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Digital Farming for Sustainable Agriculture

DIGITALISATION

Whenever you are booking an Uber or making payments directly through apps on the phone, you are using a digital platform for performing tasks that were once manual. Incorporation of technology in everyday tasks to improve functionality is known as Digitalisation.

Going back a few years, remember the time when opening a bank account required a visit to the bank and waiting in long queues? Thanks to the recent rapid digitalization, the exhaustive paperwork in banks, hospitals, and most private and public sector organizations seems to diminish as their businesses move online. Digitization has reduced the manual work - which was time-consuming, error-prone, and inefficient thus saving corporations millions. With advancements in AI, the data analysis capabilities have improved further so much so that all the appliances in our house can be managed by a virtual assistant that can understand human voice commands and respond. Proving to be a boon to every sector, Digitalisation is slowly also revolutionizing the vast and complex Agriculture sector that remains the center of the world economy as still over 60% of the global population depends on it for survival.

WHAT IS DIGITAL FARMING?

Digital farming can be defined as the use of technology by farmers to integrate financial and field-level records for complete farm activity management.

Digital farming is the “Consistent application of the methods of precision farming and smart farming, internal and external networking of the farm and use of web-based data platforms together with Big Data analyses”, according to a paper by Direct Line Group.

Data of each plot can be analyzed to provide information on soil, weather, crop growth patterns, and give actionable geographically relevant timely insights to prevent losses and optimize the productivity of each plot on the farm. Farmers can even get their queries solved and manage the supply chain directly through applications on their phones. Through pre-harvest and post-harvest management of farms, digital farming aims to take over all the aspects of farming from farm to fork.

Data-driven decisions can maximize per acre value.

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digitization in farming

 

The Challenges

The United Nations projects that by the year 2050 the population of the world will be 9.7 Billion. With the relevance of over 60 percent of the world population on agriculture for food, the pressure to increase production to meet demands doesn’t seem to ease. Coupled with climate change, which is leading to rising global temperatures, levels of carbon dioxide, and frequency of droughts and floods, along with increasing labor costs, high production costs, and unpredictability poses a major challenge to the future of agriculture. Hence, the goal is to increase productivity sustainably. To increase sustainability a very precise and calculated set of practices designed specifically for a plot needs to be followed and to follow best practices data needs to be recorded and analyzed digitally.

Benefits of Digital farming

Digital farming benefits

 

AFFORDABILITY AND REQUIREMENTS

Digifarming is the integration of precision farming and smart farming and is achieved through the implementation of intelligent software and hardwares. Precision farming is popularly defined ‘a technology-enabled approach to farming management that observes, measures, and analyzes the needs of individual fields and crops’. Smart farming is more focused on the use of data acquired through various sources (historical, geographical, and instrumental) in the management of the activities of the farm.

Digi Farming can be done through the installation of network-connected ‘smart’ devices as part of IoT (Internet of Things) or they can be software as a service (SaaS) based agtech.

When hardware transfers data over a network they become ‘smart devices’ and become part of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT in agriculture comprises the use of sensors, drones, robots, and cameras. Sensors, cameras, and robots are installed on the farms and record the data. Drones can be used as pay per services or can be bought and stationed on farms. The IoT equipment needs to be connected to an analytical dashboard for the analysis of data. IoTs are used for field-related data only. They can’t help manage the overall farm activities and show the data in terms of financial gains or losses. They are just data.

Digital Farming with drones

Since IoT utilizes hardware, it requires solid technical knowledge for operating the equipment along with high maintenance and setup cost. The high capital input cost is what keeps IoT out of reach of most farmers.

Software as a service (SaaS) is the more economical and scalable way to upgrade to digital farming. Leading agritech companies such as CropIn utilize machine learning and satellite monitoring for performing predictive analysis and delivering customized reports and actionable insights directly to farmers’ screens. Ag cloud platform is gaining popularity pretty quickly among businesses as they can assess and manage their overall farm operations with one software and this is a low-risk investment with monthly and yearly subscriptions. There are agtech companies like CropIn that are becoming one-stop solutions for driving Farm Management, Traceability, Sales Management, and Risk Management in the Agri sector.

FAQs

What are the ways in which a farm can be digitalised?

Digital farming gives farmers access to timely valuable insights so that they can adopt best practices and manage farms more efficiently thus reducing losses and maximizing profits. Technologies offers a variety of solutions for adapting to advanced farming. IoT in agriculture consists of sensors, drones, and computer imaging integrated with analytical tools for generating actionable insights. Placement of physical equipment on the farms, monitors and records data which is used to get insights. Due to advancements in satellite imagery, machine learning, and data storage in clouds, predictive analytics software has been pretty favorable as they are highly scalable and easy to use.

As a multinational Seed Company that strategizes to drive a digital strategy within the organization. How can digital agriculture help the seed value chain?

Seed companies can utilize digitalization on each and every layer of operation from seed research and development to seed selling. All of the activities from labs to farmers can be managed on a single screen using Agri-SaaS products of CropIn. Below is an understanding of how each division in a seed company can benefit from using digital solutions:

Seed Research and Development

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Seed R&D is a game of field trials and careful observation and selection. Digitization of the trial data from the field stations will help the heads of R&D to get a complete performance overview of any seed variety

Seed Production

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This process involves selection of best seeds from R&D phase and plotting them in larger areas for creating similar seeds. How digitalisation can help?

