All posts by Lucy Ingham

Robot tractors, mini drones and real-time data: leading futurist presents the farming of tomorrow

The farms of the future will be managed from futuristic command centres where farmers can dispatch mini drones and robot tractors in response to real-time information, according to Canadian futurist Richard Worzel.

Speaking at BASF Canada’s Knowledge Harvest, a major event for farmers in North America, Worzel outlined an image of farming where a computerised butler would present data about moisture and temperature and enable the farmer to respond accordingly.

He described how farmers would be able to use robot tractors to plant seeds, which would make precision planting in response to soil conditions easy and effective.


Swarms of mini drones would be used to scout crops at low heights, providing readings on condition and growth rate, and digitally-generated maps would provide precise information about where to apply fertilizer and pesticides.

The future could even be organic: natural predators such as ladybugs could be dispatched in response to imminently-hatching pests.

Speaking ahead of the event, Worzak said: “The prospects for farms and farmers are probably better than they have been for fifty years or more.”

The technology Worzak describes could have a significant impact on crop yield, which is vital in a world where population growth is quickly outstripping food supply.

“Information technologies are going to allow farmers to do more with less: fewer inputs, better costs, higher yields,” Worzak explained.

Changes in technology elsewhere could also have an impact on what farmers are growing.

“Traditionally farmers have made their money off of three primary food sources,” Worzak said, referring to the “three fs” of farming: food, feed and fibre.

“Now technology is adding three additional sources,” he explained, outlining how many farmers will increasingly be growing crops for fuel, pseudo-plastics and pharmaceuticals.

There is considerable ongoing research across a host of industries about the use of plants in these areas, and it is likely that they will be increasingly used ahead of oil-based or chemically-derived products.

This could be bad news for consumers, though: farmers are likely to opt for whatever sells for the most, which means there could be a shortage of some food products if growing plastics turns out to pay more.

Farming is an area seeing huge growth in technological solutions. Genetically modified crops that are tailored to resist pests or have higher yields have been used for years in some areas of the world, and hydroponic and aquaponic solutions are increasingly being used in regions where space is at a premium.

Farming machinery is also going high tech. In 2011 Tractor manufacturers Valtra created a concept for their tractor of the future (pictured above and in the video). Named ANTS, it features a video game-style heads-up display, a modular design and the ability to work autonomously on basic tasks.

With farming drones in development and significant amounts being thrown into farm analytics, Worzel’s view of the farming future could be here before long.

Featured image courtesy of Valtra.

3D body scanning: bringing perfect sizing to online clothes shopping

Online clothes shopping has always been a risky business due to variations in sizing, but now a new service has been launched that uses 3D body scanning to perfectly match consumers with the right clothing sizes.

Named, the service uses an individual’s data to find the perfect size in a wide range of leading clothing brands.

Available to both men and women, is built on complex technology to achieve an accurate result with different brands, as co-founder and CEO Lara Mazzoni explains: “We have developed a number of algorithms that we apply to different brands… some fashion brands have a dedicated team who work on specific algorithms for each brand.”

Consumers provide their body data by entering manually-taken measurements, using their webcam or by going to a 3D scanner booth to get completely accurate data about their size.

Using 3D scanners to create fashion is not entirely new – high-end fashion store Selfridges has been offering a 3D scanning service since 2011 – but their accuracy has increased significantly in recent years.

The first 3D scanner will be opened in London at the end of this month, and will roll out elsewhere in the future. Getting a 3D bodyscan will eventually cost £5 (€6/$8), but for now it will be free to build interest in the product. is completely free to consumers, and plans to make money by charging fashion companies for the service.

At present the system seems to be working: the company already provides sizing information for leading brands such as Topshop, Mango, Tommy Hilfiger, Lacoste and Forever 21.

It will also provide an outlet for traditional tailors to sell online. “We work with tailors around the globe to help them take measurements from customers all over the world,” explains Mazzoni.

This could mean that tailored clothing becomes far more affordable, as consumers are able to order from traditionally cheap tailors based in areas such as Southeast Asia. on Forever 21

Although first and foremost is designed for fashion purposes, Mazzoni has other, wider plans for the technology. Because it allows consumers to regularly update their details, it offers long-term data about their changing size, which could be used for fitness purposes.

Mazzoni also believes it could have uses for wearable technology. “There is high demand in health and fitness for wearable technology,” she explains. “ could let you switch between fitness technology without using your body data.”

She is also looking at applying the technology to 3D printing – perhaps enabling users to order 3D printed clothing or jewellery that is designed to perfectly fit them.

Perhaps unsurprising is the obligatory private community that is also on the horizon. However unlike many brand-specific communities, this one has a very clear benefit for consumers. It would enable friends and family to have access to your measurements, putting an end to the nightmare of ill-fitting presents. could be supplying the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to online shopping – trying on clothing has always been the main deterrant to shopping online, and with that gone it could be the final toll for fashion on the high street. But will have to work to stay ahead of the game. Ebay has already forked out for a similar service, and more companies are likely to follow soon.

Images courtesy of