What does digital technology bring to agriculture? What are the disruptions today in agricultural processes, with new treatments or new working instruments such as drones, sensors, robots,...?
To meet today's many challenges, the agricultural world must question itself. A seminar on 7 April next, created by the association Aristotlewill attempt to understand the issues at stake in this sector between ecological knowledge, technological advances,... on the theme of "The second agricultural, green & digital revolution", organized by David Menga, in partnership with CapTronic, Clean Tuesday and the Living Festival.
Chis seminar will review the radical transformations taking place in the agricultural world.
The first part, in the morning, explains what digital brings to agriculture, and highlights the logic of platforms and open source.
The second part insists on the disruption in agricultural processes, with new treatments such as methanisation or new working instruments such as sensors, drones or robots.
Today, agriculture has to take up many challenges, feed a planet with strong demographic growth while remaining competitive, while preserving the environment and people, and shaping our landscapes.
The first Green Revolution enabled the world's population to grow from 3 billion in the 1960s to 7.3 billion today. This revolution revolved around the breeding of high-yielding cereal varieties, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It made the fortune of companies such as Monsanto and Bayer.
This race for productivity has reached its limits, with prices collapsing due to overproduction, impoverishing land and increasingly scarce water. Global warming will amplify this trend.
The burden of investments to increase the productivity of the land (agricultural equipment, chemical inputs, genetically modified seeds) and the burden of loan repayments weigh heavily on farmers' incomes. In 2014, loan repayments have increased by a further 4 %, while at the same time, the wage withheld by the farmer is down by 4%. The collapse of pork and milk prices is endangering entire sectors.
Under-utilization of resources combined with rising machine costs cause costs to explode. For example, a fertilizer dispenser or sprayer now worth 20,000 euros is only used one week a year and sleeps the rest of the time in a shed.
Yet it's not all black. The wine and spirits sector, which relies on the French wine industry, generates a trade surplus of 10.4 billion euros, the second largest surplus after aeronautics, 22 billion euros.
The secret of this success is to give priority to quality rather than quantity and to sell "a French way of life".
The organic sector also favours quality, adding the sustainable side by respecting organic balances. Organic food is invading school canteens and is now part of French people's habits, since 9 out of 10 French people have occasionally eaten organic food (figures for 2014). However, nearly 30 % of organic consumption is imported. The obstacle to greater penetration of organic food remains price.
In the end, the question is to produce quality in a competitive way (controlled costs) while making a living from one's work.
The second green revolution is based on cutting-edge biological engineering (control of genes and interactions between varieties, better understanding of ecosystems) and the digital revolution.
The first stone is that of agrobiodiversity, which makes it possible to combine agricultural performance and soil adaptation to climate change. In an even more targeted manner, the use of micro-organisms (bacteria or fungi) increases crop yields and ultimately makes it possible to "replace agricultural chemicals and fertilisers". It also makes it possible to recover agricultural waste (biomass, animal excrement) in the form of energy, fertilizer (digestate) or plastics (green chemistry). If controlled, these transformations provide a new source of income for farmers or at least seriously reduce fuel and fertilizer costs.
The second stone is digital, which offers the following benefits:
◾ the farmer establishes direct links with the consumer. The latter can become a decisive actor in the financing chain of agricultural projects, via participatory financing platforms. It can also increase the farmer's margins via short circuits (baskets delivered to concierge services or third parties).
◾ The farmer establishes direct links with his peers to pool heavy resources (tractors, harvester) and suppliers. This is agricultural AirBnB.
◾ The farmer can automate agricultural tasks (weeding, harvesting, milking) using specialized robots.
◾ The farmer can monitor the state of his crop in real time thanks to hyperspectral imagery from drones and sensors planted in the ground. Decision-support software based on big data platforms can increase productivity with reduced environmental impact. We are in precision agriculture.
◾ Open source software combined with business data interoperability standards enable farmers to make the most of information from the farm and its environment and to innovate through collaboration. With open hardware, do-it-yourself farmers can produce machines at a lower cost and manage maintenance fine-tuning.