How Might We Use Design To Change the Future of Farming?

Food makes the world go ’round. As consumers, we are unknowingly closely connected to the Agricultural industry simply through the food we eat daily. The growing concern of climate change continues to spark interest in the design world, and as designers, we strive to problem-solve. One of the many problems facing the agricultural industry today includes crop failure due to climate change and human oversight in farming, causing a level of food insecurity we cannot sustain. There has to be a way to design a system that will assist farmers in farm labor and food safety.

Looking into the future, the growing shortage of farm labor due to economic inviability and immigration challenges will affect the Agricultural industry. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), agricultural laborers as a percentage of the workforce declined from 81.0% to 48.2% in developing countries and 35.0% to 4.2% in developed ones. We have an opportunity and responsibility to address the pressing issues facing the Agriculture industry.

When Agriculture Meets Technology

With this in mind, we are introducing Optimum, a Hatch Duo concept project that bridges the gap between technology and agriculture. With Optimum, we aim to address the fears around food insecurity through AI and autonomous robots. Combining aerial surveying with AI analysis and resultant report generation activates a fleet of farm-bots that work autonomously, perform farming tasks, and ensures upkeep until successful harvest, thereby reducing food loss through crop wastage or failure. It enables farmers to have improved knowledge of their field and increased control over their farming practices and abilities.

When we say “farming,” it includes various processes like land preparation, sowing, irrigation, fertilizing, and harvesting. Each step requires different ingredients to be distributed to the farm field, sowing-seed, fertilizing-fertilizer, irrigation water, and other areas. We didn’t want a scenario where a farmer would have to go through the purchasing process, renting, or storing different bots; these aspects drove the modular idea. To simplify user engagement, we wanted to create a system where the user can merely “plugin” the right pipe to the bot container. The container then gets loaded to the bot by the docking station, so the farmer doesn’t have to worry about heavy lifting, and the bot completes tasks for the farmer. We also decided to focus primarily on sowing, fertilizing, irrigation, and weeding functions (care solutions) due to the difficulties and inefficiency of small robots dealing with land preparation and harvesting, all of which we discovered during the research phase.

Our main objective in designing Optimum is to optimize farming efficiency, productivity, and sustainability. The assisting technology involved works as an integrated system, Optimum has features and parts that can effectively perform farm tasks: the Scanning Bots and Modules, Drones, Docking Station, and a mobile application.

With the Scanning Bots’ assistance, they can scan the soil state, crop state, save location data of crops, and transport modules to various farm areas. Optimum drones can correct GPS data of the bots, scan crop state, and create aerial images of the entire farm. Optimum’s docking Station stores and charges the modules so system interaction can continue. Farmers can also check on the status of each module by accessing Optimum’s docking station. We also created a basic Optimum phone application that farmers can easily access the entire system via a smartphone or tablet.

The Future of Optimum

Looking further into the future, beyond Optimum combating food insecurity, we are exploring other areas that need catering due to climate change. For example, we can innovate the Optimum drone to survey forest covers, generate data on plants’ dryness, and analyze it against weather concerns that could trigger a fire. It can also gather data and create reports on how to afforest those areas and improve their carbon cycles effectively. Lastly, in disaster-struck areas, Optimum can provide relief both efficiently and incisively. As you can see, there are various possibilities within our Optimum concept project we would love to explore; however, if we were to dive deeper or given the right funding, we would aim to iterate Optimum with continuous innovation in mind. Here at Hatch Duo, we strive to problem-solve with design and engineering at the forefront, and sometimes, this includes hatching ideas of our own, too.

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