In recent years the demand for organic food has dramatically increased mainly due to consumers insights in terms of food quality and safety. Economists predict that by 2025 the organic food industry will be worth $70.4 billion. With this rapid rise in demand, there comes a need for new technologies that advance production efficiencies, automate farming practices, and minimize waste.
ORGANIC CONVERSION AND ITS CHALLENGES
New methods of organic technology mean foods can now be produced via means that are socially equitable, economically feasible, and ecologically and environmentally sustainable. However there are logistical barriers to entry, which make organic conversion a difficult proposition for farmers.
According to the USDA’s National Organic Program Requirements, before a farm can achieve official organic certification it is required to use organic farming practices for three years. This means that for this period of time the farmer must incur the cost of the expense of the conversion without being able to secure the premium price that certified products enjoy. Despite this barrier to entry the number of certified organic farms in the US increased by 11% between 2015 and 2016, according to USDA data, bringing the total amount of certified organic acres to 5 million nationwide.
Innovations in biotechnologies are providing organic farmers with many great alternatives to chemical pesticides. For example, biopesticide makers Aphea.Bio and nitrogen-fixing microbe producer Pivot Bio are proving very popular amongst organic farmers. There are also a multitude of technologies designed to aid the growth of crops indoors hydroponically. But arguably the greatest innovations in organic farming are digital ones. The convergence of smart phones, broadband internet, cloud platforms, AI, and open data are helping to transform one of the world’s oldest professions.
Robots are already being utilized on many organic farms because they substantially reduce labor costs. An example are wine bots (from VisionRobotics), which can be employed on vineyards to prune vines, remove young shoots, and monitor soil for general health. Drones are also being used in soil and field analysis, planting, and crop health assessment. Blockchain has also become an important technology for organic farmers. Blockchain is best understood as an incorruptible ledger than can track each food item through the supply chain. From the standpoint of maintaining organic accreditation, it can be a vital piece of the puzzle.
According to The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) conventional farming, as a career choice, is on the decline. However, organic farming is on the rise. It undoubtedly serves as a long-term, sustainable approach to food production, and if organic farmers can also harness the power of the latest technologies, they’re likely to enjoy success.