torero3_Philipp Schulzepicture alliance via Getty Images_robotics farming Philipp Schulze/picture alliance via Getty Images

The Second Green Revolution Will Be Digitized

Six decades after the Green Revolution began, the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence may usher in another agricultural transformation. By enabling farmers to grow more while using fewer resources and generating less waste, these tools could make food more sustainable, accessible, and cheaper to produce.

ROME – Farming is one of the world’s oldest and most far-reaching endeavors. Meeting the growing food demands of the global population – projected to reach ten billion by 2050 – amid accelerating climate change presents an unprecedented high-wire act that requires human ingenuity, good governance, and technology.

The last time the agriculture sector went through a seismic shift like this was when new technologies, such as high-yielding wheat and rice seeds, chemical fertilizers, and irrigation technologies, kicked off the Green Revolution in the 1960s. In the following three decades, cereal production in famine-prone Asia doubled, and wheat and rice became cheaper, even though the population increased by 60% during this period.

Unfortunately, the Green Revolution brought with it a host of environmental costs. Lax regulations and generous subsidies made fertilizers and pesticides cheap, and farmers, with no training, used them excessively, leaving soil damaged and waterways polluted. As new crops took over, traditional plant varieties were lost, contributing to biodiversity loss.