Agricultural Revolutions

Written by Chris Fellows

Did you know we are currently in what is called the Fourth Agricultural Revolution? I’ve heard the phrase before, but I had to look up what the first three were. There is some variation, depending on what you read and where you live, but this is my summary of how the four main agricultural revolutions are commonly recognised in Northern Europe.

First Agricultural Revolution (Neolithic Revolution): The Neolithic Revolution occurred around 10,000 BC and marked the transition from hunting and gathering to settled farming communities. It involved the domestication of plants and animals, including the cultivation of crops such as wheat, barley, and rice, as well as the domestication of livestock like cattle, sheep, and pigs.

Second Agricultural Revolution (British Agricultural Revolution): This took place in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and the USA. It was characterised by technological advancements and step-change improvements in agricultural yields. Key innovations included the use of crop rotation, enclosure systems, selective breeding of livestock, and the adoption of new tools and machinery (tractors, drills, combines were invented).

Third Agricultural Revolution (Green Revolution): The Green Revolution occurred during the mid-20th century, primarily from the 1940s to the 1970s. It was a period of significant advancements in plant breeding, agricultural technology, and farming practices. High-yielding varieties (HYVs) of crops, along with the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, and improved irrigation methods, further dramatically increased crop yields.

Fourth Agricultural Revolution (Digital Revolution): The Fourth Agricultural Revolution is an ongoing process that encompasses the integration of digital technologies and data-driven approaches into farming practices. It involves the use of technologies such as precision agriculture, robotics, drones, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, artificial intelligence (AI), and data analytics. These advancements enable farmers to optimise resource management, make data-driven decisions, improve efficiency, and enhance productivity. The Fourth Agricultural Revolution aims to address contemporary challenges.

It’s important to note that these categorisations are not rigid, and agricultural advancements have occurred in different regions and time periods.