Growing demand for farm automation, digitization, and sustainability are being met by technological breakthroughs in the agriculture sector. Emerging agricultural trends point to a shift toward smart farming, which makes better use of time and resources while lowering crop losses. Smart farming is a new concept that incorporates the Internet of Things (IoT), computer vision, and artificial intelligence (AI) into the farming process. According to S2G Ventures, the food and AgTech industries are undergoing a global food transition, similar to the global energy transition, and changing consumer tastes, climate change, and changes in the capital market landscape will continue to affect the future of both industries.
Primary crop output has increased by 50% in the last ten years, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Simultaneously, the world population is expected to reach 9.3 billion by 2050, increasing the demand for more food to feed the growing human population. According to the 'Rise in Hunger' charts, there are currently 60 million more individuals worldwide who are undernourished than there were in 2014. This is a contentious issue for the agricultural industry. People in Asia and Africa, in particular, are malnourished. Agriculture's contribution to global GDP has increased by 68 percent since 2000, but when compared to the expanding population, it has remained steady at 4 percent.
Emerging Trends in Agriculture & Food
- Geographic Information System (GIS) in Agriculture
The first Geographical Information System (GIS) was created by Canadians in the early 1960s to store geospatial data and create maps for the Canadian Land Inventory. This information showed how well the land could support agriculture, wildlife, forestry, and recreational activities (Longley et al., 2005). GIS technology, such as this, was once considered revolutionary. GIS, on the other hand, is now a frequently utilized tool with important implications for farmers and the agriculture industry.
GIS can assess soil data and determine which crops should be put where and how to keep soil nutrition up to date so that plants benefit the most. GIS in agriculture enables better land resource management, resulting in increased productivity and lower expenses for farmers. Small and marginal farmers, who account for around 85 percent of all farmers worldwide, have the faceless danger of marginalization and vulnerability. Farmers can map and project current and future fluctuations in precipitation, temperature, crop output, and other variables utilizing Agricultural Geographic Information Systems and Geomatics Technology.
The following are some good GIS use-cases in the agriculture industry trends 2022:
- Irrigated landscape mapping
- Crop health assessment
- Irrigation amendment analysis
- Land degradation assessment studies
- Erosion remediation
- Efficient drainage elevation models
For all the benefits that GIS provides, it has been given numerous names, such as satellite farming or precision agriculture. Furthermore, various farming processes are now computerized thanks to developments in GPS, robots, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
- Regenerative Agriculture
Regenerative agriculture is a food and farming system conservation and rehabilitation method. It focuses on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, expanding ecosystem services, supporting biosequestration, increasing climate change resilience, and improving farm soil health and vitality. Regenerative agriculture could be a game-changer for companies trying to achieve numerous, intersecting impact goals. Regenerative agriculture reimagines farming in the context of natural systems, with an emphasis on refilling, restoring, and reusing critical resources. It can help companies meet targets related to climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, water quantity and quality, and farmer livelihoods when done correctly. It also indicates a significant shift in mindset from "doing less wrong" to "doing more good." Regenerative agriculture presents a feasible road to demonstrable social and environmental impact at a time when businesses are struggling to discover and execute effective solutions.
General Mills, the maker of Cheerios, Yoplait, and Annie's Mac and Cheese (among other products), announced in 2019 that it would start sourcing a portion of its corn, wheat, dairy, and sugar from farmers who practiced regenerative agriculture and were committed to expanding the practice to one million acres of land by 2030. Despite the epidemic and the rapid expansion of online shopping overshadowing the trend, business interest in the industry increased by 138 percent in early 2020, when Whole Foods stated regenerative agriculture will be the No. 1 food trend.
PepsiCo has stated that 7 million acres of its farmland would be converted to regenerative agricultural technologies. Cargill has stated that it plans to do the same on 10 million acres by 2030, while Walmart has stated that it will pursue the same on 50 million acres. Danone, Unilever, Hormel, Target, and Land O'Lakes are among the other firms pursuing regenerative agriculture.
- Aerial Imaging
Farmers are increasingly using the skies to monitor their crops. Drones and satellites that monitor fields and collect data on everything from biomass and plant height to the presence of weeds and the amount of water saturation are becoming increasingly popular, even if no one is leaving the ground.
Furthermore, aerial imaging equipment can examine the efficacy of irrigation schemes as well as their effects on land degradation, erosion, and drainage using geographic information system (GIS) technology. And visuals so sharp that they can analyze an individual plant's foliage are not only possible—they're already being used to detect pests and diseases to preserve crops from environmental dangers. In terms of the distinctions between drones and satellites, both can perform the majority of the key functions of aerial imaging technology, but each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Drones are often faster at capturing and relaying data, but they might be prohibitively expensive and can't cover big areas of land at once. Satellites can measure chlorophyll and nitrogen content using spectral images; however, access and availability are sometimes limited due to outages and cloud cover.
