The May issue of National Geographic is out with a cover story by Jonathan Foley on The New Food Revolution.
There are lots of disquieting predictions in the article, countered, thankfully, by lots of hope as well.
By the year 2050, writes Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota, the present-day seven billion inhabitants of planet Earth will have grown to nine billion, and the global food supply will need to have grown by 25 percent to feed everyone.
As he said during a recent radio interview: “We’re using a planet’s worth of land already just to feed the seven billion.”
Putting things into perspective, he said that the amount of pasture lands for grazing the global livestock supply is equal to the land mass of Africa, which is 11M square miles. If we take all the farmlands and put them all together, we get an area the size of South America, another 7M square miles.
If we minus deserts, semi-arid lands, mountains, and the poles, the amount of arable land shrinks dramatically.
Forty percent of all the land on Earth is taken up with producing food, and still we have nearly a billion of Earth’s inhabitants starving, malnourished or unsure from where their next meal will come.
That 2050 date, a mere 36 years off, may not make its 25 percent increase without considerable help from those consuming all that food.
Precision, efficiency, endurance and speed
Robotics, he admits has to play a singularly important role in that drive for a sustainable and wholesome food supply.
High-tech, he says, will allow us to be more precise and efficient with water, seeds, fertilizer and harvesting.
That need for precision and efficiency that he ticks off is almost an exact definition of agribotics and its mission. Of course, added to that definition is agribotics’ strong suits of untiring production any time of day and in most any weather condition.
Agribotics is uniquely positioned to be of great assistance in the onrushing world food crisis that Foley predicts.
From farm to fork, robotics offers real-world solutions
In fact, in the ever-expanding and ever-more-expensive distance from farm to fork, some form of robotics neatly intersects agriculture with a solution at nearly every step along the global food chain.
There are agribotics for soil preparation, planting, tilling and harvesting to autonomous transport vehicles for fruit, produce and livestock; robots in automated food processing and butchering; order picking and pallet loading robots for warehousing and other logistics? needs, on and on right down to the stocking of supermarket shelves.
On the home front, robotics is there as well with the newly developed 3D food printers and the growing use of smart kitchens and appliances.
Other than IT and the food itself, no other technology cuts across our entire food chain as does robotics.
National Geographic plans to run The Future of Food: How to Feed Our Growing Planet for the next eight months, roughly from spring planting season through to fall harvest. It’s that important to NatGeo!
Similarly, it?s vitally important as well for Robotics Business Review: Robotics, agriculture and agribotics is and has always been of primary focus in our global coverage of news and research. We hail National Geographic for its series on the future of food, and its inclusion of robotics as central to that future.
Big Ag and Agribotics is the subject of one of our eight research reports this year as well as one of our ongoing webcasts for the season.
Here are some of the important highlights from our coverage:
Driverless Seeder Boosts Crop Productivity
Precision agribot lays seeds within one to two centimeters of lateral accuracy
Big Bots Meet Big Ag: Who Will Fill the Void in Agribotics?
Investors should know what to look for and who to follow in robotic harvesting
Will Robots Make Farm Work a 24/7 Business?
John Deere, Toro and USDA Seek Solutions for $5B Orchard Harvests
Agribot Technologies are Rapidly Advancing
As qualified farm labor becomes more difficult to find, robotics solutions become more attractive
Caser Autonomous Fruit Robot Could Transform Agricultural Robotics
A new robot designed for use in orchards and vineyards could revolutionize agricultural robotics
3D Robotics Zooms in on $30M in New Funding
Company targets agriculture as first market to test commercial drone applications
Humans No Match for RoboButcher in $23B Poultry Industry
Safer and more hygienic, rapid-fire robots debone broilers ten times faster than humans
Modernization Act Boon for Robot Food Handlers
Unexpected outcome of 2011 law spurs future robot-only food industry
Tasty Impact: 3D Printing, Twinkies and Robotics
3D printing takes on the globe?s largest industry – food!
Follow all the news and research updates in our special Agriculture section