Is Data The New Soil In Agri?
Is Data The New Soil In Agri?
With today’s rapidly evolving digital technology, farmers have many options, but at a high cost. Discerning between the hype and the useful is therefore crucial to buying the right tools to increase profit. Digital and technology experts Rudie Raath and Stehan Cloete spoke to Lindi Botha.
Lindi Botha
One of the biggest shifts in farming over the past few years has been the move towards connectivity. The connected farmer concept goes beyond basic Internet services; it takes in everything from connected farming devices and connected livestock, to connected irrigation platforms and precision farming concepts. This includes irrigation and pest-control planning based on satellite images, and in recent years, drone footage.Rudie Raath, chief digital officer at Datacentrix, explains that the need for this innovation comes from the pressure to produce better-quality crops, use more cost-effective methods, and apply irrigation and chemicals with greater precision.

“We’re seeing innovative technologies such as drones fitted with forward-looking infrared FLIR [cameras and smart farming equipment], like the John Deere fleet of autonomous tractors, which are becoming commercially viable to mainstream farmers to augment their traditional farming methods.”

He notes that this technology disruption does not stop at the farm, but continues into the entire supply chain, from the soil to the water table.

“The agricultural supply chain has seen massive investment in connected technologies, including carefully planned transportation, with route calculations based on orders and current demand. Packaging, manufacturing and logistics solutions now focus on technology innovation that can reduce the time between harvesting and selling produce from retail outlets.”

Data at the centre

Raath points out, however, that technology such as connected farm vehicles or surveillance technologies that monitor and track livestock are not cheap; the cost of even entry-level digital equipment is high for the average farmer.

He believes that a far more accessible entry point is access to data, including data that can be shared by all farmers in a specific location, from weather data to geographical pest control data, soil changes, and even water and mineral quality.

“The golden thread through all these solutions is data,” says Raath. “Data is undoubtedly the new soil when it comes to farming or the agriculture sector. Data analytics and statistical modelling of historical data are no longer an option, but a critical success factor for commercial farmers.”

The role of co-ops, he adds, has changed fundamentally. They are no longer simply providers of physical items such as fertilisers, seeds, farming equipment or even silos for grain storage; they are now also data providers.

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March 27, 2020