Technology integral to global food production

According to Absa’s senior agricultural economists Wessel Lemmer and Ernst Janovsky, who recently addressed the Absa Agribusiness round table in Centurion, technology will play an increasing role in food production as the world races to feed its growing population.

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Lemmer and Janovsky believe new agricultural technologies are already improving productivity. These include precision tillage, better ways of selecting animals with superior genetics and the use of drones to determine crop yield, identify diseased plants and even the leaf area index of a tree in an orchard.

Commodities and inputs as we know them are increasingly being produced ever more efficiently, say Lemmer and Janovsky. Producers who will benefit are those who capitalise on the alternative production of food with the support of technological developments.

Lemmer and Janovsky also predict a greater move towards urban vertical farms within the city limits, reducing transport costs. While these are mainly being used to produce lettuce and kale, they could easily be expanded to accommodate other crops.

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The indoor planting method can allow for 23 harvests a year compared to the average of three in conventional farming methods.

More jobs
“Technology always creates more jobs than it destroys,” says finance journalist Tim Worstall.

“The machines will do the grunt work and we’ll be off doing something more interesting than shovelling – well, shovelling whatever it is that bulls leave lying around.

Technology is not simply a matter of ‘robots putting humans out of work’,” he adds.

“If that was the case, then advancing technology would never make us richer in the first place.”

Lemmer and Janovsky stress that farmers need to become ‘new-era producers’, using the latest technological developments in the age of ‘big data’.

If they do not adapt fast enough, local farmers could well lose their competitiveness.


Greg Miles is a livestock farmer and internet marketer.