Researchers at IBM list “5 in 5” every year–five ways that technology will change the world over the next five years. This year, by using technology to reduce hunger and waste, the overarching theme is feeding the world. The world’s population will hit the eight billion mark within the next five years, with one billion of them lacking adequate access to the food supplies needed for a healthy life. At the same time, some 45% of the world’s food supply is lost to waste at the moment. So, does technology have the key to solving the food crisis on the planet?
Digital twins can grow from tiny seeds
In industry, the concept of building digital twins to enable us to learn from simulations has taken hold, and it also holds a lot of promise in agriculture. Highly accurate sensors and data collection technology enable the digital construction of more and more detailed and close-to-reality simulations, experimenting with new food production methods and increasing efficiency and crop yields. At the same time, it is possible to monitor and minimize the ecological impact of farming by allowing us to better understand the interactions between farming and the natural environment.
Governments, farmers, suppliers of agricultural equipment and food distributors such as supermarkets will all be involved in this process and will be able to collect and share data through their own digital twin simulations. Thanks to initiatives like John Deere’s FarmSight system, which allows farmers to generate and share data-driven insights to improve crop yields, the seeds of this revolution can already be seen in action.
A bountiful blockchain harvest
Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies allow food supply chain stakeholders to closely monitor and track food travel from seed to plate. With real-time analytics enabling a deeper understanding of how food moves through the food chain and where waste occurs, growers can make more informed decisions about what quantities to plant, and distributors will be more confident about where shortages and surpluses are likely to occur.
IBM’s own Food Trust is one initiative that is being launched in this area–building a secure, manipulative and permanent record of transactions between farmers, suppliers, distributors and retailers. One way to picture the end goal of such a system is a sensor technology network–starting with capturing the weights of food shipped from farms and ending with an accurate record of the number of goods disposed of by shops and supermarkets because they are lost before they can be sold. With this data, it is possible to develop artificial intelligence systems to manage food resource distribution wherever it is needed.
Keep watching this space for more.