Everybody needs food, there’s no doubt about it. However, not everyone in the world has access to sufficient amounts of food, which results to either malnourishment, undernourishment, or both. Indeed, more than 800 million people around the world go to bed hungry. Couple this with the 9 billion people that need to be fed by 2050, and we have a global food security challenge that is both straightforward and complicated.
Achieving food security, along with ending hunger and improving nutrition, is among the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. To accomplish these objectives, several issues in four different facets—availability, access, utilization, and stability—need to be addressed. Technological advancements and modern scientific methods play key roles in completely solving or at least alleviating these concerns. In fact, some problems like urban farming can be directly addressed by technology and innovation.
Dealing with Various Agricultural Stressors
Plants and animals suffer from biotic and abiotic stress, affecting their overall health and thus their productivity. Methods like genetic engineering, second-generation green chemistry, and integrated pest management programs can help address biotic stress, which is caused by living organisms like insect and animal pests, fungi, and bacteria.
Meanwhile, abiotic stress, which are caused by non-living factors like extreme temperatures, pH imbalance in the soil, and natural disasters, can be combated by predictive methods and technologies. These include weather satellites that can help forecast global conditions and various sensors that inform farmers of the soil’s moisture content, nutrient deficiencies, and many other attributes.
Using aerial imagery for agriculture is also a growing trend, with companies like California-based Ceres Imaging now using high-resolution photographs in order to reveal valuable and meaningful agricultural data. Through spectral imaging performed by low-flying planes, information about water stress, nitrogen content, canopy vigor, and temperature levels, among others, can be determined more accurately and studied more closely. All of these information can be used to adjust and improve farming programs and practices even before stressors can affect the health of the crops being grown by farmers.
On the other hand, carefully controlled environments such as greenhouses and technologies like aquaponics and hydroponics help minimize the presence or effects of biotic and abiotic stressors. What’s more, these technologies are also typically more sustainable and help increase overall yield.
Collecting and Sharing Data
There are many practical applications of cloud computing in agriculture. Apart from storing the data collected from satellites and various in-farm sensors around the world, the cloud can also provide farmers with a wealth of information from scientists, fellow farmers, and experts from various fields like entomology, botany, and chemistry. Equipped with the latest information about farming practices, agricultural innovations, seeds and crop input, pesticides, and genetics, among others, farmers can boost their production and minimize losses.
The cloud can also give farmers access to market research, supply chains, consumer databases, and even modern billing systems that will not only optimize their own operations but also adjust production based on the demand of different markets.
Packaging, Storage, and Transportation
One of the four dimensions of food security is food access. This is influenced by post-harvest factors such as refrigeration, storage, and transportation. Highly perishable goods like milk, eggs, and raw meat can go to waste if they are not refrigerated and transported properly. On the other hand, white rice, sugar, and other similar items can be stored for longer periods, they also need to be stored properly as they can quickly lose their quality.
Over the years, numerous technological developments have improved food packaging, storage, and preservation processes. Things like improved genetic varieties of crops, off-grid refrigeration, solar dryers, and vacuum and hermetic sealing have prolonged the shelf life of almost all kinds of food, thereby minimizing harvest losses and overall food wastage.
Population growth, global warming, dwindling resources, and changing food preferences are among the main factors affecting food security. This means that the challenge isn’t just the burden of the agriculture sector alone, but rather all aspects of the economy and society. Thankfully, with the help of technology, various sectors can work together more easily and effectively to gradually eradicate world hunger.