In order to meet rising food demands, agriculture will have to increase by 60% by 2050. To keep up with this, while limiting environmental impact, the agricultural industry must now look to new technologies, with smart farming expected to boost productivity over the next ten years.

To bring about the future of farming, IBM is partnering with Yara International, a Norwegian crop chemical company, to develop what they hope will be the world’s leading global digital farming platform.

Yara and IBM Services will jointly innovate and commercialise digital agricultural solutions that will help increase global food production through “holistic digital services and instant agronomic advice”.

The platform will use artificial intelligence, machine learning and in-field data to provide insights that can be used by farmers to improve productivity. The two companies aim to have worldwide coverage, with the platform covering 100 million hectares of farmland- equivalent to twice the size of Spain.

One area of collaboration will be weather data. By merging analytical insights from IBM’s Watson Studio, IBM PAIRS technology, The Weather Company and other services, with Yara’s crop knowledge, the platform will not only provide hyperlocal weather forecasts but will in addition give real-time actionable recommendations, tailored to the specific needs of individual fields or crops, essential for farming.

Technology’s role in the future of farming

Global food demand is expected to increase somewhere between 59% to 98% by 2050, so the future of farming will need to incorporate technology such as this to optimise the quantity of food that can be produced while avoiding unnecessary deforestation or monocropping.

Terje Knutsen, EVP Sales and Marketing at Yara believes that the future of farming will mean both professional and smallholder farmers are equipped with cutting-edge technology:

“Our collaboration centers around a common goal to make a real difference in agriculture. To be able to responsibly feed a growing population, it is critical that farmers increase food production on existing farmland to avoid deforestation. Yara and IBM will develop digital solutions that empower professional and smallholder farmers to optimise farming practices to increase yields, crop quality and incomes in a sustainable way.”

Yara and IBM will establish joint innovation teams, collaborating at digital hubs in Europe, Singapore, the US and Brazil. The teams will work closely with IBM researchers to develop visual analytics and machine learning techniques for crop insights. The first services are planned for the end of 2019.

As the project continues, the two companies hope to explore how blockchain technology can be used to create a traceable food chain to combat food fraud and reduce food waste, and improve supply chain efficiency.

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