Technology and Farming: A Help or Hindrance?

silo-2022754_1920Farming is still highly regarded as one of the world’s most important practices and industries, but in recent times,with the growth of technology, the industry has gone through a host of drastic changes. Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing but like everything related to technology, no one speaks too much about its negative impacts when it comes to farming. We’ve become so focused on getting quick yields regardless of possible negative consequences. People have also become very accustomed to convenience that they only look at the surface and not think deeply about the processes behind the production of the foods we eat. We’ll examine a few categories to determine whether technology has become a help or a hindrance to farming.

It’s interesting to ponder just how much technology has affected labor and food production in farming. There are certainly positive things that technology has brought which include for example, labor saving machines like self-driving tractors and combine harvesters. In addition, technology has also brought hydrophonic farming equipment which allows people to grow plants in liquid solutions without the need for soil. However, do these positives outweigh the negatives? Or is the effect vice versa? Let’s examine.

Automation

In a world filled with drones, tracking systems and self-driving vehicles it’s hard not to imagine these things having an impact on the way we farm. According to this article by Farm Credit Canada, “Automation is a growing trend across several sectors of the agriculture and the agrifood industry”. The article goes on to state how automated systems have been a part of the dairy farming in Europe and North America since the nineties. It also estimates that in 2012, there were about 273 farms (3%) in Canada using robotic systems. On one hand, this shows that automation can be positive because these innovations could help farmers produce more food, at a much faster rate. On another hand, there’s growing concern that the more farming processes become automated, the more likely it is that these technologies could replace human labor. This could also be a disadvantage to smaller scale farmers who may not necessarily be able to compete financially for access to the same technologies as the large scale counterparts.

Food Quality and Mass Production

The use of genetically modified organisms in food production has increased with the growth of technology, with questions about the safety and ethics behind the practice. There are differing viewpoints on just how effective GMO is on crops and animals when it comes to being more resistant to pests and bacteria. While there’s a case to be made for that, what happens to the rest of the food? Are there any 100% natural foods left? There is also something to be said about the consumers of these foods. We’re all so used to having these foods around that we don’t realize that they aren’t supposed to be readily available every time, everywhere, and all-year round. Certain foods can only grow in certain atmospheres, places and at a certain times in a year. However, with the increasing use of technology in farming, some foods are forcefully grown during seasons when they don’t naturally grow. Chemicals are being used to preserve foods for transportation to areas where they don’t naturally appear.

Aside from automation and food production, there are many more ways that technology has impacted farming, both positively and negatively. Nonetheless, we need to draw a line and find a balance with how technology is integrated into farming. One reason for this is the worry that technology may completely take away the human connection from food production. People have built local economies and supported their communities for years through farming, and as such, it’s important to recognize the importance of human connections in the practice. This will ensure that farming doesn’t solely become a ‘profit at all costs’ industry. Another reason we need to find a balance is so that we can have meaningful connections with the communities where our foods come from and truly comprehend what it takes to make quality food. Gaining a thorough understanding is a great step towards this balance.

All the negative talk aside, it’s vital to understand the enormous potential that technology has to change the world through farming. Technology can actually help farmers tackle issues of food scarcity and provide sustainable and quality food for communities that don’t have the same level of access. With technology, land can be better maximized to support a larger number of crops and animals. Technology also presents numerous opportunities for us to connect with people that reside beyond our boundaries. This is a chance for farmers and consumers to share ideas on how to refine food production, and make processes more sustainable without the need for harmful chemicals and GMOs.

The Takeaway

What we can take away from this post is the fact that advances in technology have brought along several new ways of food production, many of which have brought about positive yields. Unfortunately, not all technology is good for the consumers, however technology does a good job of padding the pockets of the idea creators. When it comes down to it, we as a society should be concerned with how technology impacts our food production both positively and negatively. In the end, our health, wellbeing and livelihood’s matter most, so finding ways to provide better for ourselves and our communities while properly integrating relevant technology into our farming practices should take priority. In addition, making simple, low-tech choices like supporting local farmers, or using innovations like, to grow our own foods, can make a difference in how we balance technology with farming. If you must buy from a grocery store, make sure to do your research and read labels. Ultimately, it’s important that we educate ourselves on the pros and cons of technology and carefully study trends before coming to quick conclusions about what how well or how badly it has impacted farming. Let’s also play a role in finding and promoting products that use these advanced technologies in positive ways.

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