The power of digital agriculture
Digital innovation in agriculture is driving the agricultural revolution of the 21st century just as steam power technology drove the industrial revolution. The internet of things (IoT) and cloud data storage combined with artificial intelligence, and improvements in satellite and weather technology are transforming farming practices at field level, as well as optimizing food production and distribution. This combination of new technologies is facilitating the rapid digitalization of agriculture.
At the core of digital agriculture is data and IoT which enables harvesting more data on a massive scale. Together, these data points create a digital framework of information that can help uncover more answers around sustainability, crop management, and field testing.
The applications of digital agriculture today are endless and scalable in both smallholder and broad-acre farms. Cloud storage and AI are breaking down data silos, potentially making previously inaccessible information available to anyone, anywhere, and maximizing the scope of agronomic field trial research, crop nutrient management and sustainability impact assessments.
Digital agriculture and data management tools, provide scientists, agricultural professionals, and farmers with the raw data they need to transform the agricultural sector into a digital-first industry that will help feed the estimated 800 million human beings who currently lack basic food security.
The second driving force of digital agriculture is public pressure and regulatory demands for environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. Consumers increasingly want higher quality, sustainably sourced food products with greater nutritional value. With this, digital agriculture and sustainability go hand in hand.
Digital agriculture to farmers
Digital agriculture offers many innovations to farmers. IoT connected devices can, for example, optimize irrigation and fertilizer applications, implement equipment automation and robotic processes, and reduce growing costs.
Digital agriculture provides a farmer with a field-level view for greater insight and control of inputs for crop health and yields. Insights from digital agriculture can reduce business costs and increase profits for farmers while also creating a neutral – or even positive – environmental impact.
Digital agriculture in the supply chain
A digitally connected supply chain is more efficient, resilient, and sustainable. According to Logistics Insider, only about 1% of digital technology is applied in the supply chain but that has the potential to increase to 23% by 2025. McKinsey & Company estimates the potential impact of a digitized supply chain can reduce losses in sales by 75%, lower transportation and warehousing costs up to 30%, cut administration costs, and reduce inventories up to 75%.
Digital agriculture for consumers
Readily available high-quality foods at affordable prices are at the height of consumer demand. With the use of digital agriculture, data-driven decisions on the farm and accurate forecasting in the supply chain can help meet these demands.
Why is digital agriculture important?
An adequate supply of basic staple foods is essential for human survival. An abundance of affordable, nutritious foods is vital for the future development of human progress. Digitalization of agriculture is key to the rapid evolution from the inefficient and even detrimental farming practices of the 20th Century. Global food demand is estimated to double by 2050 and it is vital that digital innovations in agriculture keep pace to help meet the global food demands. Today we have the resources and technology to feed every human on the planet if used properly. The challenge is to channel these technologies into effective processes and apply them at a strategic, holistic level.
Digital agriculture and sustainability are intimately connected to the issue of climate change. Opinions remain divided about the causes of climate change, but it’s clear that the Earth’s climate is unstable and has fluctuated historically. These conditions require the adoption of better ways to monitor climate and weather patterns and adapt – at niche local and global levels – to the challenges of temperature, drought, and flooding will improve food security for the entire human race.
Digital technologies in agriculture
Digital technologies in agriculture are broadly similar to digital technologies in other industries. It’s possibly our cultural perceptions of what constitutes farming and food production that makes their application seem remarkable. We take it for granted that a highly technological manufacturing plant utilizes similar automation, 24-hour electronic monitoring, precise climate control, and artificial intelligence to build space stations and satellites that can also be used to automate operations on the farm, and apply precise applications for crop health and monitor crop yield. These efficiency and productivity gains not only maximize outputs but also allocate resources for greater sustainability.
We’re often surprised to learn that an acre of a family-owned small farming operation uses similar technology and processes to grow a bumper year-round tomato crop as would a broad-acre farm. The last decade saw a massive decrease in the cost (and size) of smart electronic devices with microprocessors, sensors, and an internet connection that assist. A line of vegetable crops in a bed of sand can be computer-controlled as easily – perhaps more easily – than an assembly line in a manufacturing plant.
