AI strawberries and blockchain chicken: how digital agriculture could rescue global food security | World Economic Forum
At the beginning, the Traditional teams were expected to draw best practices from their collective planting and agricultural experience. And they did – for a while. They led in efficient production for a few months before the Technology teams gradually caught up, employing internet-enabled devices (such as intelligent sensors), data analysis and fully digital greenhouse automation.
In addition to AI and big data, blockchain is another popular tech for smart farming in China – especially relating to the safety of food. Chinese consumers have encountered watermelons that exploded from the misuse of a growth accelerator chemical; “lamb” made of rat meat; and cooking oil recycled from waste oil collected from restaurant fryers, grease traps or even sewer drains (known as the “gutter oil”). Blockchain can be used to collect data about the origin, safety and authenticity of food, and provide real-time traceability throughout the supply chain.
Most recently, during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, small and medium-size Chinese companies (or SMEs) – including many with little or no previous online presence – have flocked to video streaming to boost sales at a time when consumer habits are changing faster than ever. Interestingly, selling local products via live-streaming on e-commerce channels is gaining strong momentum in rural markets. This is partly because new media platforms have an abundance of easy-to-use video tools, meaning farmers can conveniently add videos to their marketing.
As agriculture digitizes, more new pockets of value will likely be unlocked from the oldest industry. We must continue to bring more digital tools, such as AI, big data, blockchain and IoT, to entrepreneurs working in farming, especially considering the irreversible trend of fewer and fewer people engaged in this work.
Much of this cannot happen until rural areas are equipped with a high-speed broadband network, but there are still about 3 billion people worldwide – mostly in rural areas – without basic internet connectivity. Furthermore, even in areas that already have internet connectivity, farmers have been slow to deploy digital tools because their impact has not been sufficiently proven. That’s why the strawberry competition is so important.
Two billion people in the world currently suffer from malnutrition and according to some estimates, we need 60% more food to feed the global population by 2050. Yet the agricultural sector is ill-equipped to meet this demand: 700 million of its workers currently live in poverty, and it is already responsible for 70% of the world’s water consumption and 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
With research, increasing investments in new agriculture technologies and the integration of local and regional initiatives aimed at enhancing food security, the platform is working with over 50 partner institutions and 1,000 leaders around the world to leverage emerging technologies to make our food systems more sustainable, inclusive and efficient.
This content was originally published here.