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ICT enhanced agriculture: Imaginings coming true

Academic publication moves at a snail’s pace. A chapter that I wrote for a futures book that came out in 2013 was actually written in 2010. This is what I said about agriculture:

The move to a knowledge-based economy did not mean the end of agriculture, but the blending of agriculture and knowledge. The massive computing power agglomerated in the region enabled a solution to the water crisis that had threatened to turn the bread basket of the Punjab into an arid desert and to start another war between Pakistan and India. The inefficient water-use practices on both sides of the border had driven down the water table and made the great Indus a mere trickle. Combining the brains of the region’s scientists, cheap computing and ubiquitous connectivity, the region was able to do more with less water, also cutting down widespread fertilizer poisoning in the process. Gone were the days of free electricity endlessly pumping water from ever-receding groundwater pools. Science decided when the drip irrigation would be turned on and off. Previously flood-causing rains recharged groundwater pools. Life started returning to riverbanks as the region’s rivers began flowing back to the Indian Ocean at fuller strength.

My chapter was entitled “e South Asia: A social science fiction.” As a fan of William Gibson, David Brin and Neal Stephenson, I have always dreamed of imagining things that then come to pass.

The process may be underway:

The plastic-and-stainless-steel device, topped by a tiny solar panel, determines the amount of water to be delivered to the garden each day, using Mr. Aramburu’s Wi-Fi network to communicate with a valve attached to his irrigation system. If the air is humid, or if rain is forecast, the valve limits or cuts off the supply. If the soil lacks nutrients, Mr. Aramburu receives an alert on a smartphone app telling him to add fertilizer. And it doesn’t hurt that the sensor initially analyzed the clay-filled dirt of his yard and recommended which plants would thrive there.

The soil sensor and the water valve are Mr. Aramburu’s creations; he will soon begin selling them through his new company, Edyn. But his plan for his business goes beyond enabling people in upscale ZIP codes to cultivate things like exotic kale and heirloom beets. He also intends to sell sensors to farmers in developing nations at a low cost to help them grow food more efficiently and sustainably.

Full report.

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