The wave of digital and technology innovation sweeping Australia is crashing down on us – and no industry is immune. With absolutely everyone, including those in manufacturing, automotive, energy, retail and transportation facing change; the agricultural community is certainly not left out.
In fact, it’s almost the opposite.
It’s universally agreed that if the agricultural community and broader food industry could take advantage and embrace the digital technologies of today, it could make a significant difference to day to day management, freeing up more of your time and capital to invest, and ultimately help create a more productive business.
In a world where everything now is digitally connected or the ‘Internet of Things’, data is a critical asset. Food is no different.
Faster and quicker insights from real-time data help us to more nimbly respond to what the market wants, be more efficient in how we produce it to ensure less wastage, and get it to market, and show our customers how safe and sustainable our food is.
The Internet of Things is about allowing objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration between the physical world and computer-based systems – or simply put, making ‘dumb’ things ‘smart’ by connecting them to the Internet. This results in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit.
This technology is driving the concept of ‘precision agriculture’. Precision agriculture is the use of technology aimed at improving growers’ decision-making through data analytics. It includes software, such as big data solutions and farm management tools, and hardware, such as sensors, drones and satellites.
For example, some growers make uniform decisions across large plots of land, which can lead to high variability of crop yield across the farm. Integration of sensors into fields will improve the availability of localised information to growers regarding temperature, soil moisture, and soil nutrients. Drones, satellites and e-tagging can provide real-time snapshots of a farm situation and identification of herds grazing in open pastures or location in big stables. Less time spent looking for animals, means less fuel used, less manhours.
In the wine industry, vineyards have been able to enhance and directly influence their wine quality rather than just be reliant on the external factors. How? With investment into devices that monitor soil moisture and trunk diameter with real-time information being delivered directly to the winemaker, vineyards are able to intervene earlier to control the amount of sugar in grapes and grapevine health.
At the end of the day, the aim is to reduce uncertainty for growers and producers, minimise variability of crop production and ultimately increase yields.
It sounds simple, but making the first leap into this field is daunting. The first logical step is to apply the ‘think big, start small’ approach.
The Internet of Things will likely take your business places it’s never been, so it’s important to develop a richer understanding of IoT benefits and risks for your business through testing and learning solutions. Celebrate your successes and learn from your failures, and gradually experiment a little bigger as you learn – building stronger capabilities. Building a strong community is also important as you learn, it’s equally important to learn from others in your industry, share your successes and understand failures so you don’t repeat them in your business.
With smarter agriculture – the reward can be huge.
This article was first published on 20 July 2016 in The Land.