Technology in the produce and floral industries and what it means for you
by Dr. Bob Whitaker, Chief Science and Technology Officer
Are you ready? The data really are staggering. The World Health Organizations says that we will have nine billion people on Earth by 2050. Of those nine billion people, 70% of them will live in urban areas and the middle class will continue to expand. It has been estimated that the middle class will reach 4.9 billion people by 2030. Experts tell us that the ramifications of these data are that food production will need to double over the next 30 years to accommodate our expanding global population. Yet, we face these extraordinary challenges at a time when the availability of new farm land is in rapid decline, climate variability is a daily news item and natural resources like water are becoming more precious. Indeed, at the November 2015 California State University at Monterey Bay’s Greater Visions conference, Silicon Valley insider Tom Rolander stated that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be impacted by water scarcity in a world where 70% of the water goes to agriculture.
Read about how technology solutions are addressing these pressing industry challenges and more in the 2016 Tech Trends paper, focusing on the following trends:
- We are in a period where there is a significant convergence of technologies. Our ability to generate, collect and analyze data through ever-increasing computer computational capacity is coinciding or enabling equally impressive achievements in the worlds of biology and genetics, sensor technology, robotics, communications, behavioral modeling and logistics.
- The power of the consumer cannot be underestimated as they have the ability to change industries overnight. Access to information has made transparency not a cost of doing business but foundational. The concept of product quality includes communicating corporate responsibility issues such as sustainability, social causes, environmental policies and ethical treatment of workers.
- The aforementioned pressure to produce more food with less impact on dwindling natural resources will force the produce industry to look at new seed technologies and production techniques to provide greater yields using fewer inputs. This increase in demand will also require innovation in product creation and processes.
- Consumer preferences in where to reside are contributing to worldwide urbanization that is changing not only purchasing power but also where and how production is taking place. In the last few years we have witnessed the growth of protected agriculture spanning the spectrum from covering field-grown berries and grapes to traditional greenhouse production to vertical farming where inner-city buildings are being converted to vegetable production utilizing an array of new technologies to achieve commercial-scale production amidst urban population centers.
- There is a focus on reducing waste and becoming more efficient across the produce supply web. The collection and analysis of data, the sophistication of sensors that can monitor the movement and distribution environment of products, the continued emergence of robotics and the gathering of consumer behavioral data are driving a smarter, more resilient produce industry.
- Satisfying the needs of the consumer is an industry-wide endeavor to ensure consumers are receiving safe product where and when they want it. Collaboration throughout the supply chain is crucial in today’s environment where the pace of change and the adoption of disruptive technologies are faster than ever before.
- The increasing awareness of technology and the growing sophistication of the produce industry are creating a demand for a new generation of employees that are tech-savvy, innovative and ready to embrace change to grow the industry.
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9 Fast-Growing Tech Fields to Watch
With new sources of data and new technologies on the horizon, growers are poised to reap dramatic improvements in their operations and yields—and tech providers have rich opportunities to disrupt and transform the Ag industry.
In The Future Demands Unlearning: Produce and Emerging Technologies, Jack Uldrich, author and futurist, describes trending topics like:
- Field monitoring through wearable technologies and robotics
- Supply chain transformations via 3-D printing and virtual shopping
- Artificial intelligence and consumer behavior forecasts
- Internet of Things: a $7–19 trillion opportunity for tech providers
PMA Tech Talks 2015 was a fast-paced learning experience featuring expert speakers woven in with video vignettes and hands-on workshop sessions to help attendees understand the importance of innovative thinking and to examine what it actually takes to create corporate cultures where innovative thinking is rewarded.
The challenge of preparing to meet these global trends and to claim a portion of the increased need for fresh food for the produce industry is at once daunting and simultaneously full of opportunities for those who recognise the need to innovate. Dr. Bob outlines key highlights from Tech Talks provide a roadmap for the produce industry as we seek to create innovative business cultures and integrate emerging technologies into our business operations.
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The one thing there's no shortage of is data. Big data. Electronic data. Everyone seems to have more of it than they can use. Predictive Modeling -- or predictive analytics -- is the type of data mining that forecasts probabilities and trends. This Fresh Summit education session helps give you clarity about how to use your data and examines companies that have created models that drive increased sales, quality and efficiency. It gives you practical ideas about how to use your data in creative ways to transform your company's future.
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Agricultural robotics is quickly improving and changing the face of the produce industry. It deals with the design, construction, operation and application of robots and related computer and control systems in agriculture. WinterGreen Research forecasts the agricultural robotics market size to grow from $817 million in 2013 to $16.3 billion by 2020.
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