25 May 2020 
13 February 2019

“Agriculture 4.0” is underway

Responsible innovation that considers the wider impacts on society is key to smart farming, according to academics at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, UK. Agriculture is undergoing a technology revolution supported by policy-makers around the world. Smart technologies will play an important role in achieving improved productivity and greater eco-efficiency.

Photo: Joao Marcelo Marques on UnsplashPhoto: Joao Marcelo Marques on Unsplash
Smart technologies will play an important role in achieving improved productivity and greater eco-efficiency.
While smart technologies will play an important role in achieving improved productivity and greater eco-efficiency, critics have suggested that consideration of the social impacts is being side-lined.

In a new journal article Dr David Rose and Dr Jason Chilvers, from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, argue that the concept of responsible innovation should underpin the so-called fourth agricultural revolution, ensuring that innovations also provide social benefits and address potentially negative side-effects.

Each of the previous revolutions was radical at the time – the first representing a transition from hunting and gathering to settled agriculture, the second relating to the British Agricultural Revolution in the 18th century, and the third to post-war productivity increases associated with mechanisation and the Green Revolution in the developing world.

The current ‘agri-tech’ developments come at a time when the UK government has provided £90 million of public money to transform food production in order to be at the forefront of global advanced sustainable agriculture. Many other countries are also prioritising smart agri-tech.

This, combined with private investment from several organisations, means that ‘Agriculture 4.0’ is underway, with technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics increasingly being used in farming. Dr Rose, a lecturer in human geography, said: “All of these emergent technologies have uses in farming and may provide many benefits. For example, robotics could plug potential lost labour post-Brexit in industries such as fruit picking, while robotics and AI could enable better chemical application, saving farmers money and protecting the environment. They could also attract new, younger farmers to an ageing industry.”



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