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How Innovation in Agriculture is the Answer to Productivity Problems

– By Bradley Wingrave

15th February 2021

Your World, Smarter.

Innovation in agriculture and the future of farming

Innovation in agriculture is critical to accomplishing long-term food security and increasing productivity. According to Baron Trees, “We’re on the cusp of a new revolution in agriculture on the scale of the industrial revolution.” From full-scale automation to precision farming methods, the future of farming is set to look quite different to traditional approaches. What can farmers expect and how does technology address the challenges they face going forward?

What is driving innovation in agriculture?

The need for development in an industry lagging behind when it comes to efficiency

As an essential service, how we produce our food has the potential to be streamlined for enhanced sustainability and increased yields. Tim Mordan at Defra has said that agriculture is three times less efficient than other sectors of the UK economy. A £24 million package by government to boost agritech is indicative of the need for change – and government’s support of new technologies. It also aims to act as a buffer for food security in the UK around climate change and population growth concerns.

Smart Agriculture - Smarter Technologies

New innovation in agriculture and vital climate change concerns

Climate change is a central consideration in the sustained ability of farmers to grow the food that we need. The erratic weather patterns caused by climate change affect growing seasons, resource availability, and – ultimately – crop productivity. Add soil erosion and declining biodiversity, as well as a burgeoning green-minded consumer populace and it becomes clear that traditional operations require an overhaul to come up with sustainable processes, meet governmental and consumer expectations, and remain viable.

It is anticipated that technology innovation in agriculture holds the key to green diversification in agriculture. Central to this are farming processes that require reduced inputs and resources and increased yields and minimised emissions.

Agriculture innovation in the form of smart technologies provides a comprehensive technology toolkit for farmers to view full-scale farming operations in precise detail. This provides an accurate, data-based guide upon which farmers can, firstly, understand their current operations and, thereafter, strategise to change, improve, and boost productivity. This lays the groundwork for exciting opportunities around AI and automation.

Find out what farming innovation looks like in operation with our Complete Guide to Smart Farming.

The risk around food security

The greatest challenge facing farmers of the future is the ability to increase productivity to meet food supply demands. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation has said food production will need to increase by 70% by 2050 if we are expected to feed a growing global population. When it comes to meat production, the World Health Organisation has estimated that meat production needs to increase to 376 million tonnes by 2030.

Multifaceted challenges exist on this front. These challenges include ever-reducing arable land and limited resources. Increasing levels of carbon dioxide also affects the nutritional value of grains, tubers, and legumes. This means we have the added concern of not only quantity, but nutritional value of the food we produce into the future.

In hand with climate change commitments for 2050, farmers are going to need to pivot dramatically from traditional methodologies to increase production at the required rate. Additionally, urbanisation is expected to reach 70% by 2050, which underscores the need for accelerated changes for sustainable intensification of agriculture. This will be achieved primarily by smart innovation in farming.

Smarter Farming Data - Smarter Technologies

Technology innovation in agriculture and the labour question

COVID-19 marked the advent of many disruptions to the global food supply chain. The lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the dependence on foreign labour by farmers in the United Kingdom. The enduring issues associated with foreign labour and labour inconsistency has been highlighted by Brexit. An example of this is an anticipated turkey shortage in the UK for Christmas 2021 as a result of the high cost of non-EU labour.

In America, COVID-19 deaths and lockdown evidenced a similar issue. Additionally, a shift away from agriculture means farmers are struggling to secure a seasonal workforce.

Around the world, farmers are embracing innovation in farming as a solution to their labour issues. Many have been inspired to integrate automation wherever possible to combat the shortcomings of manual labour processes. Smart technology innovation in agriculture also empowers farmers to optimise their operations to ensure workers are working as efficiently and productively as possible.

With benefits around increased capacity, lower overheads, and streamlined supply chains, this is one of the major areas affected by innovations in agriculture. It also stands to be the most affected by AI farming innovation. Another knock-on effect of the inclusion of technology innovation in agriculture is the potential to attract, develop, and retain talent. It can also assist in retaining existing staff – giving workers a data-driven understanding of performance and improvement so that they can work to their best potential.

