Douglas Carswell

21 MAR 2016

The digital revolution comes to farming

200 years ago, Malthus predicted it would be impossible to feed the world's rocketing population. He was wrong. Thanks to the agricultural revolution, food production didn't just keep pace with population growth, but far surpassed it – lifting millions off the breadline. Now the digital revolution is pushing farming forward again.

The innovation that has made farming so efficient has mostly been on the supply side: combine harvesters, pesticides, drip irrigation. Technology that enabled farmers to get more food out of the same amount of land.

But what about the demand side?

That's where the digital revolution comes in. A Chinese start-up has invented an app called Meicai that links restaurants directly to farmers. Instead of farmers having to take their produce to market, or rely on intermediaries, buyers find farmers through their smartphones.

By cutting out both middlemen and timewasting, the app makes the selling process much more efficient. Farmers get higher returns, restaurants get lower costs, and consumers get fresher food. It's a win on all fronts!

The app has one more big benefit: it forecasts future demand. By giving farmers a precise indication of how much to grow, the app helps them allocate their resources better in the production process too.

In Europe, we have got used to treating pressures on farmers with subsidies. The EU first paid farmers to produce mountains of wasted food, and now pays many not to produce at all. But making farmers dependent on taxpayers isn't a long-term solution. Cutting farmers' costs and raising their returns is. So when can Meicai come to Britain?

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