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The world today produces enough food for everyone on the planet, but 815 million still go hungry, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (UN), out of a global population of around 7.3 billion. Hunger had declined for over a decade but is on the rise again, affecting 11% across the world.
By 2050, the population will be near to ten billion, and 75% more food will be needed. However, agricultural land can only expand by less than 5%, according to Deloitte.
So-called precision farming, which involves using data on crop yield, terrain, soil, nutrient levels and such is one possible solution to this shortfall.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure
Hoping to be part of that revolution is an incubator start up in Falmouth University’s Launchpad programme, Glas Data, with the mantra ‘you can’t manage what you don’t measure’.
Co-founder Robert Sanders says that technology now allows more measurement, of the soil and humidity for example, and the land can be monitored inexpensively using drones. But that data is seldom cross-platform, integrated into one simple to use, reasonably priced app, and the data gathering seldom fits with the farmer’s workflow. The data itself can be complex, difficult for the farmer to fathom, meaning they gain little from it.
Affordable precision farming
The Glas Data app aims to collect, combine, and interpret data that will optimise farm efficiency, output, and profitability.
The data can be entered as the farmer gets on with their work. It incorporates data, lab test results and benchmarking, which would otherwise be hard for the farmer to interpret. As the data builds, artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to spot patterns which allow farmers to optimise production, Rob Sanders explains.
Farmers keep records and receive data in many different ways, both old fashioned and more modern, but the existing precision farming software, according to Glas Data, is expensive, often niche, and at the lower end of poor quality.