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In the post-pandemic food landscape, supply and demand mismatches have led to increasing amounts of food waste, even as the global clamour for sustainably produced food reaches an all-time high.
Fortunately, we don’t have to deal with this problem alone. Today’s technology can autonomously detect supply chain inefficiencies, meaning it has the potential to help us transition to more sustainable business practices. While this process may be slow at first, having the tools to take automation to the next level through artificial intelligence (AI) is a massive step forward for the future of our planet.
Although we are not on track to meet the United Nations’ global sustainability goals for 2030, there is still time to reverse the clock. If humanity is to get on the right track to sustainability, the time to act is now. One thing is certain: technology will surely play a crucial role in the future of sustainable food.
The Internet of Things (IoT) Explained
But what exactly is the Internet of Things (IoT)? Chances are you’re already tapped into it right now. IoT refers to the increasingly connected web of smart devices and servers that make it possible for machines to autonomously carry out tasks that once had to be manually performed.
Think of it this way: you get in your car and drive all the way to work, only to remember you forgot to adjust the thermostat before leaving. When your HVAC system is connected to an app on your smartphone, you can resolve the issue at the click of a button from the comfort of your office. Before the Internet of Things, you would’ve had to drive all the way home to change the thermostat, or you would’ve left it on all day, wasting both money and energy.
The beauty of IoT is that not only can you remotely control devices, but they take in sensory input that allows them to self-regulate according to your specifications. For example, your sprinklers’ sensors can detect the moisture of the ground to extrapolate the perfect duration and frequency of each watering session. Waste not, want not.
How It Applies to the Food Industry
Now that you have a better understanding of the Internet of Things, you can probably imagine the benefits it has when it comes to the food industry. Among other things, this technology can ensure food travels at safe and consistent temperatures, provide detailed records as to its origin and nutrients, and help farmers integrate more sustainable practices into their business.
Agriculture is by far the largest consumer of water in the United States, with the farming industry accounting for around 80% of nationwide water consumption. It’s projected that over half of the world’s population will live with water scarcity by 2050, making it essential to reduce water consumption as much as possible. Thanks to IoT, sensors and big data can dramatically reduce agricultural wastewater by creating a more efficient distribution system that will sound an alarm if contaminants ever do enter the water supply.
While agricultural sustainability sometimes closely resembles traditional farming practices, modern solutions to waste are being introduced every day. One of these innovations is vertical farming, the practice of farming in an indoor, contamination-controlled environment.
In vertical farming, crops are stacked high on customizable shelving units to obtain a greater yield for the amount of horizontal space consumed. Think of it as a high-rise for vegetables. Best of all, because of the small amount of land it consumes, vertical farming can — and is! — employed in urban areas ranging from San Francisco to Chicago.
Where Tech Meets Business
The intersection of technology and business is increasingly complex these days. Because the food industry is a business, it’s important to understand how entrepreneurship and technology will shape it moving forward.
This year, keep an eye out for 2021 trends in IT services to stay on top of the latest shifts. Most likely, these changes will occur in the fields of cloud management, cybersecurity, and real-time customer support.
Having a base of properly educated engineering technology experts is also key as we look toward the future. These are the people who will develop new IoT hardware and ensure businesses are moving toward both long-term growth and sustainability, leaving outdated practices by the wayside.
Apart from big businesses, small-scale businesses and individuals can also do their part to save the planet. Increased energy efficiency is a big goal for many homeowners. This can be achieved through solar panel installation, modern appliances and LED lighting, and other tactics. One recent trend is the energy-efficient tiny home technology, designed to work with the structure’s surrounding environment.
Getting Back on Track With Global Sustainability
Positive shifts in the food industry are made all the easier by the new, accessible technology of the Information of Things. While we are far from reaching the goals indicated by sustainability initiatives, it’s still possible to get back on track with a little help from tech and big data. Sustainable food and living practices can go a long way toward healing the planet.