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The intersection of agriculture and technology will one day feed the world

It’s a common criticism of technology — despite the incredible advances we’ve made in the digital age, the so-called problems that some start-ups and tech companies are “solving” aren’t really all that significant. While the industry itself is experiencing extraordinary innovation, it often feels as though the organizations within it are reinventing a not-so-important wheel.

But presenters at a conference last week, co-hosted by the National Science Foundation and the National Consortium for Data Science, outlined a few incredible initiatives in which tech can really make a difference, namely within the realm of agriculture. As the New York Times first reported, there’s a wealth of untapped potential in the tech space that has the “potential to transform agriculture and help feed the world’s growing population.”

One of the key presenters at the recent conference was Lance Donny, the founder of the agriculture-centric startup OnFarm. Described as “an intuitive system for growers,” the company combines expert “agricultural experiences, advances in fixed asset technology, and extensive research into emerging agricultural trends” to provide farmers with “a single grower-friendly management and decision platform.”

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As Donny noted in his speech, the combination of “inexpensive sensors, cloud computing, and intelligent software” could change the way that humans engage in agriculture, and help feed an ever-growing population. The farming industry is on the cusp of utilizing technology in ways it never has done before. With increasingly robust systems for weather tracking, water and fertilizer monitoring, and data collection on crop cycles, the intersection of agriculture and technology holds a series of exciting and hugely beneficial advantages to the world over.

Those with deep pockets have already taken note of this — as per a recent AgFunder study, the first six months of 2015 alone saw a total of $2.06 billion in funding of 228 deals concerning agricultural technology startups. This number is only expected to grow, and in addition to the advent of new companies, there’s also plenty of room for existing players to get in on the action.

Watson, for one, which has already been used across a wide variety of functions, may soon become a major tool for farmers as well, providing agricultural insights in the same way that it gives some Canadian citizens information about their cities.

So sure, tech may spend a lot of time flirting with applications that are not the world’s most pressing. But its current more serious courtship with agriculture could change everything.