SmartFarm can be used by field agents to record the data on field in a MIS for management to monitor activities from head office. SmartRisk can be used in- Crop growth detection, Crop health detection and Crop stress detection. SmartPulse is designed specifically to be used by the management to monitor the location of your field agents.

Seed Processing

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After harvesting, the management of seeds can be done digitally through SmartWare. One of the biggest issues today faced by farmers is fake seeds. Traceability can solve this problem as it tracks the source of seeds. Traceability can also be used for tracking and removing seeds from the market that don’t meet the certification standards. QR codes on the packet can be scanned to view the complete history of the packet of seeds and hence farmers know that the seeds are genuine.

Seed Distribution And Sales

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Companies can manage their entire seed distribution and sales through CropIn. SmartSales can be used to manage the Market development team and Sales officers.

Market development team visits farmers and demonstrates the quality of seeds by sowing half of their seeds and half of current farmers. The comparative study is used to depict which seed is better. This process can be digitised by using SmartFarm where the farmers’ data can be captured and managed by MIS. Sales officers can use SmartRisk to detect the rains and hence target selling seeds to areas where it has freshly rained or is about to rain. Thereby timely providing seeds to retailers there. They can also use SmartRisk to identify what is grown through the area and target selling those seeds in the area. Companies can also utilize AreaSquare- a social media for farmers, to broadcast advice on how to sow their seeds for best outputs.

How will digital farming add value to agri-lending and agri-insurance processes?

Cloud-based Agritech SaaS solutions find a breakthrough application in agri-lending and agri-insurance by providing actionable insights on the associated risk of the farm plot. MIS keeps cloud storage for the storage of history that is available about the farms. Suppose a farmer comes in and asks for a loan, the bank can use agritech saas such as CropIn to look into the farmer’s records relative to the yield and profits in the last ten years.

Based on the historical cropping patterns, CropIn’s SmartRisk can estimate yield. This helps banks and insurance in several ways. Firstly, It helps the farmers by increasing their credibility. If the records and predictions show that farmers have been performing well and yield will be good, the loan or insurance amount will be higher. Currently, the same insurance amount is given to all farmers irrespective of their individual performance.

Secondly, the banks and insurance companies will be benefited from digital farming as the data obtained is highly accurate, hence can help stop bad lending.

Cost

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The cost of in house development is almost 10 times or more than the cost of implementation of a Saas Product. Further additional software infrastructure in terms of Servers, Maintenance, Software Licenses like (Microsoft, SQl, Google License etc) is huge cost which the organization has to bare independently. At CropIn the license and the cost is spread across hundreds of clients which make it viable for all.

Data Security & Warehousing

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Organization would require to have teams and products for data security and warehousing so that the information can be effectively used across the years for analysis and decision making. Many organizations having their in­house product have missed on this part thus data utilization has become a big challenge.

Money value of Time

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The product development to implementation cycle for a product like basic farm management can be between 12 to 24 months and the business would lose valuable time during the entire process. Farm management companies such as CropIn have a dedicated team to develop this product.

Changing Industry & Business Needs:

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The industry is dynamic and the need for products, reports, and ways of farmer engagement is changing very fast. By the time one product would have been developed the needs would have changed. Management companies take into consideration all such changing environments and provide the best solution suitable for that time. For example for CropIn was mobile in an earlier version, now it is the remote sensing-based analysis and in coming times there can be other smart farming technologies. Periodic upgrading is a part of our continuous product improvement.

Valuable Experience:

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Out house management companies have a dedicated team for Project implementation, Customer Success and Data Science that have extensive experience and knowledge in successfully implementing products and solving the common challenges faced in the field. CropIn has solutioned the product over the last 10 years through multiple iterations to make it user friendly, consistent and robust which gives the users a great experience to easily use and benefit from it. Such a level of service will not be possible when developing an in house solution.

Digital Farmer lending

WHY CAN’T I HOST AG CLOUD SOLUTIONS SUCH AS CROPIN ON MY OWN PREMISE & ON MY OWN SERVER?

Cropin is the first ag clouds platform and has a complex three-level data insights structure, with licenses and integrations to function at its optimum capability. These licenses include a Google license (Business Applications, Analytics, etc.), SQL server License, etc. This would require a large cost to keep the platform running if it is hosted out of your infrastructure. Secondly, the cost of upgrades and providing clients with the required features and reports would be much higher as our technical team would have to access your infrastructure to do the changes. This would add the additional cost of support which will be high. Third, the cost of data security and maintenance, data warehousing for analytics, etc would involve much higher costs in the long run.

I AM EASILY USING WHATSAPP TO MANAGE MY BUSINESS DIGITALLY. WHY DO I NEED A SOLUTION LIKE CROPIN?

Whatsapp is an SMS replacement system providing information which is not copied, kept or archived and data is only residing on mobile device of sender and receiver and can be deleted at the user discretion with no record. Very less business value can be generated from it. For an organization (Data is key for decision making and it is important to capture, record, and analyze information in the form of Data) Also, things to consider are:

  • Whatsapp does not store anything on its server. Hence, no digitization of your records and data
  • Data does not get converted into actionable intelligence 
  • It does not send you an alert when kra (key result area) is not met
  • Cannot work without the internet unlike our mobile application
  • There are no reports BI or Intelligence that can be done through Whatsapp data

CropIn is an Ag saas cloud where every single piece of information is meaningful data that is connected and provides complete intelligence, reporting, and analysis capabilities along with a host of features.

This blog has been written by Pragati Shah.