The technological frontier is where agriculture, the oldest industry globally, finds itself. The industry must overcome the challenges of deploying advanced connectivity in order to meet increasing demand and other disruptive trends. This will require substantial infrastructure investment and a realignment in traditional roles. This is a significant but crucial undertaking with more than $500 million in value at stake. This technology transformation is critical to the sustainability of one of the world’s oldest industries. Those who embrace it early may be the best placed to succeed in the future of agriculture’s connectivity-driven future.
The demand for food is increasing, whereas the supply side faces constraints in land and farm inputs. The world’s population will reach 9.7 billion people by 2050, which means that there will be a 70 percent increase in food consumption. However, land and farming input constraints are increasing, and profit margins are already being squeezed.
There are growing environmental pressures such as climate change, the economic impact of severe weather events, and increasing social pressures. These pressures include promoting ethical and sustainable farming practices such as higher farm standards, animal welfare, and reduced water use, pesticides, fertilizers, and chemicals.
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Impact of Technology on Agriculture
Agriculture is still less digitalized than other industries. These forces are likely to destabilize the agriculture industry further. Agriculture must embrace digital transformation through connectivity. The past advances in agriculture were mainly mechanical, with more efficient and powerful machinery. They were also genetic in nature, with more productive seeds and fertilizers. Digital tools, which are much more sophisticated and efficient than ever before, are required to achieve the next productivity jump.
While some tools exist to make farming more efficient and sustainable, more sophisticated ones are being developed. These technologies will improve decision-making and allow for better risk and variability management, optimizing yields and improving economic performance. They can be used in animal husbandry to improve the welfare of animals and address the increasing concerns about animal welfare.
Modern Farming: Agriculture Technology
All industries have been affected by technological advances, including agriculture. Over the years, farming methods have changed tremendously. They went from simple, hand-held tools to more sophisticated machines. Modern agriculture is more dependent on innovation than ever.
The entire industry is facing major challenges. These include rising supply costs, a shortage in labor, and changing consumer preferences for transparency, sustainability, and accountability. Modernity is helping farmers realize their full potential in farming activities. Modern farming methods are becoming more efficient and less manual. It’s not unusual to see beef poultry, beef cattle, and dairy cows all on one farm. What is driving these changes? It is very simple. Technology!
Increasing recognition by agriculture corporations is that these problems require solutions. The last 10 years have seen an enormous increase in investment in agriculture technology, with $6.7billion invested in the previous five years and $1.9billion in the past year. Technology is greatly helping farmers and growers in many ways. This includes precise forecasting and data-driven decision-making. These changes have positively affected farmers’ bottom lines and led to better access to food products at affordable prices.
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Use of Technology in Agriculture
The space has seen significant technological innovations such as indoor vertical agriculture, automation and robots, livestock technology, and modern greenhouse practices.
Let’s look at how modern technology has transformed agriculture in the past decade.
Automation in farming, also known as “smart agriculture,” is the technology that automates and makes farms more productive. Many companies are investing in robotics innovation to create autonomous tractors, robot harvesters, seeding, watering robots, and drones. These technologies are relatively new, but traditional agricultural companies have begun incorporating farm automation into their operations.
New technologies have transformed modern agriculture, from drones and robotics to computer vision software. Farm automation technology’s primary purpose is to automate mundane tasks. The most common technologies used by farms are harvest automation, autonomous tractor, seeding and weeping, and drones. The growing global population, changing consumer preferences, and a farm labor shortage are all significant concerns that farm automation technology addresses. Automating traditional farming processes can have enormous benefits. It addresses common issues such as consumer preferences, labor shortages, and the environment.
Connectivity can be used in a number of ways to improve crop observation and care. Integrating weather data, irrigation, and nutrient systems could increase resource use and yields. It can also help identify and predict deficiencies more accurately. Sensors that monitor soil conditions can communicate with LPWAN to direct sprinklers to adjust water or nutrient applications. Remote sensors could transmit imagery to farmers from faraway corners of the fields in order to aid them in making better decisions and getting early warnings about pests and diseases.
Smart monitoring could help farmers optimize their harvesting window. Monitoring crops for quality characteristics–say, sugar content and fruit color–could help farmers maximize the revenue from their crops.
Many IoT networks cannot support imagery transfer between devices. 5G and the narrowband Internet of Things (NBIoT) can solve these bandwidth and connection-density problems. By 2030, there could be $130 billion to $175 trillion in value through smoother connections between soil and farm equipment.
