An approach that considers all facets of a problem is key to ecological, economic and social resilience, experts say
At first glance, Sean Stratman’s Dancing Crow Farm in Washington’s Snoqualmie Valley looks like any other farm. Tall sunflowers sway next to fields of potatoes, carrots and tomatoes. But a closer look reveals signs of an agricultural revolution. Small sensors in the soil track soil moisture, temperature and pH. Above-ground sensors track water loss from plants and soil, solar radiation and other metrics.
Using the camera on his smartphone, Stratman reads the data from the devices and beams it to his computer via TV snow—the unused part of the television broadcast spectrum. No internet connection is needed, making the method more accessible and affordable for rural farmers around the world.
These data—part of Microsoft’s FarmBeats agricultural technology research initiative—will help Stratman better plan next year’s crops: what to plant, when and where. As summers grow hotter and rainfall becomes more intense in the valley, this information is ever more crucial to ensure that farms—and the food they produce—survive the vagaries of a changing climate.
The effects of climate change are hitting harder than ever before: More frequent and severe droughts, heat waves, floods and wildfires are killing people, livestock and crops and destroying homes and communities. The window to head off the worst impacts is closing, climate experts warn, and we need to accelerate and scale up solutions that promote climate resilience.
“You’ve been hearing people for decades talking about climate change,” says Justin Sanchez, a technical fellow at Battelle Memorial Institute, who is lead organizer for Battelle’s Innovations in Climate Resilience Conference in Columbus, Ohio, next March. “But now it’s personal. The extreme weather events and temperatures and infectious diseases are impacting the things that drive our ability to live the lives we want.”