In-season cultivation challenges that tech can address


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Global food security for the future depends on high-quality seeds. While quality seed development is crucial, it is dependent on various factors – from genomics to the existing environmental conditions. This is one of the reasons why the seed industry has emerged as one of the most R&D-intensive and technologically-driven industries today. 

Further research suggests that the seed industry is growing at a rapid pace. Data claims that the seed industry can contribute about a 15–20% increase in crop yield. Plus, the global seed market is touted to touch $86.8 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 6.6%. The Indian seed market, too, is projected to record a CAGR of 6.8% during the forecast period 2022-2027. The globalization of the seed trade and increasing demand for seeds from the food, beverage, animal feed, and biofuels industries are fueling this skyrocketing growth. 

Sowing the seeds of innovation: How tech intervention has impacted the farmers 

Farmers are increasingly laser-focused on delivering higher crop productivity. On the other hand, seed companies are embracing technology to make the crops with specific traits such as climate-resilient, pest/disease resistant, and herbicide-tolerant. 

After all, the most crucial stage in the crop cycle is the production stage, where crops need to be tended carefully to ensure high quantity and quality. It is critical to closely monitor their growth to mitigate risks and improve yield in this stage. Here, too, technology is playing a pivotal role. 

Top seed challenges and how technology is overcoming them 

According to McKinsey, the agricultural field currently encounters five key challenges, namely: efficiency, resilience, digitization, agility, and sustainability; and the seed industry is no exception. Here's a quick run-through of the challenges the industry is facing and how technology is addressing these issues head-on: 

1. Data collection: Collecting data cost-effectively and ensuring zero loss of data collated are the biggest challenges for any seed company today. This is where technological solutions come into the big picture. They are: 
- Ensuring end-to-end data management and cost-efficiency by reducing the use of human resources 
- Eliminating chances of data loss through leakages and lack of data visibility with digitization. 
- With the intervention of technology in the seed development process, data collection methods and the outcomes are becoming more transparent, traceable, and predictable. 

2. PoP monitoring: Each new seed variety has a specific package of best practices that need to be followed to ensure high productivity. Digital farming solutions are:

- Helping monitor these practices closely and ensuring farmers adhere to them to produce high yield outputs

-Providing access to digital records of practices being followed and facilitating end-to-end transparency. For instance, in regions particularly like the US, businesses can track REI (re-entry or restricted-entry interval) compliance for pesticides applied on the field. 

3. Analysis of seed variety: Measuring the performance of each seed variety in diverse soil and agrochemical conditions is challenging. The use of deep-learning technologies can help gauge various metrics to validate seed grades and varieties. 

4. Performance of seed variety: In the same vein, assessing the performance of each seed variety in different soil and agrochemical conditions is a challenging proposition. By employing deep-tech, remote sensing and machine learning: 

- Crop detection and acreage estimation are being conducted for different seed varieties 
- Seed producers can also assess if the seeds comply with the quality assurance (QA) parameters and compute flags for quality, based on which one can implement corrective actions, or the ‘sub-standard’ harvest could be earmarked separately. 

5. Data safety and encryption: All things considered, it is impossible to ignore the importance of data security and privacy. The entire agricultural sector is on the verge of a data revolution. As per research by McKinsey successful implementation of connectivity in agriculture can translate to an additional value of $500 billion to the global GDP by 2030. Smart sensors, analytics, artificial intelligence, and other emerging technologies are boosting yield and maintaining crop resilience. With this scale of digital transformation, the onus of data security and safety lies with the seed companies that are leveraging technology to drive a lasting change within the less digitized agriculture sector. This also includes intangible benefits such as improved decision making, better risk and variability management, and optimized yields and economics. 

The bottom line

The need of the hour is for farmers as well as seed companies to partner with seasoned Agtech companies such as Cropin and leverage customized AI-led digital agriculture solutions that can propel the seed value chain. 

Cropin’s solutions are being used worldwide by global seed majors for testing, collecting accurate data, and streamlining the research and development stages. These solutions also enable organizations to identify base grade quality and improve profitability by fast-tracking seeds to market and reducing the time spent on research and development. Additional successful use-cases include meeting certification standards and forecasting demand more accurately. Needless to say, technology is seeding a new, connected future, and that future is now. 

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Prakhyath Hegde

About the Author

Prakhyath is the Senior Director of Technology at Cropin and has over 17 years of experience building large-scale software products from inception to commercialization. He enjoys understanding customer challenges and solving them by putting together technology, and he is adept at both bootstrapping and expanding new tech teams to high proficiency. Prakhyath is the author of multiple scholarly articles published by the IEEE and holds four international patents.