- Zero Food Waste
Food waste is defined by the United Nations as "a significant aspect of food loss" that "refers to the removal from the food supply chain of food that is suitable for consumption, or that has rotted or expired, primarily due to economic activity, inadequate stock management, or carelessness." Food rescue firms like Goodr, which employs proprietary technology and data to match food surpluses to those in need, have sprung up as a result of this. Helping Mother Earth get rid of some of her plasticware is part of protecting her. Every year, Americans generate 42 million tons of plastic waste, yet just 2% of it is recycled. As a result, consumers and government agencies are putting pressure on companies to develop alternatives to single-use and short-term plastic containers. Recycling garbage into containers is one option. Apeel's material scientists have done just that, creating a thin film from fruit and vegetable peels that can be used to wrap food and extend its shelf life by four times. Other businesses are working on edible food containers made from seaweed and other biopolymers.
According to the latest Sustainability Index ranking, which examines the performance of 67 countries in terms of sustainability, France maintains its lead in all three pillars (fighting food waste, sustainable agriculture, and nutritional challenges), ahead of the Netherlands, Canada, Finland, and Japan, with South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Bulgaria, and the United Arab Emirates rounding out the top five. Fruits and vegetables are two categories where a significant amount of product is wasted.
- High-Quality Flexitarian Food
"Reducetarianism" was named a top trend to watch in 2022 by Whole Foods Market's latest research. Reducetarianism refers to "plant-curious" customers who have lowered their meat, dairy, and egg consumption without eliminating them. And the plant-based sector is expected to rise in the coming years, with Mintel forecasting that meat-free food sales will approach £1.1 billion by 2024, up from £582 million in 2014. The other side of a flexitarian diet, according to Whole Foods, is that the best quality meat, dairy, and eggs are also in demand. Because customers are more conscious of animal welfare and environmental problems, they are placing a greater emphasis on quality over quantity. This was emphasized in a recent Waitrose research, in which nearly 70% of buyers thought their food's carbon footprint were significant. So, if you can give customers high-quality, sustainable, and nutritional items, you'll be able to exceed their expectations and improve your brand's reputation. Plant-based meat is much more developed than plant-based dairy, which is still in its early stages. Flexitarians, on the other hand, consume the most plant-based milk, followed by plant-based yogurt and plant-based beef. According to the researchers, there is a significant possibility for creativity in developing baked goods that are free of animal-derived substances.
Plant-based products, on the other hand, are expected to open up more potential for developing new consumer-centric methods to innovation as they become more prevalent. "As more mainstream consumers embrace plant-based eating, demand for pulses, vegetables, and fruits will rise as they become the focal point of cuisines." According to a research study, people will overcome the 'taste barrier' as they become more familiar with the variety of textures and flavors available from pulses, vegetables, and fruits. Taste is still the most important factor in meal selection. The next generation of [plant-based] foods should be delicious and offer a pleasant sensory experience.
- Functional Food
Food that tastes looks, and smells wonderful isn't enough for consumers. They're also looking into the role that specific food might play in maintaining good health (especially in the wake of the pandemic). Items like vitamin D-fortified orange juice or yogurt drinks with probiotics (Activia, Yakult, etc.), also known as 'functional foods,' are growing increasingly popular as consumers become more conscious of what they put into their bodies. They desire foods that can provide several benefits in a single mouthful (so to speak).
According to a Technavio analysis, the functional food market is expected to grow at a rate of over 8% each year until 2012. This is due to people's desire to maintain and safeguard their health. As a result, healthy ingredients can be found in packaged goods, restaurant food, and other such items. Probiotics, for example, were once a popular beverage; now, they're found in things like water, dried fruits, cereal, and more. Consumers nowadays are willing to pay a higher price for more healthy foods. They are known for going above and beyond to find these healthy products. As a result, functional elements in food will maintain their dominance in the business. As consumers expect rapid, healthy, and all-encompassing solutions, it will continue to dominate. Food products that can provide several health benefits are successful in capturing consumer attention and making a name for themselves in the industry.
Sustainable agriculture is a hotbed concern in an age when environmental considerations and climate change fears are at an all-time high. Global population growth is outpacing land and water availability, posing a serious threat to the human race's survival as we know it. Agriculture and food technology improvements range from agricultural automation, genetics, and water management technologies, and provide the means for better, safer, and more productive farming. Furthermore, technology and innovation are expected to create profitable opportunities for new players as well as benefit farmers around the world.