Farmers and Connectivity: How technology helps agriculture
Every industry including agriculture, connectivity has changed from half a century ago. With more developed machines we can easily expand more lands and somehow make manipulated seeds and make new fertilizers to increase the products. Even these kinds of technologies have changed recently and have become more developed than a few years ago and we could say that we are standing in the middle of another cultivation revolution.
Food demand is increasing every year and it gets worse and worse. It is estimated that the population of the earth would reach more than 9.7 billion by 2050 and indeed human is going to need more vast farmlands to produce its alimentation for everyone. Even nowadays it’s so difficult to provide enough food for the population of the world. By 2030 40 percent of the ice burgs will meltdown and it will cause an increase in sea and ocean level and the results will be the elimination of million-acre of farmland. Also, we can’t ignore climate change which is harmful for human nutrition in its turn.
To achieve these goals we have to do more digitalization in this industry via connectivity. As said before cultivation has developed during the last century and that development was based on advanced farming machines but the role of digital transformation wasn’t bold. Even by the digital transformation, we can enhance the quality and life span of livestock and animal husbandry.
Demanding food is increasing and on the other side the farmlands are confronting different problems
There are two problems with digitalizing the farm industry. The first one is that many lands do not have what it takes to become well developed and they are suffering from the lack of connectivity infrastructure and the second one is that the farmers of those lands which have connectivity infrastructure do not know much about this issue and the impact of it.
Connectivity in agriculture nowadays
In recent years many farmers have begun to ask about developments on some variables including soil, livestock, the quality of seeds, and so on but they hadn’t much information about digital connectivity, and in some other areas no farmer had the minimum clue about it.
Even in the united states of America which is a developed country just one-quarter of the farmers utilize fast connection devices to use data and by the way, many of these technologies are 2G and 3G which aren’t what we are expecting and even they have problems in low-bands networks and can’t quite transfer data easily, therefore, they must again look for something superior. We could say that 3G and 4G are nevertheless enough for doing simple tasks and of course it’s better to have them rather than nothing. Although first, they cost a lot by year by year their prices are dropping so they can be used more often. But we have to note that for the best performance some technologies like 5G or LEO satellites are required.
this challenge confronts two cases: First, we have to build infrastructures and in that area which infrastructures exist, business cases and investments must happen. Fortunately in all the continent even Africa the speed of building infrastructure is growing.
The benefits of these connectivity tools are:
- Massive Internet: Farmers can observe all the crops and even the status of livestock while they are not in the fields and it can be used for remote doors as well and they can do it online.
- Mission Critical Services: the stability of the connections will be improved a lot so some machines like drones can be used.
- Near Global Coverage: with the utilization of LEO satellites anyone can monitor the lands and area which are far from the urban spots and the presence of the farmers won’t be necessary for the fields all the time.
Connectivity potential for making values
If the connectivity infrastructure grows it could easily increase the GDP by more than 500 billion dollars in the world and augment the productivity between 7 to 9 percent but a vast investment is required first. Other industries have gained larger digital investments rather than agriculture. We have discovered five issues to be done after enhancing connectivity in the farms such as crop monitoring, livestock monitoring, building, and equipment management, drone farming, and last but not the least autonomous farming machinery. Although not all of these are necessary for all the regions. For example, in North America where everything is almost optimized, we do not need monitoring a lot where we can use some other issues but on the other hand, we need it (monitoring) in Africa and some parts of Asia. Also, it is notable to indicate that Asia must become a pioneer in this technology because its farming fields are the vaster and its productivity of crops is 60 percent of the world.
Now let’s talk about the five cases mentioned above:
- Crop Monitoring: connectivity has a high effect on crop monitoring. For example: by putting some sensors in the soil the farmer can be updated every day of the water in the ground whether there is enough water or not. Or even these sensors can inform the farmer of harmful pests and disease so he can make a decision as soon as possible and prevent further damages. Even smart monitoring could predict the amount of the harvesting crop.
But most of the networks such as 3G and even 4G may not support vast farming lands so many data transformations must be used but 5G technology has promised us to solve all these problems.
- Live Stock Monitoring: pretty much anyone knows that the vulnerability of livestock is way more sensible than crops. With this new technology and by using sensors and chipsets in the body of the animals, farmers can comprehend the whole health status of them, including blood pressure, temperature, and any illness, so they can cure in animals and therefore human, shall expect more qualified meat and milk or any other production gained from livestock. It is estimated that using this connectivity will increase the value of animal husbandry by more than 70 billion dollars by the end of 2030.
- Building and Equipment Management: Tools like chips and monitoring are so useful and can prevent farmers from spending inventory costs. For example, it can be used to reduce post-harvest corruption and reduce energy consumption. Many farmers are already using similar technologies from Blue Level Technology. This case can save 40 up to 60 billion dollars by the end of 2030.
- Farming by Drones: Drones can become so effective in cultivation and one of the pioneer companies, in this case, is Yamaha’s RMAX. They can be used for spraying the crops. Also, they analyze and give some information about the pesticide, nutrients and on the bottom of line a whole situation of the farm and whether it is in a good condition or not. Also, drones are useful in planting seeds in uncomfortable and far away areas. This case can create a value of 85 to 115 billion USD in the future.
- Autonomous Farming Machinery: More paired connections between GPS and computers and sensors would enhance the autonomous farming machinery. Farmers can control almost everything online and without any human intervention. Also, the efficiency of machines are better and faster than human and it can save more fuels. It is estimated that if the connectivity of the autonomous machines increases, it could create a value of 50 to 60 billion USD by the end of 2030.
Implications for the agricultural ecosystem
This advanced technology can be so helpful for farmers and also for the lands. For example, they can notify the farmers quickly and based upon the soil, gives information on the amount of the fertilizers and anti pests that must be used so the soil won’t get too dirty.
Although this can’t happen until everyone has access to the high network band. We predict three main ways for investments in this industry:
- Telco-Driven Employment: The bandwidth in a rural area is so poor and the farmers must embrace the new technologies and be willing for digitalizing and applications.
- Provider-Driven Employment: Input providers with their existing industries must cooperate with telcos companies so they can develop bandwidth and connectivity networks.
- Farmer-Driven employment: In this case, farmers can invest and take responsibility themselves but first they have to learn some skills and gather information so they could understand the importance of this matter.
How it is supposed to be done
Regardless of all the investments and jobs that are needed to be done, all the sectors like different industries and organizations and the farmers themselves must collaborate.
Nowadays some telcos and some connection technology companies are trying their best to make this connection between farmers and the companies which provide the bandwidth or are developing new ways of connectivity such as 5G.
Even public sectors like Korea and Germany are helping this contribution to happen. In these countries, government attempts to provide facilities or at least reduce the taxes so the farmers and the companies are encouraged to help and work with each other.