Human Activity | Episode 4: Light

The Biggest Picture

Human Activity

Can you use technology to build a deeper connection to the land?

The resources most important to global agriculture are – and have always been – time and technology. The relationship between these two resources is inextricable. Without enough time to learn how to do so, human activity could have never developed the know-how to domesticate crops, till soil, breed plants, or apply crop protection.

Every new farm innovation is in turn a chance for farmers to save time, do more, and produce more effectively. In a more uncertain climate future, the need for human activity and human innovation to help farmers mitigate climate change has never been more urgent or more clear.

The Biggest Picture
The Biggest Picture

The Global Impact of Climate Change on Farming
Nearly three quarters of farmers around the world report that their farms have begun to experience the effects of global climate change. An increasingly turbulent climate is forcing farmers around the world to adapt to – in very little time – warmer, wetter environments that breed plant disease, or more dangerous and harmful weather events like tornados and floods.

And yet how do farmers feel about an uncertain future? It turns out that they feel largely positive. The same proportion of farmers – nearly three quarters – are feeling like the prospects for agriculture in their country are good.

The Role of Technology in Alleviating Climate Stress
Climate stress is pervasive. Those farmers on the front lines, whose very livelihoods depend on a truly dependable environment, are supported by maturing and diverse technological applications in ways that solve farming’s biggest problems.

Quote Amy
Today, I have hope because I know that we can see and we can measure, and thus we can manage for a planet that is more sustainable and resilient, even under the threat of climate change.”
Amy Rosenthal
Senior Global Director of Conservation Initiatives at Planet

Planet began deploying its fleet of over two hundred satellites over a decade ago. Today, their constellation of over two hundred satellites orbits the earth and generates a complete picture of every point on our planet every day.

“Space technology seems complicated,” said Amy Rosenthal, Senior Global Director for Conservation Initiatives at Planet. “But what Planet delivers is a high resolution picture of how, for example, regenerative farming is improving outcomes for land, air, and water. You can see those things in the picture itself, but we also deliver insights. Working with partners, we can send alerts to when soil moisture changes, how land surface temperature shifts over time, how crops look and whether there's a change in health status. How crops look and whether they're getting greener, less green, or there's a potential that crops are facing illness. Those kinds of alerts deliver deliver the kinds of insights that farmers need and demonstrate the benefits of regenerative practices in ways that are easy to access and to understand.”

James Allen, CEO of New Zealand agriculture consultancy firm AgFirst, is on a journey around the world this year to learn how better to support farmers. His conclusions are clear: we need to use more technology to use less on the farm. Insights gained from a combination of space and terrestrial observations will help farmers make better-informed decisions about what farm inputs to use and how to use them most effectively.

James Quote
If we are looking at a square meter of crop and we see an insect starting to invade that part of the field, but not another part of the field, all of a sudden we can apply some treatment to here compared to over here where we don't need to touch it. All of a sudden, we might be using less product to achieve the same outcome. I think it's hugely exciting. We're just scratching the surface of what that could achieve.”
James Allen
CEO of AgFirst and 2023 Nuffield Scholar

Meeting the Growing Food Demand with Technology
As our global human population increases to over 9 billion by 2050, global food demand will skyrocket. During these next few short decades, our ability to produce enough food to feed our population will be stressed without the application of new technologies and new approaches. Satellite technology and advances to terrestrial tools, like two foods on the same plate, are what will meet these changing needs.

If you think about some of the most important things we can do as people, one is making sure we all have enough nutritious food to eat. Because if you're not able to eat, a lot of other things don't really matter as much.”
Jeremy Williams
Head of Digital Farming at Bayer

“And the second thing is ensuring that we've got a planet that's healthy for the generations that will come behind us. And agriculture is at the center, both of making more food for all of us, but also as a contributor to maybe 25% of greenhouse gases. Agriculture is very much at the heart of how we have a more sustainable system that meets the challenges from climate change. So for me, this is one of the most important things you can do.”


Interested in an agricultural technology career? Visit our digital farming careers page here.

4 min read