Digital technologies at field level
At the field level digital technologies such as IoT sensors can alert farmers to variations in the microclimate, PH levels, and the presence of disease or other crop pests. Automation of drip-feed irrigation can be optimized with the use of a basic weatherproof computer and crop growth can be monitored against existing statistics. The availability of big data on cloud storage, combined with new sensors and hardware applications, gives farmers, agronomists, and field technicians precise solutions tailored to local needs.
Today with a few smartphone apps, farmers can access globally harvested data and extrapolate the information they need to make better decisions for farm management. At the same time it’s possible to analyze commodity markets, identify consumer preferences, select the ideal crop varieties and seed selection for local conditions, purchase the optimal slow-release organic fertilizers and eco-friendly pesticides, and finally connect to the best buyers and distributors.
Digital technologies and weather management
The single constant that has dominated agriculture since our Neolithic ancestors began farming is weather and climate. The ability to anticipate and adapt to volatile weather patterns and climate fluctuation is the foundation of agriculture. Weather satellites are increasingly effective and commercially viable. We’re able to predict the weather with greater accuracy over varying timescales.
Digital agriculture gives farmers and agronomists adaptability and better risk management. It also allows them to identify opportunities in circumstances that previously counted as adverse or financially unviable.
Over the next decade, it’s likely that the single most useful farming tool will be a smartphone. As governments expand fiber internet infrastructures and 5G wireless coverage, more remote areas will have reliable internet connections and every farmer should be able to connect directly to the global agricultural community.
Benefits of digital agriculture
Farming is not just a business that is subject to market forces and commercial realities. For hundreds of millions of people worldwide, subsistence farming is a struggle for survival.
Access to reliable water supplies, the right fertilizers, pesticides, benign weather conditions, and a fair, competitive, and efficient supply chain is only half the battle for farmers. It is access to big data and the ability to make informed decisions that will define the digital agriculture revolution of the 21st century..
Digital agriculture can be a catalyst in achieving Zero Hunger on a global level. Digital innovations in agriculture can provide greater access and affordability of IoT connected devices to smallholder farmers in underserved regions.
The 5G revolution combined with digital agriculture enables smart irrigation, precise fertilizer strategies, and seed selections that can transform impoverished communities. As agriculture practices improve globally, communities will prosper and safeguard formerly marginal lands.
A potential benefit of digital agriculture is greater equity and inclusivity in agriculture. Up to now, the main concern has rightly been to improve conditions for subsistence farmers and family units farming marginal lands. Closing the digital equity gap brings unexpected benefits in the undeveloped world as we move away from obsolete farming practices and build greater support for minority and women farmers.
Food production is already opening up to a new generation of agricultural entrepreneurs. Digital agriculture is making niche urban farming, smallholding, and homesteading an easier and more financially viable option. The days when you had to live in a rural area to be a farmer, and either inherit or buy enough land to be viable, are almost gone.
We’re likely to see a transformation of our cities and suburbs as more and more people realize the dream of either becoming farmers or food producers. This will generate new employment opportunities, increase urban biodiversity, reduce our environmental impact, lower food costs, and transform the quality of life on a wide scale.
Agmatix digital agriculture solutions
Big data is at the heart of the digital agriculture revolution. Agmatix is pioneering how we harvest data and transform it into practical field-level insights used for increasing crop yields, improving the quality of those yields, disrupting obsolete markets, and improving our shared environments and overall quality of life.
Agmatix focuses specifically on providing innovative and comprehensive digital solutions for agronomic research and field trials. Our insights and models enable the effective analysis of existing and operational research data through advanced analytics and ML models. Through our proven decision support systems (DSS) we enable researchers, agronomists, and farmers to digitally plan, orchestrate and analyze field trial research and optimize crop nutrient recommendations.
Agmatix is committed to creating open access to data and insights that will drive innovation, overcome agronomic challenges, and create an environmentally sustainable agricultural model for the 21st century.