the atmosphere, but technology and policy innovation offer many reasons to be hopeful

Agriculture’s sustainable future


Agriculture’s sustainable future

When world leaders met at the Paris climate talks in 2015, they signed a historically ambitious deal. After decades of grandstanding, governments are at last moving towards concrete measures to build a more environmentally sustainable economic model.

Fossil fuels and energy-related emissions are often the primary target of climate discussions, but the agricultural sector has contributed its fair share of problems. Farming takes a toll on soil, on water and on the atmosphere. Achieving the ambitious goals in the Paris agreement requires massive changes to our food system.


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