The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shined a bright spotlight on the need to access technology that already exists in other sectors and is not readily available in agri-food systems. The pandemic may cause technological agility as businesses change their workflows and increase safety measures, especially in the area of agriculture. The future holds growth in both machinery and platforms for data management, as well as automation within the agri-food sector.
A Digital Future
After COVID-19, there is likely to be more digital tech in agri-food systems, from production and distribution to the security and distribution of food. One example is food processing plants, where the coronavirus creates the need for much more digital development to limit hand-to-hand contact. This inclusion of tech provides a glimpse into measures that are likely to become more prominent soon.
It is also likely that more e-commerce tools will become available to farmers. That makes sense as small-scale operations seek new ways to sell their products to local communities. Much of this advanced technology already exists and is undergoing testing worldwide.
The use of tech in real environments on a smaller trial basis will help to provide researchers with information about how to apply them on a larger scale. Those who use the agri-food tools will be able to provide feedback on what is working (or not), to benefit tech innovators and improve production lines or other processes.
Fixing a Broken Food System
The pandemic has revealed the broken elements of the food system. While U.S. food supply has been operating on a just-in-time delivery model, the pandemic created an unpredicted change in buying patterns.
With consumers worrying about not having enough of a certain food, they bought more. That hoarding behavior created unexpected increases in demand for a range of fresh, frozen, and shelf goods. The vulnerability of the countries’ food system was unveiled.
Now is the time to change the system and improve it to meet the needs of those in the agri-food industry. Farmers must look for new ways to save on labor. While this activity is something that has been done for years, it might accelerate the adaptation of tech.
For example, robotic milkers could become commonplace. The same could be said for AgBots or agricultural robots that do a range of tasks, including watering and harvesting. These smart options provide ways to increase production with less human labor.
Farmers are also looking at the best techniques for farm storage. Armstrong Steel warehouses provide a cost-effective solution as they are highly durable and withstand harsh conditions, such as strong winds.
Looking ahead, if there are labor problems because of the health of the workforce, relating to COVID-19, then farmers and distributors will have to look at ways to use tech creatively.
In addition, there is the possibility that a growing number of people will stop going to supermarkets for fear of contracting the coronavirus. Instead, food will move directly from warehouses to front doors of homes.
The changes occurring within the food industry that began in response to the pandemic can be seen as ones that can increase production and food quality. Adapting agri-food technology has the potential to provide both of those improvements when done right.