Digital Agriculture is such an amazing opportunity while representing at the same time also a puzzle to many discouraging adoption due to chaotic information & knowledge about it.
This article is the first one of a serie aiming to provide you the very core understanding of digital agriculture to help you in:
- avoiding getting lost in a multitude of very technical jargon, technologies, concepts that often unnecessarily increase complexity while losing touch with the real benefits and the “agriculture reality”;
- having the key concept tools to use as a base for an implementation strategy consistent with pragmatic economic driven goals;
This articles series condenses thousands of pages in few pages translating the noise into:
- simple rules;
- simple keywords
- simple actions to be performed
- expected benefits.
Being conceived as a full compact guide, it may be more than a simple reading while it may accompany you “on the go” throughout a digital agriculture implementation travel.
WHAT DIGITAL AGRICULTURE IS NOT!
Don’t think about it as a magic stick or a simple product that easily implemented will transform data into more harvest. It’s not a single product, it’s not a single technology. It’s not a consultant.
Jargon: Digital agriculture it’s not a single product, not even a single technology. You can’t buy digital agriculture online. Everyone trying to sell it to you as a single tool changing your life is simply…lying to you.
WHAT IS DIGITAL AGRICULTURE? Real definition
It’s combination of tools (technologies) and actions (processes).
Imagine for a second that you would like to be faster and better in cooking or fixing your car. You may call someone (consultant or friend) or educate yourself (youtube, books,…) trying to understand what’s available as tools and practices to do a better job. You end up in discovering that there is a revolutionizing way to cook or fix your car and the first thing you need to know is: “would that great innovation apply to me? would it really help me to cook better or do a better/faster job in fixing my car?”; to answer your question you need to know your existing process and how the above innovation would impact this process. Not an easy answer unless you master both. In other words, you would need to know what you normally cook / how you normally fix your car, what you like, then if you are convinced you may consider a step by step approach that according to your budget would allow you to buy new tools for your kitchen/garage, learn how to use them in general, learn how to use them to cook your favourite dishes improving time and quality/fix or improve your car more efficiently.
Jargon: Digital agriculture it’s a process involving a multitude of technologies (more or less interoperable) that IF appropriately combined within the existing agronomic process CAN really deliver high value.
PRODUCT vs. PROCESS: Digital agriculture it’s a process not a product.
Often nowadays we have a problem and can find a product as a solution to our problem.
We evaluate the price of the product and compare it with the cost of the problem to decide about the purchase.
We quite often underestimate the hidden costs of learning how to use it, as the “commercial” showed skilled persons easily performing the tasks we wish to perform ourselves.
If this was the only problem into digital agriculture… that it would have already been vastly adopted. But that’s not the end of the story.
Digital agriculture it’s a process, not a product.
Digital agriculture it’s a process involving a multitude of technologies (more or less interoperable) that IF appropriately combined within the existing agronomic process CAN really deliver high value.
WHY Digital Agriculture? Especially… what for?
Now that we have understood what Digital Agriculture is not and what it is the next question is: why? what are the expected benefits (if any)?
Indeed as a general rule, before even considering implementing new technology into an (often) complex existing process such as agriculture production, we need to stop and think about why we may engage in such things (that translates into investments of time & material).
Now we know Digital Agriculture it’s a process coming along with a combination of technologies; fitting it/them into existing practices is even more challenging.
Your next question should be: is it worth it? Good question!
Answer: a big YES, provided a wise implementation is followed
Who can benefit from Digital Agriculture? All value chain players.
Any farm in the world, no matter the size can benefit from Digital Agriculture. That applies to smallholder farmers, to very large farms, to big cooperatives, input providers, food companies, machinery providers,…. in short: the entire Agriculture ecosystem would benefit by its adoption.
Not only that, but the benefits delivered by Digital Agriculture increase along with adoption, both vertically (the more you digitalise your process the more value received) and horizontally (the more farmers and agri players adopt digital agriculture, the more value will be for all).
What can farmers & farms expect from digital agriculture?
- Optimizing inputs (therefore often reducing): water, fertilizers, pesticides, work;
- Maximizing outputs: quality and quantity of the harvest;
- Reducing agronomic risk: from diseases, malpractices, insects,…
What can input providers & machinery/tools vendors expect from digital agriculture?
- switching the business model from product to service, from single sales (market push) to ROI based sales (market pull);
- optimizing their production based on the real market needs;
- defining long term R&D based on present & expected market needs (digital agriculture connects the value chain allowing direct flow of data and communication through it);
- …(and more)
What can food companies and cooperatives expect from digital agriculture?
- reduce food waste optimizing the provisioning of raw material and the entire supply chain, having predictions/estimations about coming harvests by regions;
- increasing loyalty with high-quality agri-producers through certification programs among suppliers and farmers (digital platform easily enables such opportunities increasing transparency on agronomic practices);
- increasing productivity among farmers suppliers (or associated farmers in case of cooperatives) providing shared services such as agronomic recommendations, best practices sharing,…;
- …(and more)
What can smallholders farmers expect from digital agriculture?
- more accurate weather information to define the right time to seed;
- basic agronomic recommendations to reduce the risk of pest and diseases;
- best practice sharing among the community on a peer-to-peer based approach to the benefit of all the community;
- …(and more)
Marco is a Digital Agriculture international expert with 20Y+ experience in leveraging digital innovations to the benefit of the market. He owns a Math degree & MBA, and before focusing on digital agriculture, he successfully worked with his teams to develop and bring to market several new technologies and products in the fields of environmental monitoring (low-cost air quality city monitoring), risk mitigation (Unesco Petra site) focusing on Internet of Things (IoT), advanced sensors, Big Data, predictive analytics, Artificial Intelligence.
He co-founded 3 companies receiving international recognition by the European Enterprise Network (innovation success in 2007), was mentioned in Forbes in 2008, was awarded the Stanford University “Best Startup Award” at the Italian Innovation Day in 2011, and was IBM Smarter Planet finalist and Global Entrepreneur.
Recent tangible achievements: saving of water up to 50% with increased production of 250% in semi-arid climate; 30% average pesticide reduction in orchards along with agronomic risk reduction.
Main customers/partners supported in Digital Agriculture: Nestlé, Syngenta, Netafim, Omya, Agroscope, Purdue University.