Whenever you are booking an Uber or making payments directly through apps in the phone, you are using a digital platform for performing tasks which 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 visit to the bank and waiting in long queues? Thanks to the recent rapid digitalisation, the exhaustive paper work in banks, hospitals and most private and public sector organizations seems to diminish as their businesses move online. Digitisation 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 assistants that can understand human voice commands and respond. Proving to be a boon to every sector, Digitalisation is slowly also revolutionising the vast and complex Agriculture sector that remains the centre of world economy as still over 60% of the global population depends on it for survival.
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 “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 analysed to provide information on soil, weather, crop growth patterns, and give actionable geographically relevant timely insights to prevent losses and optimize productivity of each plot on farm. Farmers can even get their queries solved and manage supply chain directly through applications on their phone. Through pre-harvest and post-harvest management of farms, digital farming aims to takeover all the aspects of farming from farm to fork.
The United Nations projects that by the year 2050 the population of the world will be 9.7 Billion. With relevance of over 60 percent of world population on agriculture for food, the pressure to increase the produce to meet demands doesn’t seem to ease. Coupled with climate change, which is leading to rise in global temperatures, levels of carbon dioxide and frequency of droughts and floods, along with increasing labor costs, high production cost, and unpredictability poses a major challenge to the future of agriculture. Hence, the goal is to increase productivity in a sustainable way. 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 analysed digitally.
Digifarming is the integration of precision farming and smart farming and is achieved through implementation of intelligent softwares 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 focussed 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 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 a hardware transfers data over a network they become ‘smart devices’ and become part of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT in agriculture comprises 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 in farms. The IoT equipment need to be connected to an analytical dashboard for 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.
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 whats keeping 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 deliver customised reports and actionable insights directly to farmers’ screens. SaaS 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 subscription. There are SaaS companies like CropIn that are becoming one-stop solution for driving Farm Management, Traceability, Sales Management and Risk Management in the Agri sector.
Digital farming gives farmers access to timely valuable insights so that they can adopt best practices and manage farms more efficiently thus reducing the losses and maximize profits. Agriculture technology offers a variety of solutions for adopting to digital 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 softwares have been pretty favourable 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 digitalisation 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 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
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.
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.
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 keep a cloud storage for 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 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 has 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 as the data obtained is highly accurate, hence can help stop bad lending.
Why cannot an agribusiness develop an in-house farm management software or agri risk management solution? Why cannot these SaaS solutions be hosted on-premise? Why cannot an agribusiness develop an in-house farm management software or agri risk management solution?
In-house development of a farm management solution may sound lucrative at first but when examined in detail, it may not be practically feasible idea due to the following reasons:
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.
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.
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.
The industry is dynamic and the needs of product, reports and way 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 it was mobile in earlier version, now it is remote sensing based analysis and in coming times there can be other technologies. Periodic upgrading is a part of our continuous product improvement.
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.
WHY CAN’T I HOST SAAS SOLUTION SUCH AS CROPIN ON MY OWN PREMISE & ON MY OWN SERVER?
The Saas products such as SmartFarm of CropIn requires certain licenses to function at its optimum capability. These licenses includes Google license (Business Applications, Analytics etc.), SQl server License, etc. This would require a large cost to keep the product running if it is hosted out of our infrastructure. Secondly the cost of product 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. Such cost would add additional cost of support which will be high. Thirdly the cost of data security and maintenance, data warehousing for analytics etc would involve much higher costs in the long run.
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:
CropIn is a business tool , where every single information is meaningful data which is connected and provides complete intelligence, reporting and analysis capabilities along with a host of features.