“Agriculture is in the early days of yet another revolution, at the heart of which lie data and connectivity. Artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, connected sensors, and other emerging technologies could further increase yields, improve the efficiency of water and other inputs and build sustainability and resilience across crop cultivation and animal husbandry,” Agriculture’s connected future: How technology can yield new growth by McKinsey & Company
Agriculture is one of the oldest crafts that is still flourishing. Agriculture technology changes continuously throughout centuries reflecting the development of mankind. Over a hundred years ago, we underwent a shift from simple hoes and wheelbarrows to tractors, combines, and other machinery. Then, we witnessed the GMO and green revolution. And now, we all live in the midst of digital agricultural transformation where advanced technology such as IoT, big data, cloud, robotics, AI, etc. helps increase agricultural production, cut costs, save planet resources, and reduce the environmental impact.
So how is this new technology used in agriculture? What benefits does it bring? What is the future of farming? How to implement advanced technology in agriculture to become more profitable, efficient, safe, and environmentally friendly? Here, you will get the answers.
What drives digital agricultural transformation?
Digital transformation in agriculture was relatively slow in comparison to other industries. But the global pandemic has exposed many vulnerabilities in agriculture, and businesses have accelerated their digital initiatives.
Global Agriculture Technology-as-a-Service market is projected to hit $4,285.71M by 2027 from $1,010.11M in 2019. The reasons behind such growth lie on the surface. The world population is rapidly increasing. By 2050, there will be 9.7B people on earth. And to feed these people, agriculture must deal with many pressing issues: global warming, degradation of fertile land, water shortage, ingrained eating habits (meat-heavy diets), lack of farmers and the agricultural labour force, etc. Advanced agriculture technology can help overcome these and many other challenges farmers face. So if to conclude, the key drivers of the digital agriculture revolution are the following:
- Climate change
- Increased food demand
- Tech innovations in other industries
- Urbanization and changing food preferences
- COVID-19 pandemic
Despite the increased interest in agriculture technology, there are several challenges that slow down digital transformation in agriculture:
- Lack of skills to develop agritech solutions
- Lack of farmer education in advanced agriculture technology
- Not implementing the right systems and procedures
As you can see, there are really few constraints that hamper digital agricultural transformation. And they can be easily solved if you have a reliable technology partner by your side. In fact, the benefits you get after you implement agriculture technology overshadow all the challenges you may face on the way:
- Higher crop productivity
- Decreased use of water, fertilizer, and pesticides
- Reduced impact on environment
- Increased worker safety
- Better supply chain management and faster delivery of goods to distribution centers and consumers.
- Reduced food waste
- Preventive and predictive maintenance of equipment
- Automation of routine processes and tasks
- Predicting and modelling the demand, possible risks, and outcomes.
- Improved decision making thanks to existing business performance data and analytics
- Resilience to adverse effects of such crisis as COVID-19
Top agriculture technologies and their applications
If you imagine a smart farm in action, it will consist of automatic irrigation systems, drones, self-driving tractors, smart collars on cattle, etc. that are connected all together. All these devices are developed with the help of new agriculture technology. There are several most popular types of advanced technology used in agriculture:
- Biotechnology: Genomics, 3D bioprinting
- Big Data & Data Analytics
- Connectivity: 5G, GPS
- Digital Twins
- Robotics & automation
- Drones & satellites
According to the Cargill’s 2019 three-continent consumer survey, the top three 3 most widely used technologies in agriculture are IoT - 42%, AI - 35%, and biotechnology (with marker-assisted breeding - 25% and GMO - 18% being the most popular).
In the last few decades, agriculture technology has evolved dramatically. It has penetrated into every aspect of agriculture: from seed production, farming, and ranching to food processing, commercial product development, and distribution.
The most common use cases of agriculture technology
- Automated operations: automatic systems for irrigation, fertilizing, lightning, fumigation that are configured at the exact time and have specific dosage for a particular type of the area.
- Autonomous machinery: using AI, ML, computer vision to develop self-driving tractors, combines, autonomous sprayers, etc.
- Smart monitoring: application of IoT sensors, cattle wearables, drones and satellites to check livestock health and collect data about the development of crops and their needs. Big data in agriculture is diverse and comes from a variety of sources. The main thing is to store and analyze it properly to drive valuable insights.
- Remote management: use of mobile apps or web apps to manage farm operations and collaborate with other farm workers.
- Vertical farming: application of integrated sensor solutions and automation for controlling environmental variables and optimizing usage of space, energy, water, etc. to produce food/medicine on vertically inclined surfaces such as shipping containers, skyscrapers, and rooftops.
- Smart equipment management: the use of predictive analytics to prevent equipment downtime and no-fault-founds.
- Enhanced agricultural supply chains: application of blockchain technology to improve the traceability of the supply chain. For example, if some imported fruits are poisoned, it is possible to trace the source of the outbreak. So only the affected products are withdrawn, instead of prohibiting imports of all fruits from the country of origin.
A featured case study
About the client
Origin Enterprises is a leading Agri-Services group based in Dublin. The company offers agronomy, technology, and strategic advisory services to help primary food producers
improve food production. N-iX partners with AgSpace, which is the digital arm of Origin Enterprises to help them deliver digital solutions to agri-businesses so that customers can drive new efficiencies and make more-informed decisions.
The N-iX approach
N-iX has been collaborating with the client on mobile application development, web development, software QA and testing, and UI/UX design. N-iX experts have been working on several projects:
- a responsive web application that enables effective communication and cooperation between agronomists and customers as well as optimizing sales and logistics processes within the company.
- a mobile app for iOS and Android that enables farmers to measure their fields characteristics, such as boundaries, and record everything in a cropping history. This information can then be shared with their product and credit providers to help secure products and finance.
- a web-based application with a set of tools for monitoring fields and crops. It is integrated with weather forecasts and satellite imagery. The satellite imagery data and unique image processing mechanisms allow users to determine their crop health status. Also, the solution allows farmers to see the crop history, analyze soil, calculate the potential yield, estimate pest and disease risk, develop a map for fertilizing and irrigating fields, etc. This product offers a complete picture of the field and gives all important information farmers and farm workers can collaborate on.
- a solution for cattle that helps assess how much food a particular animal needs and stock up on it avoiding food shortage or surplus.
To meet the client’s requirements, our specialists have thoroughly studied the agriculture domain and various industry specifics. The team has regular meetings with agronomists around the globe to figure out their needs, requirements, and key pain points. It helps improve the usability of the solution and increase its effectiveness.
Why choose N-iX?
- N-iX is trusted in the global tech market: the company has been listed among the top software development providers by Clutch, in the Global Outsourcing 100 by IAOP for 4 consecutive years, recognized by GSA UK 2019 Awards, included in top software development companies by GoodFirms.co, and others.
- N-iX boasts a pool of 1,000+ experts and has over 18 years of experience in providing quality software development services.
- N-iX is a reliable technology partner that has a proven track record in developing agritech solutions for businesses of different sizes.
- We have relevant expertise in agriculture technology including AI/ML, robotics, data science, blockchain, BI, DevOps, cloud for implementing reliable and efficient agriculture solutions.
- N-iX is a Select AWS Consulting Partner, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, a Google Cloud Partner, and an OpenText Reseller Silver Partner.
- N-iX is compliant with PCI DSS, ISO 9001, ISO 27001, and GDPR standards.