Trend 2018: Blockchain and climate-smart agri

The IFC’s Thomas Bauer thinks ‘bigger and better’ data mean farmers will become more willing to adopt digital technologies.

The leapfrogging concept, long applied to the likes of telecoms and financial services in developing countries, is making its mark in agriculture.

Thomas Lee Bauer, principal industry specialist at the International Finance Corporation, says that’s one of the World Bank’s main objectives. “We strive to kick start the agri-sector financial lending business and focus agribusiness that enhance food traceability/safety, efficient logistics and use of more big data,” he told Agri Investor.

That explains why he reckons digitized agriculture will be a key trend for 2018. “As integration between software and hardware becomes more refined farmers will be willing to adopt these technologies,” he noted. Equipment manufacturers will be the main driver for adaptation, “as they demonstrate to farmers how the data can be used along with their precision equipment to save money on inputs and increase productivity by concentrating those inputs where they are most needed.”

“Equipment manufactures will be the main driver for adaptation as they demonstrate to farmers how the data can be used”
Thomas Lee Bauer, the International Finance Corporation

The future of farm equipment sales, in his view, lies in the wider adoption of precision planters, fertilizers, autonomous tractors, robotic weeders and harvesters, drones and refined farm data analytics software. Large farms, obviously, will be early movers. But he believes small farmers will also benefit as larger holders manage platforms for smaller counterparts on a fee basis, so as to minimize costs and maximize net farm income.

The refinement of blockchain technologies also offers great potential, Bauer said, helping to enhance traceability and market access to countries that export agricultural commodities. “The improvement of this technology could provide consumers with more confidence in food quality and safety, as well as provide more evidence to consumers that the food is grown in a sustainable and ethnical manner.”

Turn on the good genes

A third area of promise will be climate-smart agriculture. Active areas of investment will include older proven technologies such as methane digesters and waste water recharge. These will be coupled with newer technologies, such as precision fertilizer application, new animal feed technologies that increase feed efficiencies, and gene editing techniques that can turn on the good genes (to foster drought resistance) and turn off the bad genes (to limit salinity sensitivity).

“Growing the right crop variety, for the right soil and for the right climate will offer farmers optimal production and incomes for their given farms,” Bauer said.

He thinks data sharing will come next, allowing farmers to learn  how to maximize their land’s productivity more quickly. “Meeting the challenges of artificial intelligence in the farm sector will open up a whole new area of agricultural science and a need for new type of farm managers and employees.”