An ever-growing global population and disruption from climate change are impacting upon food supply. To maximize efficiencies farmers need to increase productivity while protecting the environment. Traditional farming methods can go so far, but to raise the level the use of new technology is required.
The basis of much new technology is data, in terms of capture and analysis. Data is can be drawn from the Internet of Things, satellite and drone imagery. In addition, data can be drawn from weather reports and from historical crop yield information. An important area where such data plays a part is with speeding up decision making, allowing the farmer to respond to changing weather or in terms of crop disease, as well as making agriculture can more efficient overall.
Data can also be connected, enabling multiple farmers to pool knowledge, especially that made available via the Internet of Things. This includes using technology to remotely monitor crops and livestock and for sharing experiences with a wider farming community. Sharing of data allows provides the basis for experts to express opinions in relation to wider farming trends.
Advances in technology are being driven by start-ups, and three leading examples of this, under the startup Orange umbrella, are:
Sensors and imaging
Avanquest Software’s Cayenne platform is an Internet of Things platform that collects data via sensors distributed in a farm. Agriculture workers can assess the information coming from up to 150 sensors and image analysers. The type of data assessed includes humidity, soil conditions, weather conditions and security. The information can be viewed via a smartphone.
Fire can cause significant loss of crops. An example of a more targeted image solution comes from NeXXtep. The company has developed a means to prevent fires from starting in animal feed silos.
This is based on a series of sensors capable of transmitting temperatures from hay bales, with signals sent to a software platform. The software can process the data and provide alerts to farmers if the temperature climbs above safe levels. It is also possible to trigger sprinkler mechanisms.
Connected farming communities
Innovation in agriculture requires effective communication, especially in remote areas. Reducing isolation between farmers helps warn farmers of changing conditions or new pests. An application from the startup SOS Agri in Senegal links farmers together and also connects them with agronomists, for economic advice, and financial experts.