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Precision agricultural systems: A new way to grow nutritious vegetables

Targeted and timely application of agricultural inputs like irrigation and fertilizer leads to improved crop productivity and minimizes wastage.

Precision agricultural systems: A new way to grow nutritious vegetables

Food Security and Agriculture

Agriculture—as it is currently practiced—is fundamentally unsustainable. Collectively, agricultural production systems across developing and industrialized countries are causing a range of problems, including depletion of non-renewable groundwater, soil erosion, deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, environmental toxicity from the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, and dead zones in waterways due to fertilizer runoffs. While industrialized countries are responsible for the bulk of the damage, the experience of the Green Revolution in Asia demonstrates that even low-income countries can cause significant harm to both local and global ecosystems. All of these challenges are exacerbated by population growth and increased consumption levels, as incomes around the world rise.

It is clear that food needs to be produced with less input, and significantly more efficient use of those inputs.

In countries like the Netherlands and the US, a number of innovative precision systems—hydroponic, aquaponic and aeroponic systems deployed in highly controlled environments such as greenhouses and shipping containers—are emerging. However, their usage has been restricted to small niches. Needless to mention, therefore, such systems are not yet considered relevant for developing countries, where the focus of agricultural development is largely on rural poverty alleviation.

Given the above context, we have recently launched an effort to explore the viability of precision agricultural production systems to address the challenge of urban food deserts in the US. Our objective is to identify and test technical improvements so that nutritious food can be grown locally, with a sustainable environmental footprint, while being cost-competitive against conventional systems.

Related Program Areas

Climate Change and Environmental Damage

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