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Agriculture 4.0 Poised to Transform the Global Agricultural Industry

Rural Area in India. Photo: Rakesh Raman / RMN News Service

Rural Area in India. Photo: Rakesh Raman / RMN News Service

Agriculture 4.0 Poised to Transform the Global Agricultural Industry

While there are enormous benefits of tech-based Agriculture 4.0, it also brings some challenges in the industry.

The tech concept of Industry 4.0 is gradually coming to the agriculture domain as farmers in advanced parts of the world are ready to embrace the modern farming techniques under Agriculture 4.0 which is being driven by digital technology.

Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution is about the increasing use of modern technologies in the industrial processes to make them efficient. In the current phase of industrial automation, many leading companies of the world are using advanced computing models to computerize their manufacturing processes.

The total automation of the industrial systems is supposed to herald the fourth industrial revolution, referred to as “Industry 4.0” or I4.0, or simply I4. In the Industry 4.0 phase, the traditional factories will operate as smart factories and use contemporary technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Cognitive Computing.

The smart factories aim to reduce their dependence on the human workforce so that input costs could be reduced to make products competitive in the market.

It is believed that the application of Industry 4.0 can greatly transform the agricultural industry which has all the attributes of a traditional manufacturing industry. Thus, Agriculture 4.0 will lead to the introduction of connected farms, digital production equipment, and connected tractors.

[ Also Read: Knowledge Stories for Farmers ]

Agriculture 4.0 also promises an increased productivity and quality along with environmental protection. In order to embrace Agriculture 4.0, farmers and companies in the agribusiness will have to change their farming methods and business models which will be increasingly digitized.

A European Commission report asserts that the real promise of Agriculture 4.0 in terms of productivity increase resides in the ability to remotely collect, use, and exchange data. A first range of application is the use of IoT to collect and publish information on the production processes and the farm.

The report suggests that the tech application can be extended from using digital tools to facilitate and automate legal and tax declarations, to increased food traceability through the publication of detailed information on goods, quality, and origins. This type of use case is relatively easy to deploy and ahead in adoption, as it only requires a limited integration with the production ecosystem.

[ Download and Read: Farm and Crop Times (FACT) Magazine ]

There can be enormous benefits of tech-based farming, but the increased use of technology also brings some challenges in the agricultural industry. While the Agriculture 4.0 concept is in its infancy, experts argue that many important factors are missing from the current debate around the digitized agricultural practices.

A new research paperAgriculture 4.0: Making it work for people, production, and the planet” warns that the social sustainability and social impact implications are not being discussed thoroughly before promoting the use of Agriculture 4.0.

The paper argues that if the fourth agricultural revolution takes place, the nature of farming systems will inevitably change beyond recognition. It identifies several areas of potential concern surrounding the adoption of Agriculture 4.0.

For example, the increased use of technology in the farm sector may lead to the loss of experiential knowledge and a disconnect between the farmer and the farm. This may further lead to loss of relief and work-satisfaction associated with traditional forms of farming. As a result, farmers may face higher levels of depression and mental health problems which are already prevalent in the sector. 

Data privacy is another matter of concern, as a significant amount of data will be collected by new technologies without sufficient safeguards to store and protect the information collected through farm automation. There is a fear that the agricultural corporations may exploit the data to target farmers in a number of ways.

The risk of data misrepresentation will be particularly high in developing countries where most farmers are not educated and they can be fleeced by the companies to sell their dubious products. Initially, Agriculture 4.0 will be beneficial in those developed countries where agriculture business is run as a modern enterprise and where workers are fully skilled to handle digital systems.

The unemployment resulting from the application of Agriculture 4.0 is another issue, as Agriculture 4.0 is a labour-saving technology application. Most countries will not be able to cope with the loss of jobs in the agriculture industry while a large number of workers who do not possess skills to work in the automated environment will lose their jobs. 

The paper concludes that the potential benefits for productivity and the environment of the fourth agricultural revolution will not be realized if its social benefits are not evenly shared. It recommends a multi-actor approach to agri-innovation around Agriculture 4.0 to ensure that its benefits reach all stakeholders – including consumers and corporates – in a holistic manner.

Initially, there may be teething troubles in the adoption of technology in the agriculture sector. But with the regular use of tech systems, the agricultural industry can hope to see more prosperity for the farming communities and better quality for consumers of farm products.

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