At a logistics level, the recent truck driver shortage experienced in the UK is another area that demands enhanced efficiency to keep supply chains sufficiently mobilised. This is another area in which smart technology has the ability to harness the power of data to ensure the smooth running of supply chains from farm to fork.

New innovation in smart farm security

As we have mentioned in previous blogs on smart agricultural solutions, the lockdown has also had the effect of raised crime rates in rural areas. In 2021, NFU Mutual in the UK reports that over £9 million in agricultural vehicle thefts were reported, while the total value attributed to rural crime in the UK is £43.3 million in the reporting period.

This has a knock-on effect when it comes to productivity, requiring downtime in the wait to replace lost equipment, lost resources, and interrupted operations. Smart technologies alleviate these security issues, with the ability to provide additional data insights with benefits for management and supply chain efficiencies.

New innovation in agriculture smart security systems from Smarter Technologies Group includes a range of data-based tools around alert and response for farmers in response to crime. Powered by the Internet of Things, data is transmitted to a remotely accessible dashboard. Sensors, tags, pressure pads, and gateways collect data across multi-location and remote areas. The system alerts farmers in real-time to undesirable changes when it comes to unauthorised access, electric fence failure, gate status, door and window opening, storage levels for things like fuel and feed, and even footfall. They can also be used to monitor and locate high-value equipment, vehicles, and machinery at all times.

Smarter Technologies and innovation in agriculture

Smarter Technologies Group’s smart farm solutions are informing data-inspired management for precision farming. This means increased productivity. If you are imagining a complex digital ecosystem, the key to its effectiveness is simplicity. This system of tags, sensors, pressure pads, and gateways is easily integrated into existing systems. These systems now benefit from real-time digital insights.

The reporting capabilities of these smart agricultural innovations is extensive, collecting real-time data insights on everything from temperature and atmospheric conditions and gas and smoke detection to moisture levels, movement, and inventory management. Aside from the alert functionality, the ability to collect, analyse, and strategise around actual daily data is a long-term tool for productivity enhancements.

A full-farm view anytime, from anywhere

These smart technologies are powered by the Internet of Things. They communicate data to remote dashboards over the secure Orion Data Network. This means farmers get a comprehensive view of their farming operations, even over multiple locations 365 days a year, 7 days a week. The data is collected in real-time and alerts can be set to notify farmers and farm managers of changes outside of the norm, inspiring meaningful reaction across customisable metrics. This empowers farmers to calculate resources, reduce wastage, and increase yields for high levels of productivity.

Precision Farming - Smarter Technologies

Supply chain optimisation

Through data insights, farmers are able to strategise to prevent bottlenecks, inventory glitches, maintenance issues, and threats to productivity and profitability. Both on the farm, on trucks and transport, and at point of sale, what can be monitored can be managed to precision levels of efficiency.

Smart livestock farming

Smart technologies don’t stop at the farmyard or field. Livestock farmers are using smart technology to great effect in cattle management too. Our ingestible bolus keeps farmers informed around temperature readings for the purposes of early disease detection, calving, and milk production – an insight that informs broader strategic disease management for cattle and dairy farmers. This curbs the spread of infection, reduces mortalities and inspires high-precision herd and livestock management.

GPS tracking collars are also nothing new in the industry, but are a useful tool to monitor the location of herds and assist in recovery in the event of theft. Used in tandem with this smarter infrastructure and agriculture innovations, this is a powerful tool to reduce theft and enhance herd management.

The latest innovations in agriculture are smarter

Smarter Technologies Group is leading the change for farming operations of all sizes. The future of farms will almost certainly be data-driven, automated, and smart – simplifying the lives of farmers.

Contact Smarter Technologies Group today to find out more about our smarter farming solutions. 

About the Author: 

Bradley Wingrave has a wealth of business experience spanning more than two decades and his success in a number of entrepreneurial ventures makes him a forerunning expert on businesses, offices, facilities and legal compliance.

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