“I have a dream that one day, no one will ever be hungry. They say we are going to be 9 billion in 2040. I am going to feed these 9 billion people” (Eric Jallas, CEO of ITK).
Is it utopian to have such a beautiful dream? How can we feed 9 billion individuals without destroying the planet even more by increasing the use of agrochemicals, low-regulated GMO, or upward wastage of water? On the one hand, global population is increasing drastically since the 1960s. If we are 7.55 bn nowadays, we are about to be more than 9.77 bn in 2050, and 11.18 bn in 2100.
The repartition of the population will not be homogeneous. Asia will keep dominating when Africa takes off to reach the same number of inhabitants by the 22nd century. The rest of the world will continue to grow slowly or stagnate.
In the meanwhile, the planet has been losing a third of its arable lands during the past 40 years, primarily because of the degradation of the soils.
Hence, such demographic pressure imposes to reinvent the technics of agricultural production. Many efforts have been led in the past thirty years to transform farming practices. Fundamental changes in history have long corresponded to agrarian revolutions. Genetic and chemical progress have superseded mechanical innovations. But we are living the limits of the uses of chemical inputs. Too many damages have been done to the environment and the people – directly or indirectly. And the paradox is that the agricultural returns keep decreasing since the 1990s. Now, no one is afraid to say that the future, even in farming, is digital.
The assertion is strong. It disputes the Big 6’s hegemonic position (BASF, Monsanto-Bayer, Dupont, Syngenta, and Dow Chemical Company). We might not need their biotechnologies anymore. At least, new technologies are expanding on their market. We might not even need to dry water tables out because now, we have the technology to help us understand what the earth needs to give its best and feed us all. A data-driven approach to agricultural practices is more accessible since the cost of digital technologies keeps falling, and applications get more and more farmer-using-friendly. The formidable development and increasing affordability of tools made to capture and analyze information (satellites, databases, IOT, decentralized computing power) provide a unique opportunity to transform our practices.
We have discovered a specific technology that might revolutionize it all. The French company ITK (Intelligence Technology Knowledge) launched a suite of decision support tools that allow predicting in advance the needs of your crop to grow optimally with minimum use of inputs, resources, and water. This solution addresses high-income countries with high technology readiness as well as fast emerging markets in developing countries. The future will be global, or it won’t be. The primary cause of food losses in developing countries is mostly due to financial, managerial and technical limitations in harvesting techniques, storage and cooling facilities in severe climatic conditions, infrastructure, packaging, and marketing systems. A data-driven approach provides tools to distinguish between externalities and erroneous processes, which would spur the farmers to embrace scientific practices. ITK’s services are based on a fast machine-learning model fostering real-time management of the crops and cattle since the living is by nature continually evolving. The weather stations interconnect the data collecting on the fields. The firm also equipped 300 000 connected cows to apprehend the care, the nutrition, and even the calving. ITK’s strength is to propose solutions to reduce both the costs and the risks for the farmer. He will optimize his use of resources and reduce the consumption of external inputs. The whole point is not to heal when the damages are already done, but to prevent them from happening in the first place. Can you read the future? Yes, we can. We don’t have to undergo the wrath of Zeus anymore. ITK’s models provide an analysis of what is going to happen according to what you do. “We don’t prevent, we don’t heal: we predict the future. Beyond the comprehension of the cause of a problem, our technology can determine in real time the consequence of each action,” claims Eric Jallas.
Are we going to be able to feed 9 billion people within 20 years? The challenge is crazy and yet compulsory. Let’s try and do it like heroes, without destroying the planet, so that the 9 billion generation can find solutions to feed the 11.5 billion people expected for 2100.