Livestock Farming Technology
Although it is one of the most critical sectors, it is often overlooked and poorly serviced. We rely on livestock for vital, renewable, and natural resources every day. Traditional livestock management was the operation of poultry farms, dairy farms, cattle ranches, or other livestock-related businesses. Livestock managers need to keep financial records and supervise workers. They also have to ensure that animals are properly fed and cared for. Recent trends show that technology is changing the way livestock management works.
The industry has seen significant improvements in the last 8-10 years, making tracking and managing livestock more effortless and data-driven. This technology may come in the form of digital technology, genetics, and nutritional technology.
Livestock technology is a way to increase or improve the productivity, welfare, and management of livestock and animals. The current livestock industry has enormous potential for data and sensor technologies. It can increase productivity and welfare by detecting sick animals and intelligently recognizing areas for improvement. Computer vision gives us the ability to collect all kinds of data, compiled into actionable insights. Data-driven decision-making results in better, faster, and more effective decisions that will improve the productivity of livestock herds.
Because more and more dairy farms are equipped with sensors, the “connected cow” concept is becoming more common. It enhances or improves the productivity, welfare, and management of livestock and can be used to increase or decrease their suffering.
This sensor technology allows for better monitoring of health and productivity. Individual wearable sensors can be attached to cattle to keep track of their daily activities and provide data-driven insights for the whole herd. This data is being used to generate meaningful and actionable insights for quick management decisions that producers can quickly access.
Large-scale livestock management is a complex business. Most animals are kept in close quarters with a strict routine that allows them to move through an automated processing system. This makes it essential to prevent disease outbreaks and spot animals in distress. The use of body sensors and chips to measure temperature, pulse, and blood pressure could help detect illness early and prevent herd infections.
Environmental sensors could also trigger automatic heating or ventilation adjustments in barns to reduce distress. This would help consumers feel more comfortable and less stressed. Better monitoring of animal growth and health could result in a $70 billion-$90 billion increase in value by 2030.
The study of animal genomics is the study of the whole gene landscape of an animal. It examines how these genes interact to affect the animal’s growth, development, and health. Genomics helps livestock producers to understand their genetic risk and predict their future profitability. Cattle genomics allows producers to optimize profitability and yields by being strategic in animal selection and breeding decisions.
The Greenhouse industry has evolved from small-scale plants used for research and aesthetic purposes (i.e., botanic gardens) into much more extensive facilities that compete with conventional land-based food production. The global greenhouse market produces approximately US $350 million of vegetables each year. Only 1% of this is produced in the United States.
The industry is experiencing a boom, in large part because of the recent advances in growing technology. Today’s greenhouses are urban-focused, large-scale, and capital-infused. The market has seen clear trends over the years as it has experienced dramatic growth.
Modern greenhouses use LED lights and automated control systems to precisely tailor their growing environments. To capitalize on the increasing demand for food throughout the year, successful greenhouse companies have expanded rapidly. They have established their facilities close to urban centers. The greenhouse industry is becoming more capital-intensive, using venture financing and other sources to create the infrastructure needed to compete in today’s market.
Indoor Vertical Farming
Indoor vertical farming can improve crop yields and reduce the need for the land and environmental impact of farming by reducing the distance in which the product is transported. Vertical farming is the practice of growing produce in closed, controlled environments. It reduces the space required to grow plants using vertically mounted growing shelves. Because it thrives in small spaces, this type of farming is often associated with urban farming.
Vertical farms differ from other types of farming in that they don’t need soil to grow plants. Many are hydroponic, which means that vegetables are grown in nutrient-rich water. Others are aeroponic, where nutrients and water are applied to the roots. Artificial grow lights can be used in place of natural sunlight.
Vertical farms offer many benefits, including sustainable urban growth and increased crop yields with lower labor costs. It allows you to control light, humidity, water, and other variables year-round, increasing food production and reliable harvests. Vertical farms consume 70% less water and energy than traditional farms, optimizing energy conservation. Robots are used to harvest, plant, and manage logistics. This solves the problem farms face due to the labor shortage.
Technology is making agriculture more efficient. New precision agriculture companies are creating technologies that will allow farmers to increase their yields by controlling all variables of crop farming, such as soil conditions, moisture, pest stress, soil conditions, micro-climates, and pest stress. Precision agriculture allows farmers to improve efficiency and reduce costs by providing better methods for planting and growing crops.
