Popular Science on the future of farming

Popular Science has a great article on the future of farming, or, more specifically, 8 innovations that could reshape the future of farming. Nothing mind-blowingly original, but I think most of them have high potential in the next decade, and Popular Science does a nice job of laying them out in a very accessible format. Here's a quick summary and commentary on the 8 innovations:
1. Farm the Desert: Greenhouses built near coasts turn plentiful seawater into freshwater for crops, without expensive desalinization plants. (I particularly like this one - imagine the potential in the Middle East, North Africa, the Pacific coast of the Americas, Australia...)

2. Growth with Precision: Networked soil sensors signal how much fertilizer and water are needed and when. (Definitely well on its way, at least in the U.S.)

3. Rebuild Rice: Genetically engineer rice to change its photosynthesis, so we can grow more of it in any conditions. (The idea of converting rice from C3 to C4 is fairly radical, but this research is underway at the IRRI in Manila)

4. Replace Fertilizer: Seeding fields with microbes that pull nitrogen from the air. (This will make Michael Pollan and other crusaders against the NPK oversimplification happy)

5. Re-Map a Continent: Gather extensive data on land use to better target new farming technologies. (Underway with the Gates foundation's $4.7m grant to HarvestChoice)

6. Use Robot Labor: Mechanized farmers for monitoring, pruning, thinning, and even picking produce. (I have a hard time seeing the labor economics of robots beating migrant workers any time soon)

7. Resurrect the Soil: Add biochar, a form of charcoal that provides plants with vital nutrients while also sequestering carbon. (Biochar is the next silver bullet on the horizon which will undoubtedly not meet expectations...)

8. Make Supercrops: Engineer the cassava into the perfect crop. (This is another one of my favorites, although I don't have a great sense for the scientific difficulty involved)
I would add at least one more, courtesy of Vaclav Smil - drastically reduce the amount of food which is wasted (estimates vary, but 30-40% losses between field and fork is very plausible). Analogous to energy efficiency, efficiency in the food chain is perhaps the most impactful (and lowest-impact from an environmental perspective) lever for meeting rising food demand. Not easy, given distributed nature of the challenge and the behavioral changes required, but nevertheless one that should be included. As Smil reminds constantly, too often we forget that increasing supply is not the only way.

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