In the quest for better yields and greater environmental protection in agriculture, arguably the most important transformation these days is the increasing use of digital technologies in what has been dubbed smart farming or Farming 4.0. Farming 4.0 is a highly dynamic and rapidly evolving concept – in terms of its full potential, the current state-of-the-art might really be only the tip of the iceberg.
The following are the major components of Agriculture 4.0:
- IoT Sensors: From soil fertility to connectivity, IoT sensors are critical parts of modern agriculture
- LED’s: The rise in indoor farming is being driven by advances in LED technology. Indoor farming is particularly demanding of LED precision because of the requirements to provide optimal growth and yields.
- Robotics: Some robots are doing what farmers used to do in farms. This robotics also includes analytics which are software systems that assist in analysing and making sense of trends in farms.
- Solar Cells: Most devices in farms are powered by solar and solar panels are important.
- Drones and satellites: drones and satellites are used for data collection of farm vegetation.
- Indoor Farming/Aquaponics/Hydroponics: Making use of a wealth of experience and resources in LED lighting, some OEM companies have sprung up offering full solutions for indoor farming/aquaponics and hydroponics.
- Farm Fintech: increasingly, new financial solutions are designed for farms and agriculture. These solutions are captured as farm financial technology (farm fintech) and they include payment, lending, insurance etc which are done digitally for farming
Data for Agriculture 4.0
As information systems grow in utility, data have come to represent different things for different industries, overlapping many scientific disciplines. Along the way, the scope of information that industries want to capture and measure expands, and the data become yet more useful.
In agriculture, data have played the role of an oracle providing insight on seasonal activities. In varying degrees, data have been informing insurance policies, finance facilities, and commodity exchanges.
More recently, precision agriculture and agtech have inspired start-ups offering farmers equipment, software, and other innovative tools that capture, monitor and process field- and crop-specific data. The mind-blowing pace of technology development in this space has left farmers bewildered by the options. In 2015, agtech investment hit a record $4.6 billion. Such a level of investment interest comes from those within the industry who see the value of data as a commodity in and of itself.
Like cash, data aren’t one-use, disposable items. Data can also have a multiplier effect of their own that is more accurately described as a “network effect.”
This data and the associated network effect will be the heart that will drive Agriculture 4.0.