The growth potential for precision agriculture companies is huge. Grand View Research, Inc. has just released a report that predicts the precision farming market will reach $43.4 million by 2025. This new generation of farmers is attracted to startups that are more flexible and faster than traditional farms. These startups maximize crop yields.
Blockchain’s ability to track ownership records and tamper resistance can be used to address urgent issues like food fraud, safety recalls, and supply chain inefficiency. It also allows for food traceability and traceability. Blockchain’s unique decentralized structure guarantees verified products and practices, creating a market for transparent premium products.
Recent discussions on food safety have focused heavily on food traceability, especially with the new developments in blockchain applications. Because perishable foods are highly vulnerable to mistakes that could ultimately lead to human deaths, the entire food industry is at risk. Foodborne diseases can pose a threat to public health. It is essential to identify the source of contamination, and there is no room for error.
Traceability is therefore essential for the food supply chain. Traceability is difficult due to the current communication system within the food industry. Some parties still keep track of information on paper. Blockchain can be used for urgent problems such as food fraud and safety recalls, supply chain efficiency, food traceability, and supply chain inefficiency.
Blockchain’s structure ensures that every player in the food value chain can generate and securely share data points, creating an accountable and traceable system. It is possible to quickly record vast amounts of data with labels that clearly identify ownership. This allows you to track the entire food item’s journey from farm to plate in real-time.
Traditional price mechanisms for buying and selling are based on the participants’ judgments, not the information from the whole value chain. Blockchain technology can be used for more than just food safety. It can also help to balance market prices and create a new market. Access to data could give a complete picture of supply and demand. Blockchain applications for trades could revolutionize commodity trading and hedge funds. Blockchain allows verified transactions to securely be shared with all players in the food supply chain. This creates a market with great transparency.
Digital agriculture and related technologies have opened up many new data opportunities. Remote sensors, satellites, and unmanned aerial vehicles can collect information 24 hours a day across an entire field. These sensors can monitor the health of plants, soil conditions, and humidity. These sensors can produce a lot of data, but the sheer volume of data obscures the importance of those numbers.
This technology allows farmers to picture better their ground situation using advanced technology (such as remote sensing). It can give them more information than what they can see with their naked eyes. It’s faster than driving or walking through fields to see it.
Remote sensors allow algorithms to interpret the field’s environment and provide statistical data to help farmers make informed decisions. Algorithms analyze the data and adapt and learn from it. The algorithm’s ability to predict a wide range of outcomes will improve with more data and statistical information. The goal is for farmers to use artificial intelligence to help them achieve their goal of better harvests by making better decisions in the fields.
Large farms with more investment power and more significant incentives to digitize will have a higher potential for the initial value. Connectivity will make it easier to survey large areas. Large production facilities can offset the fixed costs associated with developing IoT solutions. For similar reasons, crops like vegetables, cereals, fruits, and grains will provide the majority of the value that we identified.
These sectors have more connectivity opportunities than meat and dairy. This is due to the larger average farm size, higher consolidation of players, and better application of connected technologies. IoT networks can be used for static monitoring of many variables, which makes them more attractive.
Equipment and Building Management
Blue Level Technologies has many farmers using their systems, including sensors and chips that monitor silos and warehouse levels. This could allow for automated reordering and lower inventory costs. Similar tools could be used to improve shelf life and minimize post-harvest losses. They can also monitor and optimize storage conditions and automate optimization.
Energy consumption can be reduced by monitoring the usage and conditions of buildings and equipment. Computer vision and sensors connected to predictive-maintenance systems could decrease repair costs and extend machinery and equipment life. These solutions could result in savings of $40 billion to $60billion by 2030.
Drones have been used in agriculture for over two decades. Farmers around the globe rely on remote-controlled helicopters to assist with crop spraying. The next generation of drones will impact this sector. They can survey crops and herds in vast areas and act as a relay system to transmit real-time data to connected equipment and installations.
Drones could also use computer vision to analyze the field conditions and deliver pesticides and fertilizers precisely where they are needed. They could also plant seeds in remote areas, which would reduce equipment and labor costs. Drones can reduce costs and improve yields and could be worth between $85 billion to $115 billion.
Autonomous Farming Machinery
Smart and autonomous farm machinery could be deployed with more precise GPS controls, paired with sensors and computer vision. Farmers could manage multiple pieces of equipment simultaneously in their fields without the need for human intervention. This would free up time and other resources. Autonomous machines can also work in a field more efficiently and precisely than human-operated ones. This could result in fuel savings and higher yields.
