The world of farming is becoming smart(er). Seeds, vegetables, fruits, among other species, see their growth and harvest flourished by use of new technologies, like machines, sensors and robots. In its IoT autonomy driven endeavors, appears the opportunity for applied intelligence, based on decision making supported by insights.
After attending the GreenTech event, I felt emerged in a new world of information. Surprisingly to me, despite not being an event dedicated to ecology, GreenTech is all about horticulture allied with technology and, around this exhibition, I could find booths about artificial lighting, AI, robotics, vertical farming and pollination. I wanted to know more about how the pieces of this green puzzle combine and I’m sharing some of my findings with you.
Allying agriculture with technology
If you are acquainted with concepts like agriTech, precision farming or smart crops, you may already know what is coming to the table. Either way, there’s much territory to explore in this emerging multi-billionaire business, foreseen to reach 6,6 billion euros by 2023, only in the European market. When allying agriculture with technology, innovative companies are benefiting from sensors that can measure radiation, temperature, water quality or pollution. This information can be output to real-time dashboards, allowing prompt action on crops.
Furthermore, the appliance of machine learning algorithms to streaming data, provides the forecast of climacteric phenomena, the predictive and preventive behaviors vital to accelerate the culture’s health and the best timing to seed and to harvest the benefits of your investment, the cultures, in order to reach the optimal production process results, also designated as precision farming.
Additionally, drones come to play a big role in surveillance, enabling the early detection of insects, fungi, fires and executing tasks that otherwize would have to be made by humans: agriculture spraying, plantation, inspection, irrigation. When considering greenhouse optimization, it is possible to find a controlled automated ecosystem: lights that can compensate for climate changes, IoT devices which apply fertilizers or bio stimulants on the soil. And with AI as a service, you can imagine autonomous robots monitoring, nurturing and harvesting potatoes, carrots, tomatoes without the hard repeated labor. Maybe we can even let the mechanical bees out to pollinate the crops.
Empowering AgriTech through Data
The best approach to protect your business, and to improve it, is to take action through insightful measurable data. When systems generate big data, it’s vital to process this information so that it can be organized, studied and become the vehicle for conclusions that would otherwize be unreachable within an ephemeral flow.
The hosting and processing of this data is the memory of every business and its analysis is the learning that allows the awareness of certain patterns, as well as the inherent improvement actions based on the acquired wisdom.
In the context of AgriTech, it is possible to visualize metrics and KPIs as important as:
- Number of out of stock products, per area during the month;
- Number of robots in maintenance per brand, area of the greenhouse or per type of anomaly;
- Percentage of production per type of product;
- Percentage of successfully grown products by seed retailers over the year.
- Waste control – If you can predict how much resources you’ll need, there is a better chance you won’t misspend them.
- To monitor supply in advance of the market is easier if you know where and when to increase your production.
- Sensors, monitors, and RFID tags allow smart farmers to automate manual processes that caused distribution to be slower in past times.
- Maximizing the quality and productivity of the smart farm is also in vogue when you have eyes on your plants and can enable pest control or monitor the quantity of nutrients or aggressive substances to avoid pollution effects.
- All businesses have to follow regulations, which are more easily applied with information systems that can be analysed.
- Theft prevention is a big deal. With surveillanced ground and monitored production it is more unlikely that someone will “jump over the fence” and steal your goods.
- But not only from green lives the farm. Other departments like Logistics, Marketing and HR can deeply benefit from these sharp technological systems. Having awareness over the production, will permit an optimal flow from the origin to the point of consumption.
- You will also know what to promote and who you need to hire so you won’t be caught in a reactive cycle, but a proactive one.
Over the years, there’s been a cognitive process of humans that promoted their understanding regarding which seasons of the year would be more auspicious to successfully plant and harvest certain fruits and also to artificially recreate the ideal climatic conditions in greenhouses in order to have access to these products at any time of the year. Data insights are the game changer in the AgriTech sector. Insights allow measuring, create improvement opportunities and profit promotion. Real-time dashboarding enables real-time decision making and machine learning empowers predicted behavior and enhanced actions.
With the help of machines and analytical systems, it is possible to reach a new set of conclusions that are extremely beneficial for any business and that would otherwise take years, if not decades, to discover. To be noted that, “only what comes to our attention and our open mind, are we able to optimize”.
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