The Role of Technology in Sustainable Agriculture

The invaluable WBCSD experience has sparked my interest in a number of topics but one area I have always feel genuinely passionate about is agriculture with the practices and communities involved in it. As explained in my introductory blog, my background and upbringing has instilled great respect for nature and the way we treat it, so it was of extreme importance for me to take the most out of the sessions dedicated to sustainable practices empowered by technology.

I am sure that a lot of us would find the agricultural activities “unnatural” to a certain extent –regardless of whether the production is a one square meter vegetable garden in Tokyo or a one million hectare rubber tree plantation in Malaysia (1). However, this is directly associated with the exponential growth of human population (Fig.1) and the higher demand for food and shelter.

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Fig.1 The course of Wheat Yields in Ireland, France and the US (Waggoner, 1996)

While looking at the image above, I was thinking about the undeniable trend related to growth population and how dramatically this figure must have changed between 2000 and 2018…

So here comes the question:

How can we avoid exceeding the natural capacity of the land whilst meeting that demand? Technology might be the answer…

I pay special attention to the less developed regions, where 80% of workforce is occupied by agriculture. In order to address the critical conditions of these regions, reinforcing farm productivity serves as the main way to increase incomes and achieve certain social goals (3).   Some implications I would highlight include:

  • With the growth of scientific knowledge, it is interesting to note that the focus is currently shifted to clever inventions aiming at challenging conventional pesticides which don’t comply with environmental regulations.
  • Agricultural Informationization – Cloud Computing and IOT (4)

China serves as a positive example of how the transformation of the sector maintains sound and sustaining economic development. If we take “The Golden Agriculture Project”, we will see three major implications: a monitoring and alert system providing warnings in relation to the production and animal diseases; IS supervising the market for production and a service system that provides direct links between  science and technology (5).

However, a critique that is worth mentioning is the insufficient use of information by farmers which, I believe, might be a result of the difficulties that arise when they have to manage advanced technologies.

The outlook for agriculture in developing countries would improve if farmers are given the impetus they need to adopt sustainable methods – via better financial and bureaucratic support and more time invested in making them feel comfortable with the implementation of new technology (3). As mentioned in my previous blog, the impactful and measurable progress cannot be achieved solely by one of the parties, which was notably highlighted during the WBCSD sessions, too.  For that reason B2B partnerships have been initiated to explore the potential that lies behind joining powers and implementation of solutions (6).

In the light of Climate change as one of the biggest challenges we face, the Council’s initiative – Climate Smart Agriculture incorporates climate resilience and reducing emissions from commercial agriculture. I aim at exploring more in my next publications.

By Yolina Stoyanova, 23rd April 2018




(1) Hutchins, S. (2009). The role of technology in sustainable agriculture. IPM World Textbook. Retrieved January, 14, 2010.

(2) Waggoner, P. E. (1996). How much land can ten billion people spare for nature?. Daedalus, 125(3), 73-93.

(3) Plucknett, D. L., & Winkelmann, D. L. (1995). Technology for sustainable agriculture. Scientific American273(3), 182-186.

(4) TongKe, F. (2013). Smart agriculture based on cloud computing and IOT. Journal of Convergence Information Technology8(2).

(5) Liang, G. (2006). Under The “Golden Shine”: China’s Efforts to Bridge Government and Citizens. United Nations Centre for Regional Development, 1-20.

(6) CSA Action Plan 2020- Midterm Report  MidTermReport.pdf


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