According to estimates, better connectivity and autonomy could increase the value of machinery by $50 billion to $60 Billion each year.
It was impossible to imagine tractors driving themselves around a farm in the past 20 years. GPS technology has revolutionized everything. GPS technology provides precise location information at any place on or near the earth’s surface. Using GPS receivers, agricultural machines can recognize their location and adjust their operation accordingly to maximize their efficiency.
GPS-equipped tractors can be used with automatic steering systems and GPS technology to help improve the placement of seeds on farms, reducing waste and costs. GPS-guided drones are also being used for tasks like crop spraying, livestock monitoring, and 3D mapping.
GPS has many applications that go beyond their use in tractor tractors. Farmers can use a GPS receiver to locate pre-selected locations in a field to collect soil samples. After the soil samples have been collected, they are analyzed in order to create a fertility map using a Geographic Information System (GIS). Farmers can then accurately determine the amount of fertilizer needed for each section of their farm field by using the map. The farmer can then use Variable-rate technology or VRT fertilizer applicators to apply the exact amount of fertilizer in each area.
Farmers increasingly use sensors, such as GPS technology, to understand their crops at a micro-level, reduce environmental impacts and conserve resources. Many of the sensors used in precision agriculture offer critical information that allows farmers to adjust their strategies to changing environmental factors.
GPS satellites use signals from GPS satellites to determine longitude, latitude, and altitude. A farmer must have at least three satellites to triangulate a location. Precision agriculture uses optical sensors to choose plants’ color and reflectance. They are also used to determine the organic matter, soil moisture, and clay content.
Sensors can generally monitor everything, from soil temperature to humidity levels within grain silos. Sensors can also provide critical information about soil health. Sensor technology is also essential because it allows farmers to make more efficient use of their irrigation water, reducing wastage and lowering costs.
The number of new apps is proof that technology has improved every day. The development has profoundly impacted every aspect of our lives, with agriculture also benefiting from it.
Mobile applications are what has made the game change. Mobile applications have made farming and agriculture easier. Farmers have several mobile apps that allow them to access information about their fields, check the weather, and get relevant updates.
Farmers can now easily transition from managing fields to creating maps of their farms and facilitating drone use with the help of mobile apps. They can now manage everything, from strategy formulation to tracking progress.
Thanks to its unprecedented access to valuable resources and tools, the internet has made farming much easier for farmers. The internet offers many planning and production tools that can help farmers forecast their future crops.
The World Wide Web also offers many forums for farmers to exchange ideas, seek advice, and engage in thoughtful discussions. These forums provide strong support groups for available farmers without stepping foot on the farm.
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Importance of Technology in Agriculture
Combining all these technologies will be smart farming, also known as precision agriculture. Smart farming integrates modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) into agriculture. This is known as the Third Green Revolution. Through the use of ICT solutions like the Internet of Things, GPS, robotics, actuators, Big Data, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, drones), precision gear, and many others, the revolution is slowly taking control of the agricultural sector.
Let’s use irrigation as an example to show how different technologies can be combined to provide smart farming. A farmer can attach a sensor to an irrigator in order to determine the soil’s moisture content before watering the field. This information can then be used to adjust the amount of water needed.
Farmers can use drones to evaluate their plants’ health and help them take corrective actions if necessary. Smart farming methods allow farmers to monitor their animals’ nutritional needs better and adjust their diet accordingly, thus preventing disease and improving their health.
Smart farming allows farmers to produce a more sustainable and productive output through field-generated data. Smart farming also provides farmers with an additional value by making better, faster decisions.
Technology Implications for the Agriculture
New areas of value are likely to emerge as the agriculture industry digitizes. Because of their strong ties to farmers, knowledge of agronomy, and track record of innovation, input suppliers selling seeds, nutrients, pesticides, and equipment have played an essential role in the data ecosystem. One of the largest distributors of fertilizers globally now sells both fertilizers agents and software that analyzes field data to aid farmers in determining where and how much to apply fertilizers. A large-equipment manufacturer is also developing precision controls that use satellite imagery and vehicle-to-vehicle connections to increase the efficiency of their field equipment.
However, advanced connectivity allows new players to enter the market. Providers play an important role in enabling digital applications to be installed on farms. They could work with other agricultural players and public authorities to create rural networks that are public or private, thereby capturing some of this new value.
