Why technology is your biggest ally in the pre-sowing stage

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A huge potential that seed companies could harvest 

The spectre of World Hunger has never seemed closer. It's an age-old problem that's been compounded by overpopulation, now hastened by the winds of climate change. As the human race strives to feed an ever-growing need, simply scaling agricultural production isn't enough — unless it's done effectively. 

The key to coping with growing food scarcity isn't scale — it's efficiency — a more realistic possibility now, thanks to the application of better technology. 

In their quest to cope with this looming crisis while weathering an increasingly competitive global market, it is imperative that seed companies boost production of high-quality seeds. It has spurred a growing number of seed companies to embrace change and ride the wave of digital transformation, which has accelerated the evolution of new techniques and technologies that have had measurable impact in terms of: 

  • Enhanced efficiencies in productivity 
  • Reduced costs & wastage 
  • Greater (and greener) agricultural output  

In this article, we'll dig in to the two biggest hurdles that crop seed manufacturers need to overcome before a single seed can be sown, and how technology can give them both the leverage and opportunity to grow. 

Top challenges that act as a roadblock in the pre-sowing stage 

While the first step in the pre-sowing stage ought to be a simple question of where to begin, the answer is rarely a straightforward affair. Among the several factors in play, there are just two that have the greatest bearing on the odds of your success: 

Site Selection: The first key factor is one that's as obvious as it is old — Location, Location, Location. 

Finding suitable arable land is the logical first step. Arable, because, well, it needs to be if you need something to grow. Suitable, because — and any down-to-earth farmer can confirm this — some seeds fare better in certain types of soil. 

Therein lies the first problem — the scarcity of suitable real-estate. 

Limited land resources make farm identification one of the biggest challenges in the pre-sowing stage. A lag in this process of identifying, shortlisting, and securing the most optimum patches of land — and the cultivators that tend them — could have a domino effect on both growing cycles as well as the likelihood of meeting that year's potential yield. Worse, it also leaves you vulnerable to another inevitability that's as old (and unavoidable) as death and taxes — the competition. 

Contracting: There are several obvious advantages to being in the right place, at the right time — regardless of what you're setting out to do. 

This is especially true when you're trying to find and lock in the right patch of land to grow the agricultural products you need to. There are several things that need to be worked out before anything can really begin. Complex conversations around possible production quotas, quality benchmarks, likely yields, and buybacks — are just a few of the things that need to be worked out. Then there are the tougher tasks of ironing out the numbers and nuances that everyone needs to agree on before anything is signed before the first seed is sowed.  

When suitable tracts of land are in such short supply, your search changes from a simple search into a race against time — and the others trying to get there before you. 

These processes have been, just like most processes in agriculture still are — manual, labor-intensive, prone to human error, and subject to the weather — which makes them, inevitably, slow.  

What's needed is a degree of speed, accuracy, reliability, efficiency — and perhaps most important — repeatability at a relatively low cost. 

If that's beginning to sound like a job for a machine, it's true. 

These are things that Agtech Technology can already do.  

How Technology helps seed manufacturers in the pre-sowing stage 

Successful implementation of digital connectivity and Agtech is estimated to help the industry post $500 billion in additional value to the global gross domestic product by 2030, translating to a 7-9% improvement in cumulative metrics. 

Enjoy the ease of remote site selection with Agtech: The use of technology-enabled smart solutions like geographic information system (GIS) and remote sensing (RS) (via satellites) helps to remotely conduct site selection for specific crops by considering various environmental factors. Agtech solutions enabled by these technologies can help with swift identification of suitable sites, offering the dual benefit of speed and intelligent cost optimization. 

Contracting simplified with technology: To address the next major challenge for seed companies during the pre-sowing stage, which is closing of contracts, devising universal solutions, will be an ideal ask. A universal contract solution that helps create a common template with editable fields can be used across various farmlands producing multiple crops. As a result, the process is standardized across all farms regardless of location. Such a solution will digitize the whole process, which increases transparency, agility, and scalability by doing away with paperwork and creating always accessible copies. Not only is the entire contracting process simplified, but it also eases file storage and retrieval and can be adapted for use in any country. 

Deployment of effective package of practices for sustainability with Agtech: Artificial intelligence, connected sensors and drones, big data, analytics, and other emerging technologies have the potential to enhance yields, ensure efficient use of water, fertilizer, pesticides and other inputs, and drive sustainability, ensure adherence to package of practices and resilience while preparing the land for sowing. 

Technology in pre-sowing is no longer an option to tap the limited land resource 

According to UN FAO, global demand for food and feed is estimated to increase by 70% by 2050; however, the corresponding increase in arable land will be just around 5%. These figures show how crucial it is to ensure optimum use of limited land resources amidst the growing global demand for food and seeds. 

Crops grow best under favorable climatic and environmental conditions. For example, paddy requires a hot and humid climate, whereas the best-suited condition for coffee cultivation is a cool to warm tropical climate. Even a marginal deviation from ideal factors, such as air temperature, soil type, precipitation and elevation and slope, can impact productivity. These further limits the area available for cultivation. 

By ensuring ideal site selection and contracting is done swiftly, we can suitably avert an impact to all downstream business processes of seed companies. Modern-age tech-enabled solutions such as satellite-based crop detection can help address the underlying real-time threat of losing out to competitors, as they are also contending for the same limited number of farm plots. The adoption of technology can help accelerate the pre-sowing processes. Technology can remotely provide information on the soil type of the farm site along with its fertility. If the soil is rain-fed/irrigation dependent or identify water stress to help, choose suitable plots or seed varieties and also 'identify/shortlist' the best options in terms of infrastructure to reduce wastage and transportation costs.  

The biggest attraction of technology is the transparency and efficiency, which are inherent to digitization, along with seamless scalability. Using technology one can identify areas of crop cultivation based on AI/ML-based crop detection models. Technology also helps implement sustainable practices by ensuring the availability of natural resources for the best growing conditions, with real-time monitoring of farming activities.  

Clearly technological intervention has become crucial during the pre-sowing stage. For a seed company to succeed in today’s digital age, it is essential to have real-time dashboards showing locations of greenbelts, the precise position of ideal farm plots, and universal editable contracts.  

Cropin: The Agtech innovator 

With the world's first global Intelligent Agriculture Cloud, Cropin is a pioneer in the Agtech space. Cropin's flexible platform enables various stakeholders in the seed production ecosystem to leverage digitization & AI at scale to make decisions that increase efficiency, scale productivity, and strengthen sustainability. 

Cropin’s Intelligent Agriculture Cloud helps seed producers: 

  • Manage global seed operations on a single platform 
  • Manage multi geography and multi variety configurable workflow for localization required 
  • Speed up innovation for research and development, trails, traits, etc 
  • Manage multigenerational traceability of seed 
  • Engage your growers and agronomist with data and insight to improve the quality and yield 
  • Build and organize unstructured data sets into structured data assets for insights and speed to market new variants/varieties 
  • Bring developers to interact with data and extend, embed AI/Ml and integrate on its Intelligent Agriculture Cloud 

Solutions provided by Cropin, bring significant benefits to seed corporations, culminating in the best per-hectare yields and an improved bottom line. Post pre-sowing stage Cropin offers further assistance on the right quantum of fertilizer, water, pesticides, etc., required for seed and field preparation before sowing. Agtech also helps to take the guesswork out of sowing, something you can learn more about in our next blog 

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