Agricultural production needs to increase by 70 percent globally by 2050 in order to keep pace with population growth and shifting diets, according to the UN.
Agriculture giant Cargill is turning to digital technology to tackle this challenge.
Whether through creating predictive software to give shrimp farmers real-time insights into their operations, or applying smart weather sensor technology to row crop irrigation to help farmers cut back on water usage, Cargill is creating IoT technologies to help farmers make their processes more sustainable.
“We are trying to bring digital transformation to the industry,” Neil Wendover, an executive from the Cargill Digital Insights department, told Bloomberg.
1. Mobile Shrimp Monitoring:
Cargill’s iQuatic software is a cloud-based digital platform specifically for aquaculture that syncs with a farm operations dashboard so farmers can monitor what’s going on in their farms using data collected in real-time.
iQuatic powers Cargill’s iQShrimp app, which receives data about shrimp size, water quality, feeding patterns, and health and weather conditions from shrimp ponds by way of sensors and automatic feeders.
This data is then sent to the app that uses predictive technology to give farmers insights and recommendations on feed management strategies for the shrimp, and the best dates for harvest.
2. Connected Crop Irrigation:
Cargill is also looking to help farmers on land by using smart weather sensors and IoT technology on sprinklers connected to smartphone apps to help Nebraska beef farmers cut back on water usage in crop irrigation.
“By using smart weather sensor technology in row crop irrigation, this program could help save 2.4 billion gallons of irrigation water over three years, which is equivalent to roughly 7,200 households over that time period,” said Hannah Birge, water and agriculture program manager at The Nature Conservancy about the partnership. “The reduction of pumping also means less energy used and less labor expense for farmers.”
3.Animal Facial Recognition:
Facial recognition is big these days — even on farms.
Earlier this year, Cargill invested in Cainthus, an Irish startup that has developed facial recognition for cows. Cainthus uses artificial intelligence and imaging software to identify and monitor individual animals on a farm. The cows are monitored for what they eat and how much milk they produce in an effort to help farmers manage their herd.
The images are collected from drones, satellites, CCTV, and smart devices.
Cargill also entered a partnership with Cainthus to bring its technology to dairy farms globally.
4. Cocoa in the Cloud:
Tracking and tracing cocoa shipments has largely gone untouched by technology. To change that, big companies like Cargill started utilizing mobile applications to get a better picture of where their cocoa comes from.
Traders from the companies, local traders and partner organizations started to collect GPS coordinates of each farm and details about the farmer themselves, like if the farm is within a protected forest area.
The system keeps a record of cocoa transactions, acting as a digital ledger. All this information is stored on a cloud-based database.
Cargill also has a target to commit to sourcing “fully traceable farm-to-factory cocoa” by 2030.
5. Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator:
Last year Cargill partnered with tech startups Techstars and Ecolab to create the Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator, a “mentorship-driven” program with a goal of safer, more secure and sustainable food supply.
Participants in the accelerator are expected to be tackling problems like supply chain management, food safety, waste reduction, and traceability.
“This Accelerator allows us to invest our time and resources in technology shaping the future of agriculture, and to address some of the greatest challenges facing the food system,” said Cargill’s CIO Justin Kershaw in a Cargill press release.
The accelerator is expected to continued for three years and it recently announced the inaugural class of startups who will spend 13 weeks building their businesses.