Farmer in Field

DIGITALISATION IN FARMING

There are 450-500 million smallholder farmers globally. Increased urbanization and growing global demand for food, make the productive capacity of these farmers essential to feeding the world’s growing population. We must be prepared to increase food, fibre and energy supplies to meet the needs of our planet’s rising population which, according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates, is expected to reach the figure of 9.7 billion people in 2050. Recent history has shown that we are well on track with respect to technological development in the areas of soil nutrition correction, pest and disease management and, thanks to the shortening of their innovation cycle, genetic development of food crops that allow increased yield.

Future of Farming.jpeg
Image: FAO

DIGITALISING RURAL FARMS 

Digital technologies have the potential to revolutionise agriculture by helping farmers work more precisely, efficiently and sustainably. Data-driven insights can improve decision-making and practices and help increase environmental performance while making the job more attractive to younger generations. Digital technologies also have the potential to offer consumers greater transparency as to how their food is produced. They offer opportunities to renew business models in value chains by connecting producers and consumers in innovative ways. Beyond farming, digital technologies are key to make rural communities more attractive, smart and sustainable, reducing problems related to remoteness and improving access to services.

 

Agriculture Digitalisation is hindered by resource allocation and technology decisions, these remain rather "at an average level" where management, consumer sales and risk management efficiencies are still limited by a lack of precise information. Climatic variables – sometimes a blessing, and other times a curse – mean that a good farm manager, even after making the best decisions, may run into the same problems as a bad one when both face climate adversities such as drought or excessive rain.

 

How then to reap the benefits of efficient management as we have with technological progress?

In this context, digital agriculture appears to be a promising alternative to meeting the need of gains in management efficiency, allowing the correct allocation of resources and ensuring the development of people working in the fields. As in other industries, digital transformation has made great strides in agriculture, sowing the seeds of what is now known as Agriculture 4.0, Digital Farming or Smart Agriculture.

Climate-Smart Agriculture and Inequalities: Ensuring equal access to sustainable, climate-resilient food production

In practical terms, this signifies an increase in data collection by way of the internet of things, i.e. sensors, machines and drones gathering real-time information that is then stored and processed in the cloud. Thanks to the detailed control of inputs, this allows efficiency gains like labour cost reductions, observing and preparing for climatic conditions that interfere with production processes, monitoring the spread of pests and diseases and so on. Additionally, predictive models supported by big data and artificial intelligence will enable forecasts of pest and disease outbreaks, recommendations for better seed placement in fields and selection of the best plant varieties as well as determining the best time to bring products to the market. 

The Internet of Tractors? How digital technologies are impacting the way we grow and distribute food

"Global Digitalisation is allowing customisable solutions and, in some cases, a spur in innovations otherwise not possible due to lack of data"

In this context, the digitalisation of agriculture has become a  turning point for the world to develop its capabilities, even considering the existing scarcity of resources, and within areas of small-scale farming. This is an example of the “Farming as a Service” model that provides technological solutions designed for agriculture, converting fixed costs into variable costs when charging for the utilisation of services such as data collection by sensors and machinery rental.

There are three key issues to be considered when developing digital agriculture: 

As the agribusiness production chain grows more complex, its users are becoming more specialised 

Because of this increasing specialisation, farmers do not always have an integrated solution where all the technology and innovations are compatible with each other.

 

  • How to deal with technologies developed in “silos”? 

There are other related issues as well.

How can we enhance the co-operation between the various agricultural players and solution providers?

How to reconcile the economic, technical and regulatory interests of start-ups, businesses and the government? 

Agriculture Digitalisation is bringing new services through a better understanding of individual farmers’ circumstances

Digitalisation will allow customisable solutions and, in some cases, spur innovation otherwise not possible due to lack of data. For instance, agricultural insurance and/or a farmer financing business could use a digital agriculture database to find the best managers and, consequently, make offers to the most suitable candidates. Oddly enough, the risk management tools tend to look for those that achieve the best risk management; it will be no different from agriculture digitalisation. Are we ready to deal with such actions, seen as market segmentation on one hand but considered discriminatory on the other?

Get more facts and compare your country on the OECD Agriculture Data Portal

We have to deal with increasing global worries around data privacy and cybersecurity

However, the level of pressure brought about by digital agriculture is quite another story. In the worst-case scenario, it might become a state issue if the loss, misuse or theft of data could influence or jeopardise a government’s capacity to feed its population. It also involves the possible use of inside information in order to benefit from the agricultural commodities market, among others. The key issue here will be how to set control and governance levels on the use of this information. 

Digital Agriculture 

 FPI believes digital technologies have the potential to revolutionise agriculture by helping farmers work more precisely, efficiently and sustainably. Data-driven insights can improve decision-making and practices and help increase environmental performance while making the job more attractive to younger generations. Digital technologies also have the potential to offer consumers greater transparency as to how their food is produced. They offer opportunities to renew business models in value chains by connecting producers and consumers in innovative ways. Beyond farming, digital technologies are key in making rural communities more attractive, smart and sustainable, reducing problems related to remoteness and improving access to services.and a stunning pic to engage your audience and get them to click. 

Learn More>
Young Farmer

Rural Digital

Reseach 

FPI takes research and innovation as vital and important tools to facilitate and accelerate digital transformation in agriculture and rural areas for the benefit of global citizens and businesses. FPI wants to be active in undertaking R&I activities laying the ground for digitalised and data-empowered agriculture, especially in rural areas. Strategic interventions support the uptake of digital technologies, and should increase R&I investments to develop new digital solutions and the crucial assessment of the socio-economic impacts of digitalisation.

For this project to have an impact, FPI shall carry out the following:

1. Research and innovation to develop new technologies and business models

2. Improving the uptake of new technologies in agriculture and rural areas

3. Analysing & managing the impact of digitisation in agriculture and rural areas