Another example of new players entering the agricultural sphere is the Agritech Companies. These companies specialize in providing innovative products to farmers that use technology and data to increase yields and profits. These agritech companies could offer solutions and pricing models to reduce farmers’ perceived risk. For example, subscription models can be used to remove the initial investment and allow farmers to cancel at any time. This will likely lead to faster adoption of their products.
Agritech in Italy offers to monitor crop protection and irrigation for wineries for a per-acre fee. This includes data collection, analysis, and decision support. Agritech could also partner with agribusinesses in order to create solutions. However, this is not possible until rural areas have access to high-speed broadband networks. Three main ways that the required investment could be made to make this a reality are:
- Farmer-driven deployment. Either alone or with LPWAN groups, farmers, or telcos could also drive investment. Farmers would need to acquire the skills and knowledge to collect and analyze data locally. This is a significant hurdle. Farmers would have greater control over the data.
- Teleco-driven deployment. As farmers adopt advanced technologies and integrate solutions, there could be a sharp rise in rural demand for high-bandwidth rural broadband.
- Provider-driven implementation. Input suppliers, who have the industry knowledge and relationships they have, are likely to lead investment in connectivity-related investments. They could work with telcos and LPWAN companies to build rural connectivity networks and then offer farming business models that integrate connected technology and product support.
Technology Has Changed Farming – How to do it?
No matter which group is driving the investment in connectivity in agriculture, it will not be possible for any entity to do so alone. To make all these advancements, the leading players in the industry must embrace collaboration as an essential part of doing business. In order to be successful in connecting agriculture, the winners will need to have deep knowledge across many domains. These include farm operations, advanced data analytics, and the ability to offer integrated solutions with other industries. Data from autonomous tractors must flow seamlessly to the computer controlling irrigation devices. This, in turn, should be capable of using weather-station data to optimize irrigation programs.
However, connectivity pioneers within the industry have begun to develop these new capabilities internally. For competitive and confidentiality reasons, organizations prefer to keep their operations’ proprietary data internal. This level of control allows for easier analysis and makes it more responsive to changing client requirements.
However, developing new capabilities is only one part of the game. Agriculture players can develop partnerships with telcos and gain significant leverage in the new connected-agriculture ecosystem. They will be able to purchase connectivity hardware much more quickly and economically through these partnerships. Additionally, they will be better placed to build close relationships with farmers when connectivity becomes a strategic issue. This could lead to a race between input providers and distributors. Input providers who can form such partnerships could be able to connect directly with farmers, eliminating the need for distributors. Distributors who win this race will strengthen their position in the value chain. They will remain an important intermediary and closer to farmers’ needs.
The public sector could also improve the economics of building broadband networks, especially in rural areas. The German and Korean governments, for example, have made network development more attractive by providing subsidies and tax breaks to telcos.
Positive Impacts of Modern Agricultural Techniques
Modern agriculture has several positive effects on the environment and ecosystem. These are the following:
- Food is more affordable for consumers because it costs less to make.
- The same land area can supply food and fiber for a greater population, reducing the chance of starvation.
- Significantly higher yield per acre, per individual, and per dollar than extensive farming.
- It would be necessary to preserve existing woodland and rainforest habitats and the ecosystems and other sustainable economics that they may harbor. The result is a decrease in anthropomorphic CO 2 generation due to the removal of sequestration provided by rainforests and woodlands.
- Methane emissions that would otherwise contribute to global climate change can be captured in the case of intensive stock farming. These emissions can be used to produce heat and electricity, which will reduce the demand for fossil fuels.
Negative Impacts of Modern Agricultural Techniques
Modern agriculture also has a few adverse effects on the environment and ecosystem. These are the following:
- Pesticides generally kill beneficial insects and also destroy crops.
- Limits and destroys most wild animals’ natural habitats, leading to soil erosion.
- Using fertilizers can affect the biology of rivers or lakes. The algae bloom’s nitrogen fertilization is believed to have encouraged the formation of the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
- It can be difficult to sustain if it is not appropriately managed. It can lead to desertification or land that has become so poisonous and eroded that no other plants will grow there.
- Requires a large amount of energy input to produce, transport, and apply chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
- Chemicals used in the field may end up as runoff, eventually ending up on rivers and lakes or draining into groundwater aquifers.
Technology has Made Agriculture More Productive
Technology is transforming the way that we live and work. Many industry disruptions have been caused by adopting new technologies, with a particular focus on agriculture jobs. To meet the changing needs of our times, more agricultural technicians are needed. It is evident that technology has made agriculture more productive.