The agriculture industry – like all others – is experiencing a period of major transformation.

Technology, indoor farms, the need to adopt more sustainable farming methods, the role of GM crops; these are just some of the factors shaking things up.

Breakthroughs like the 3D computer model – developed through a partnership between the University of Illinois and the Partner Institute for Computational Biology in Shanghai – will help famers improve their planting practices.

Researchers used the model to reduce productivity loss from 10% to 2% for sugarcane producers faced with implementing a conservation planting technique. It showed that ‘by choosing cultivars with more horizontal leaves planted in a north-south orientation’ savings could be made.

“This model could be applied to other crops to predict optimal planting designs for specific environments,” explained Yu Wang, a postdoctoral researcher at Illinois. “It could also be used in reverse to predict the potential outcome for a field.”

Vertical farming is on the rise too, with pioneering companies developing tech that can be used in urban buildings to produce fruit and veg without sunlight.

One Australian firm has tech that can grow food with nothing more than sea water and sun to create ‘produce without needing fossil fuels, vast amounts of fresh water and thousands of acres of cultivated farmland’.

A German restaurant is even growing its own vegetables in a vertical farm situated inside the premises.

And with reports backing the safety of GM crops, biotechnology will play an increasing role in sustainable agriculture systems that can feed a growing global population.