Smart farming key to developing sustainable agriculture


WFSC members Profs. Nina Buchmann, Achim Walter, and Robert Finger joined forces to publish an opinion article in PNAS focusing on the fourth revolution in agriculture triggered by the tremendous influx of data from information and communication technologies.

Components of smart farming
Image: PNAS

Robots weeding the fields, applying fertilizer, and harvesting fruits. Drones flying over crops collecting biomass development and fertilization status information. Tracking livestock by virtual fence technologies. These are just some of the technological advances that can “provide novel ways into a profitable, socially accepted agriculture that benefits the environment (e.g., soil, water, climate), species diversity, and farmers in developing and developed countries.”

The coming fourth revolution in agriculture triggered by information and communication technology is the focus of a new opinion article in PNAS, entitled “Smart farming is key to developing sustainable agriculture.” The feature is written by a team of authors from ETH including Profs. Buchmann, Walter, and Finger as well at Dr. Robert Huber and highlights major opportunities and challenges associated with this revolution. The authors contend that “advocates and skeptics of technology need to engage in an open dialogue on the future development of farming in the digital era.” Only with such dialogue and “by considering new technologies in conjunction with a diversity of crop and livestock systems, as well as the relevant markets and policies, can farming in the digital era become smart farming.”

Read the full article in PNAS here.

WFSC Flagship Project

The article articulates issues at the core of the WFSC Flagship project ETH Studio AgroFood. The project aims to support ETH students in the understanding of the complex, ever-changing issues arising from digitalization and the development of solutions. To find out more about the program, visit its webpage.

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