A new normal will ensure efficient and sustainable farming
South Africa is ranked by the United Nations as the 30th driest country in the world, making water a key constraint to agricultural developments. Water scarcity due to drought, declining rainfall and over-demand is, therefore, driving the need for the uptake of agricultural technology (agtech) in the country.
Data from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) shows that SA’s temperatures are rising at about twice the global rate of temperature increase. “The impact of (global warming) on crops and livestock farming may well be devastating,” says Professor Francois Engelbrecht, chief researcher for climate studies, modelling and environmental health at the CSIR. Careful planning is therefore needed to adapt to rising temperatures, and the concomitant increased water scarcity, over the next few decades. With climate change, shifts in farming activities are inevitable, he adds.
The “new normal” for agriculture is therefore a future in which agricultural technology enables more efficient and sustainable farming, according to research by the University of Stellenbosch Business School.
Adaptations include remote sensing technologies for precision agriculture applications (e.g. drones), undercover farming (e.g. shade netting), as well as the use of renewable energy and conservation agriculture, says GreenCape, a non-profit organisation that looks at green economy infrastructure solutions.
But the adoption of green/sustainable agriculture is not just about preparing for or adapting to climate change, it is also about reacting to international market pressure for low carbon, environmentally-friendly products.
An “Agri Renaissance” of higher yields, lower costs and improved nutritional value of foods is possible for the Cape’s R50bn agricultural economy if the farming sector, all three tiers of government and educational institutions work together to embrace emerging smart technologies, said Angus Bowmaker-Falconer, research associate at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), when discussing the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) Evaluation Report at an event last year.