The use of technology in agriculture started as early as the 1960s with the Green Revolution. The decades that followed brought significant improvements in machines and methods, and technology presented novel methods of dealing with the imminent food crisis. But it wasn’t until the post-internet boom that the use of farm management solutions and mobile devices entered the world of agriculture technology and ushered in the era of Digital Farming.
Digital Farming, the application of location-based data and other relevant agronomic information to scientifically augment the cultivation process from sowing to harvesting, encompasses every step in the journey of agriculture. As per a recent research report, the global smart farming market is expected to touch $23.14 billion by 2022, showing a compound annual growth rate of almost 20% from 2017 to 2022.
The benefits of technology in agriculture are more than apparent. While developed countries have been early adopters, the lure of utilising a more scientific and technologically-aware approach towards food production is now seeing widespread adoption in developing countries like India and many others in Asia and Africa.
Digital Farming, also known as precision agriculture, is a confluence of various digital technologies such as Remote Sensing, Internet of Things, and Big Data Analytics to make farming data-driven and increasingly productive. As one of the key components of Digital Farming, efficient farm management solutions can influence the productivity and profitability of a farm or an agribusiness in all the right ways. There are a number of factors that contribute to making a farm management solution a success story, and the biggest among them is infrastructure. The access to and availability of state-of-the-art infrastructure at different stages of the supply chain is an integral component of successful agricultural digitisation.
However beyond the availability of infrastructure, one of the eminent dilemmas that heralds this discussion of digitisation is deciding whether to develop the technology in-house, or opt for a stable, outsourced farm management solution. While both options do offer significant value in the form of better predictability, improved efficiency and sustainability, here are some of the factors that can help in making an informed decision while opting to go digital in farm management.
While a number of ERP systems offer solutions that cater to agriculture, their capabilities are not tailor-made towards constant innovation in agriculture. A good farm management software is disruptive in every sense and focuses on building over what it already knows. It is not limited to utilising data to make well-informed decisions in the cultivation process, it also focuses on analysing and constantly learning from the data to build efficiencies for the future.
The impact of technology in agriculture is not limited to just one or two stages of the cultivation process. Right from deciding which seeds to plant where and when, to warehousing and storage — technological improvements have impacted every step of the journey.
This often means that there are a number of different applications that need to work together in order to improve overall efficiency and ensure seamless communication between systems. Easily being able to integrate with other systems and applications is a core differentiator while opting for a stable farm management solution.
There are a huge number of differences in the farming practices between developed and developing nations. Aspects such as digital penetration, availability of infrastructure and even the size of individual farmlands differ as we go from country to country.
Easily configurable solutions catered towards solving challenges that are unique to a particular segment, environment, or business is a huge differentiator in overcoming the initial hesitation towards adoption.
In cases where an agribusiness has multi-country operations and is looking to roll out a global digital strategy with one platform, this is a very important aspect to consider.
One of the biggest challenges while moving to a more evolved Digital Farming solution or farm management software is the fear of losing data that is already stored in the legacy systems. However, advanced farm management solutions are designed to easily connect with existing data sources and ensure that none of the data is lost in the process of migration.
Multiple stakeholders collect data during the different stages of crop production and distribution. A mature and stable farm management software is also geared towards protecting the privacy of each stakeholder and ensures a high level of encryption to prevent even the remotest possibility of data leakage.
A poor network connection shouldn’t be an excuse for a field extension team to opt out of an otherwise excellent farm management solution. Although penetration of internet access has improved globally, there still remain numerous “dead zones” where users are still unable to go online.
Offline functionality for a mobile application can go a long way in improving business processes by enabling data collection, however remote the location is.
Another obvious advantage of opting for a solution that is solely dedicated to agriculture technology is the extent of localisation that is possible. Many of the farmers, especially in developing economies, are more comfortable with local languages. Offering them a service that is capable of easily integrating local languages ensures a much better experience and thus enhances overall adoption.
Agribusinesses, small and large, always have a fairly detailed roadmap for the future. When various heads come together to answer the “what’s next?” in terms of expansion and scaling up of operations, farm management solutions should be the least of their concerns.
A ‘complete’ solution essentially allows an agribusiness to add more crops or crop varieties as and when required, without having to break a sweat. It also allows an organisation to expand its business to new regions seamlessly. An expert solution should be dynamic in a way that it empowers the agribusiness to take a leap forward with confidence.
Ultimately, what differentiates a good technology solution in agriculture from a great one is its ability to use data not just to accurately inform and predict the current outcome, but to use this data to constantly develop newer features that enhance the existing system and build efficiencies for the future.
Like any other industry that is harnessing the power of big data and machine learning to further improve what is already being practised, technology in agriculture too needs to be focussed towards enhancing overall productivity and making more sustainable decisions to support our planet.