This story is part of Fix’s What’s Next Issue,which looks ahead to the ideas and innovations that will shape the climate conversation in 2022, and asks what it means to have hope now. Check out the full issue here.
Imagine you’re standing at the edge of a soybean field in Iowa. In the distance, a combine harvester guided by GPS rolls across a field that has been leveled with the aid of a laser, as the farmer at the wheel monitors weather data on her phone. These tools, part of an approach to agronomy called precision agriculture, promise to increase yields and reduce costs by maximizing efficiency. That could help ensure the world grows enough food to feed an expanding population, even as climate change makes that task ever harder.
But there’s one small problem. “Precision agriculture is not that precise,” says Soumik Sarkar, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Iowa State University. Although things like GPS currently provide the most efficient route for planting and harvesting, and farmers use lasers to help level the land, even the most tech-savvy farmers lack t... Read more