Never before has efficient and sustainable agriculture been so important with geopolitics and climate change disrupting food supplies. Tech companies in India have disrupted the agriculture industry in recent years, in an effort to introduce efficiencies through the adoption of various technologies. Geopolitical conflicts compound the impact of climate change-induced challenges, as increasingly unpredictable weather leaves farmers’ livelihoods in the balance. Suddenly agritech seems infinitely more exciting, as we look to new ways of bolstering food supplies, enhancing supply chain resilience and turning challenges into opportunity.
Adapting out of a crisis
Some farmers are already enhancing their yield with drone footage and AI driven insights. Since the dawn of time, humans have developed technology to improve their ability to grow crops from the pitch-fork to the plough. Now as we face a watershed moment, we are once again embracing the human ingenuity that sustains us.
The good news is that the agritech market is booming. According to an Ernst & Young 2020 report, the Indian agritech market has a potential worth of US$24 billion by 2025, of which only 1% has been realised thus far. We stand on the precipice of the data era, on the cusp of technological revolution with the convergence of 5G connectivity, the proliferation of intelligent edge devices and smart data management services. This is particularly crucial for the agriculture industry. Data-driven technologies stand to enhance resource efficiencies, logistics and precision farming, building greater resilience into our food supply chain.
The use cases are endless – and prospects for innovation are high when it comes to the application of intelligent devices. Whether they are minimising water waste, assessing the health of livestock or monitoring crops from the skies, they impact the bottom line for farmers and the ability to feed our growing global populations come what may. Utilization and adoption of new technology in the agriculture space has been far behind the curve compared to other sectors. The recent surge in smartphone usage in rural areas has helped the agribusiness sector take its first concrete step towards technology adoption such as drones, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Science. Leveraging technology in agriculture can help farmers solve their ongoing problems and learn newer technologies that will enable them to automate their farms. With global warming infringing on the habitable spaces left on our planet, smart farming is more vital than ever.
Managing agriculture’s data
Enabling these transformative use cases and nourishing the seeds of innovation, is a bedrock of data infrastructure and layers of data management. Our ability to feed the world increasingly sits in the hands of technologists, as much as farmers. Ensuring the connectivity in these rural areas is strong enough to sustain these aways-on intelligent devices, that require edge compute for real-time insights is only the first challenge. Several agriculture start-ups operate in India, using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), the internet of things (IoT), and other technologies to boost efficiency and productivity. One that will be alleviated by the rollout of private 5G networks.
But once these devices are connected, tracking the growth of crops or irrigation water levels round the clock – a massive amount of data is being produced, processed, stored and actioned. IoT is one of the fastest growing data segments when it comes to data creation and replication – and that doesn’t include video surveillance cameras. Managing this incoming data deluge will be crucial to gaining the much-needed insights. Ensuring simplified, automated data environments that reduce complexities is key here. But the reality is that the exponential growth in data is overwhelming businesses already. Technologies offer a wide range of benefits for the agricultural sector such as monitoring, disease identification, and crop stress detection. Hyperspectral imaging will contribute to driving the precision farming market globally with enhanced technological developments and better usage of the technique.
Mastering data-driven technologies is surely the biggest challenge of them all for the agriculture industry but with the help of trusted technology partners this can be solved. Enabling the world’s farmers to adapt to increasingly volatile environments and keeping bellies full come what may, will be a collaborative effort. It will ultimately bring together deep agricultural knowledge with the exciting possibilities harboured by technology, to turbocharge a new era in agriculture. With precision farming we can truly augment the earth’s resources and human ingenuity to feed the world.
But there’s no doubt that this will require more investments, agritech is about to have its day. Supporting more sustainable practices, developing the required expertise, and creating powerful partnerships that pave the way for a more nutritious future requires a cross industry effort. We must work together to do more than keep up with these challenges but stay ahead and avert another food crisis. To address the rising demand for resources across the world, agritech needs to be on the fingertips of farmers and shareholders across the agriculture industry. With data centres, the advancements of agritech can be accelerated and made accessible to the nooks and corners of the world in a trouble-free manner. To make sure, agricultural knowledge infused with tech advancements is well distributed across geographies, optimization of data centres is a pre-requisite and necessity.
(The author is Mr. Jordan MacPherson, Director, Product Operations, Park Place Technologies and the views expressed in this article are his own)