Big Data Analytics and Productive Farming

By Matanat Rashid

Thu, 30 Aug 2018

Owing to the rapid growth of precision agriculture technologies and tools, the usage and relevant collection of data in agriculture has become one of the most important topics for farmers, companies, policymakers, and researchers in the past years.

Precision agriculture tools provide with the capacity of collecting extremely large amounts of data, thus big data, from the agricultural producers who utilize the right tech in their farming practices.

According to AgFunder, the Big Data practice consists in capturing relevant data from the huge number of sources collecting it today and translating that into actionable information to improve business processes and solve problems at scale and speed.

The practice of data collection in the industry presents vast benefits. Farmers can better manage their crops and increase their yields, and consequently, their profits by having the ability to collect and analyse more information about their operations. Also, since the producer can review past performances, it encourages better management decisions and it allows to grow more food for consumers using less resources, which is proven to be beneficial to the environment.

Collecting and analysing data plays a critical role in any business, and farming is no exception. Metaphorically speaking,“if data is the new oil, then knowing how to refine it into actionable intelligence is the key to leveraging its potential.” 

It goes without saying that big data has already paved its way into the agricultural sector. Forbes has reported that several business giants have entered the fray with some heavy investments, and many stakeholders have already realised the potential ROI big data analytics could offer, bringing consequently a rise in Ag investments of 80% (annually) since 2012.

Lloyd Marino, CEO of AVETTA Global, pointed out that, “Big data in conjunction with the Internet of Things can revolutionize farming, reduce scarcity and increase the nation’s food supply in a dramatic fashion;  [we] just have to institute policies that support farming modernization.” 

Big data has made such an immense impact on the industry that it is difficult to determine its general effects. In the same line, the improvements that it may bring to the industry are still vague. However, it is possible to pinpoint a list of four conventional ways through which the practice of analysing data is currently influencing the farming industry:

1- By Bringing Precise Predictions:
 The College of Agricultural Sciences (University Park) conducted a study where by using sophisticated computer algorithms to analyse the weather and crop data, they were able to prove that nowadays farmers can predict crop yields with shocking accuracy, even before planting a single seed.

2- By Controlling hunger:
After years of studies on plant data, agricultural scientists have developed crops that can grow in any environment. Chemically engineered seeds designed using big data have been through some controversies (health and environmentally-wise) but they are producing the desired results. These GMO seeds would likely be the catalyst in controlling the hunger crisis by accelerating the growing process in diverse environments.

3- By Modernising Agriculture:
Thanks to the data analytics, the agricultural industry has been experiencing great growth. Drones with advanced sensors are now assisting the farmers to survey their crops, update and generate the data, and identify the areas that require attention.

4- By Raising Environmental Awareness:
Big data provides a demonstration on how the agricultural sector can keep the environment clean. Notably, big data has also proved that the companies wouldn’t have to spend extra money to protect the environment. Instead, safeguarding the environment through advanced methodologies could save the farmers a few bucks. In short, big data analytics is a win-win situation for everyone.

Monsanto, uses big data analytics, mathematical and statistical calculations to find out the best time, place, and what seeds to plant. As a result, the big ag company saved $6 million and reduced its supply chain footprint by 4%. In this case, 4% may sound a modest number but according to Chris Cartier, “In North America, a 4% land utilization reduction equates to a lot of land not being used and a lot of money saved”. Briefly, all that suggests that farmers should work to grow the use of wise data to accommodate the need for agricultural solutions.

However, Big Data’s main challenge relies in its adoption and how to make the data collected relevant and useful for farmers.

Considering this and its potential, various ag-tech companies are providing their services to the producers to make the practice more approachable and available.

Hardware-wise, there are various sensors collecting the available data. In this range, we can encounter autonomous vehicles, devices farmers place in the ground to measure soil moisture and nutrient, predictive weather stations and image-capturing satellites and drones mapping out land and measuring crop health.

Software-wise, the technology processes and analyses the data, with the objective of presenting the analytics to farmers in an approachable format.

These insights are of extreme importance since they tell the farmer when and how much to irrigate a field, crop health, weather predictions, pest infestations, and even drought conditions.

Considering the increasing labour shortages in the sector, the capacity for big data analysis that lessen the need for physical manpower is of great advantage for agriculture.

While the chances to improve farming techniques are infinite, the question remains in how will companies appeal and approach the average 58-year-old non-tech savvy US farmer?


To address these challenges, we have developed AG40 workshop, a programme designed around bringing key stakeholders from throughout US agriculture together to tackle the most issues in relation to the stability of the market. To find out how this will be achieved, and whether you can be involved in this, follow the link here and below:

www.challenge.org/ag40

ABOUT AG40

Challenge Advisory is bringing together AG40, a unique workshop where organisations will have the ability to network amongst each other for precise and profitable resolutions across the entire industry. There will be panel discussions and workshop sessions designed to create partnerships and profitable business development, helping to find cross-specialism solutions to current sectoral challenges.

Join Challenge Advisory and all our stakeholders for education, interoperability and investment relating to the latest technology in digital agriculture – click here to find out more:

www.challenge.org/ag40

 


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Matanat Rashid

matanat59@gmail.com

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