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Discover how Dutch farmers are revolutionizing agriculture with tech and diversity. The farm of the future is all about data, and artificial intelligence.

In the Netherlands, a remarkable initiative is underway at the Wageningen University's Farm of the Future, where project manager Wijnand Sukkel and his team are revolutionizing farming methods to secure future food supply and mitigate climate change impacts.

Traditionally, Dutch fields are dominated by monocrops like maize or wheat. However, the Farm of the Future is breaking this norm by experimenting with crop diversity, introducing up to eight different crops at a time including wheat, onions, and potatoes.

Sukkel explains the benefits of this approach, stating, "We know that crop diversity works." He emphasized that it promotes efficient water use, reduces pest disease risk, enhances soil health, and boosts yields. The strategy also leverages cover crops to foster soil and biodiversity.

According to BBC,

With the global population projected to hit nearly 10 billion by 2050, the team is working tirelessly to develop sustainable farming systems that can feed the growing populace while curbing carbon emissions. The project, initiated four years ago, aims to create a "high food production farm system with zero fossil fuel energy use, with no damage from pesticides and [that] was resilient to heavy rainfall or very long dry periods."

To achieve this, the farm has invested in cutting-edge technology, including machines that can identify and target weeds specifically, using a minimal amount of germicide. Sukkel notes, "Instead of spraying everything with the same doses, the machine recognises the weeds from the culture plant and sprays a little [germicide] on it."

Despite the promising advancements, Sukkel acknowledges the financial barriers farmers face in adopting new technologies, citing the high costs of modern harvesting machines as a significant hurdle.

Parallelly, farmer Jacob van den Borne is utilizing GPS technology to enhance crop yields through precision farming. He has invested in soil scanning technology, which he says, "gives me the ability to improve the soil potential and predict which are the good spots and fix the others." Van den Borne is also exploring variable rate irrigation, a system that allows for controlled watering based on predetermined levels.

Looking forward, van den Borne sees data, artificial intelligence, and learning as the pillars of future farming. He is investing in AI to address field issues and believes that "for me, the farm of the future is all about data, artificial intelligence and learning."

However, not everyone shares this optimistic view. Meino Smit, an organic farmer and researcher, warns that "technology has a negative impact on the environment; the more tech you use, the more it creates a negative impact in the environment." He advocates for a balanced approach that combines reduced energy use with technology and labor.

As Dutch farmers navigate the challenges of climate change, they recognize the need for adaptability, focusing not just on quantity but also on the quality of production. Van den Borne sums up the pressing responsibility they bear, noting, "It's pretty scary but less than 1% of the global population is feeding the rest. It's quite an important job."

Samira is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, but deep inside, her heart is a nomad! She's a state champion debater, a public speaker, a scriptwriter, a theater actress, but most importantly — A GREEN CITIZEN! She thinks of herself as a storyteller who thrives on enjoying the life at fullest and telling everyone the tales of life.

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