Weather, climate, and opportunistic vulnerability
J Matthew Pryor / January 24, 2022
3 min read • ––– views
Digitally native agriculture will create new ways of operating all along the value chain.
One of the most important degrees of freedom promised by these innovations is the ability to manage the enormous challenges that the food system faces in the coming decade.
The global food system has to simultaneously:
Sustainably scale to provide affordable nutritious food for the planet
Flex and change to be adaptable in the face of our changing climate and the changing conditions
Be a net-exporter of nature-based solutions for other industries to speed decarbonization
Digital transformation will provide more accurate, lower cost, and higher resolution information to farmers that will drive smarter decisions.
These new layers of information can help drive better decision-making and more optimized production, but will that be enough to deliver on these 3 massive challenges? It is unlikely that more of the same, even if smarter and more efficient, will be sufficient. It can take as part of the way, but not far enough
Farming is fundamentally impacted by weather.
Each day, the choices of what to do, or what can be done will be heavily impacted by weather. Climate isn't weather, but the weather we experience is changing and will keep getting more extreme and unpredictable because of our changing climate. The choices we have, and so the tools we can use, will also be impacted by weather.
The tools of the future will have to take the opportunistic nature of decision making in to account and likely require different behavior and ways of working.
A good example of this came up in conversation recently about a solution that should work, but practically suffers from what you might call opportunistic vulnerability.
Harvest is a notoriously weather dependent activity. If the crop needs to come in, nothing else matters. Seed destroyers are an excellent innovation that is added on to a combine and destroys weed seeds in an integrated fashion at harvest. The downside is that the addon can slow harvest down. If weather is looming, the risk of slowing down is too high. Despite the great promise of managing weeds in a convenient way, the opportunity can be lost to the trump card of weather.
What approaches might be susceptible to this sort of opportunistic vulnerability? Will climate change and increasingly varabile weather patterns make different approaches more viable?