Today’s agriculture has transformed into a high-tech enterprise that most 20th-century farmers might barely recognize.
Thus the race continues. We have this paradox with humanity that through our management (perhaps an oxymoron) of the planet’s ecology, we live longer. That is those of us who can afford food. We know we can’t sustain the global growth in human population. We have tried GM, we use more modern technologies for every aspect of the process and this is just another leap forward. My biggest concern is that every step on this process removes the human labor element, which displaces people who can no longer pay for the food they buy, because they can no longer get jobs growing it.
If we lived in the utopia I was promised as a youth, we wouldn’t have to work, but our desire for power and a lifestyle that is measured by assets and financial wealth makes it near impossible to come up with systems that redistribute resources including equal opportunities for health, education and opportunity.
We went from horse to tractor to automation of so many aspects of agriculture, at least where farms are big enough and the education is available for those who can afford it to use it. Great if you are a giant and this technology will level the playing field for western agricultural producers who have farms large enough to justify it.The costs will be significantly less.
This is not science fiction dear reader. In the past I worked for a company that pioneered such technology for the forestry industry. Using light aircraft it could count trees from the sky, genus type them and even report on their health. It also had technology from the ground that could scan a tree and tell you how much harvest-able timber each tree contained. Unfortunately the industry went into a nosedive and many companies couldn’t afford the technology.
Today even small farms (by western standards) use GPS daily in farm management, but there is still the element of how much an experienced farmer, vs farm hands and casual labor can cover on motorcycles, horses, tractors and SUV’s. Many farms share equipment and technology and often a contractor will develop a specialty and provide that service to others. The concepts here will work well and increase yield and production, enabling us to feed more people.
But what about the 3rd world. If we could enable farmers in small villages in Africa, Asia, South America with technology like this, we could up production and feed more people. This would be great for the ecology, for the planet in so many ways from providing healthy food, to greater production of bio-fuels, to balancing the planetary ecosystem.
The fatal flaw that I don’t see being answered anywhere is the rampant population growth will escalate. We may delay the tipping point on climate change, we may improve the standard of living all over the globe, but we will also promote even more rapid growth of population. That can’t go on for ever. There are always other planets, but I can’t see us getting to them in a hurry and unless we invent new means of mass transit across great distances, that might mean that the human race itself is not doomed, but it may not solve the problems on Earth. On that front we are our own worst enemies and as long as enough of us feel we have more rights, or are more right, than our fellow man, the clock continues to tick to our race’s impending doom.
In New Zealand there is a TV advertisement that says the planet doesn’t need us. It managed very well before humankind and will manage after we have moved on. What’s sobering to a thinking person is that this is a very true statement. Do you think birds and cockroaches care about OLED TV’s and self driving cars?