By Robert Fraley
Chief Technology Officer
The world population is growing. At least eight people were born while you read that sentence, a rate that will put a potential 9.6 billion people on the planet by 2050.
Meanwhile, natural resources like land and water are what they are: finite. That’s why technologies that sustainably enhance crop yields are key to securing a future where we have enough to feed everyone while also leaving the smallest footprint possible on the environment. GMOs and advanced breeding are significant parts of the equation, but the ultimate solution is much broader than biology alone. That’s something we’ve been discussing more since the 2013 Borlaug Dialogue.
It’s using technology to tell us what to plant, when and where. It’s digitally tracking progress along the way and then analyzing results to tell us how to do it better. By leveraging this convergence of biology and information technology, we can help farmers turn data into actionable insight and help them to optimize every part of the planting, growing and harvesting process.
This boom in agricultural technology is set to benefit farmers of all sizes. Consider:
- A large farmer in the Americas who uses GPS and computer-controlled tractors on fields that have been precisely mapped to optimize inputs and yields on each square meter.
- A livestock farmer with a medium-sized ranch who uses electronic ear tags and scanners to map feed formulation, reproduction results and other milestone data for each animal.
- A small farmer in India getting real-time weather information and agronomic advice on his wireless phone.
These aren’t space-age concepts. These are examples of agricultural technologies in use today, and it’s just the beginning of what we can accomplish in the years to come. Just think of how far we’ve already come. In the past thirty years that I’ve been with Monsanto, agriculture has changed dramatically for the better – just take a look at our infographic.
Just as important as the technology is ensuring that the people who will apply these advances will be there. We can do that by encouraging today’s students to consider studies in molecular biology and information technology, leading them to careers in plant sciences or the food industry. Monsanto’s Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program (MBBISP) is one way we’re trying to advance those studies worldwide.
Food innovations have changed our lives. It’s up to us to continue that evolution.