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#twinning: Farming's digital doubles will help feed a growing population using less resources.


The prediction

Imagine a planet where instant access to critical data on the world’s farmland could be provided to anyone that needs it. In the next five years, this will become reality when a digital twin of the world’s agricultural resources is readily available.

What's happening today

By the end of the century, the earth’s population will increase by 45 percent, while farmable land will decrease by 20 percent. What’s more, the farmable land we have may not be used efficiently: half of farmers worldwide suffer post-harvest losses each year due to poor planting practices. As food demand increases, current farming models will need to improve to keep pace.


Solutions for the future

Creating a digital twin or a “virtual model” of the world’s farms could help ready agriculture for this challenge by democratizing farm data, allowing those in agriculture to share insights, research, and materials, and communicate data on farmland and crop growth across the planet, and connect and cross-reference with the food supply chain. With a digital twin of farms and agricultural activity worldwide, participants at every level of the food chain will have access to more information and resources, resulting in a more equitable farming economy. And that means one thing: more food, at a lower cost.

Developments at IBM Research

IBM PAIRS Geoscope

Creating a replica of farmland also requires a system to process thousands of terabytes of data. The IBM PAIRS Geoscope is a platform specifically designed for massive geospatial-temporal data from maps, satellites, weather, drones, IoT, and other devices. It allows anyone to research and monitor various factors influencing farms around the world. Pulling from data mined through systems like Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture and other platforms, PAIRS can be used to provide critical data not only to growers, but to sellers, consumers, governments, and those looking to combat world hunger.

Groundwater extraction pattern analysis

IBM scientists in Nairobi, Kenya are developing technology that would allow sensors to provide supply and demand patterns based on groundwater extraction data. It could help service providers significantly reduce their non-revenue water -- water that is “lost” before it reaches the customer through leaks, theft, or metering inaccuracies. Any excess water could then be given back to the farmers responsible for growing that region’s food. This research is part of an overall effort to connect potable water sources around the planet to the cloud.

Hello Tractor

In Africa and parts of Asia, Agtech startup Hello Tractor is connecting small-scale farmers to equipment and data analytics to increase crop yields and access to financial services. Hello Tractor is teaming with IBM researchers in Kenya to extend its mobile platform with technologies including the Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture, blockchain, and IBM Cloud. The idea is to create a digital wallet that enables data to be captured, tracked, and shared instantly across parties involved in the agribusiness value chain including financial institutions to help farmers gain access to credit.

IBM Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture

An important tool to help farmers and growers make better decisions is the new IBM Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture. This platform combines data, satellites, mobile phones and sensors with AI capabilities to collect and analyze unstructured, visual data about agricultural land use, from soil chemistry and water supplies, to crop diseases, equipment usage and availability, impending rainstorms, heat waves, and cold streaks - all to deliver on the promise of improved food quality and safety.

For example, the system can alert farmers to an impending storm so that they don’t overwater. Or to an upcoming cold snap so they can harvest food before temperatures plummet. What’s more, sensors in wells, pipes, and pumps can communicate when water pumps break or supply is running low, giving farmers ample time to take action to ensure plants are properly hydrated.