Conference told of technology’s future impact on farming

Self-drive tractors and artificial intelligence may find their way to Irish farms in coming years

Delegates heard about the emergence of “big data” analytics and changes in our understanding of how diet and food affect our mental wellbeing

Delegates heard about the emergence of “big data” analytics and changes in our understanding of how diet and food affect our mental wellbeing

 

Self-drive tractors, 3D printing of food, synthetic life and artificial intelligence will all find their way on to Irish farms in the coming years, a conference has heard.

The impact of disruptive technologies was the subject of an international conference in Dublin yesterday organised by agricultural research and advisory body Teagasc.

Delegates heard about the emergence of “big data” analytics and changes in our understanding of how diet and the food we eat affect our mental wellbeing.

The final report of a technology foresight exercise carried out by Teagasc was also released at the conference.

Strengths

Technology Transforming Irish Agri-Food and Bioeconomy

Plant and animal genomics: using genetic technologies to improve animal quality and yield;

Human, animal and soil microbiota: studying the interactions with the microbes that live in our guts and those that live in the soil;

Digital technologies: the use of advanced sensors, GPS, data storage and other IT suited to farm use;

New technologies for food processing: making use of zero-waste, environment- friendly technologies in Irish food production;

Transformation in the food value chain system: adding value to food production through new and better products while delivering what the consumer wants.

Dr Banning Garrett, a Washington-based entrepreneur and strategic thinker, said future technologies would include the use of robots and the 3D printing of human organs, devices and even entire buildings.

Precision farming

“precision farming”

Prof Martina Newell-McGloughlin, who is based at the Abu Dhabi Education Council, described advances in the genetics of “merit”, the breeding or yield characteristics of livestock. Genetic analysis means merit can now be assessed at birth, she said.

Prof Fergus Shanahan, director of the APC Microbiome Institute in Cork, discussed how the microbes in our gut can affect physical and mental health.

“When you eat you are not just feeding yourself, you are feeding your microbiota. Mind your microbes because they will mind you,” he said.