EMERGING precision technology will see a paradigm shift in the way farming is achieved within the next 15 years.
That's the bold prediction of US-based Boston Consulting Group (BCG) which has released a research report titled, Crop Farming 2030 The Reinvention of the Sector.
According to BCG, the most influential trends that will affect farming practices and structures beyond 2030, include precision farming, automation, consolidation, professionalism and labour.
"In Germany, for example, groups of farmers have 'virtually consolidated' their small plots by working across field boundaries using GPS-guided equipment and a smart data-driven approach," the report said. "This technology allows them to precisely allocate yields to each of the group's members, who realise the synergies and benefits of scale enjoyed by large farms without having to unify ownership of their plots.
"We expect the adoption of smart systems that integrate big data and analytics software, wireless connectivity, advanced equipment and even molecular biology, to increase dramatically beyond 2030.
"By integrating inputs, farmers will gain better control over them, thereby driving a change in productivity and yields and altering agricultural value pools and business models."
BCG says the main driver for such technological changes is increased focus on the world producing food cheaply to satisfying increasing demand.
"As the global population approaches nine billion by 2050, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) expects that demand for agricultural outputs will increase by 60 per cent compared with the annual average from 2005 through 2007, representing an increase of about 1pc a year," the report said.
"But the acreage cultivated globally will increase only negligibly."
The report said the outlook for the agriculture industry was promising, increasing demand for innovative equipment, inputs and digital services needed to improve farm productivity, especially yields.
"At the same time, they will help consolidate the customer base for input providers, which, in turn, will increase the professionalism of purchasing decisions and the use of pooled purchases," the report said.
"Although our research focused on Europe, the strategic implications are applicable globally.
"Our interviews with European farmers suggest that farmland consolidation and a labour shortage will be among the major trends affecting farming structures through 2030.
"The labour shortage will intensify as a growing number of family members choose to pursue careers outside of farming.
"Combined with the drive to consolidate, this will force many retiring farmers to sell their land.
"Potential purchasers will include not only neighbouring farmers but also private-equity and sovereign wealth funds, although in some countries their investments may be limited by restrictions on farmland ownership."
According to BCG, the use of precision farming technology will be the major trend reshaping farming world-wide.
"In the past decade, precision farming has already begun to revolutionise farming practices, and we expect its growing influence to promote improvements," its report said. "This is been shown in variable-rate applications in seeding, fertilising and crop protection.
"Its spread will be enabled by the increased use of sensors, software and wireless connectivity on farming implements, thereby turning ploughs, planters, spreaders, sprayers and other add-ons into intelligent equipment.
"Such implements will control unmanned tractors through two-way communication, providing information for example, about the current load, or sensor data about the soil.
"Innovative technologies will drive further improvements, but the pace and extent of their adoption remains to be seen."