The Future of Big Data and Digital Farming

Future agriculture will based on identify areas or zones with the same agronomic performance within a field. What is successful in a kind of soil or weather, does not necessarily work elsewhere, with different soil types or weather patterns. By integrating data from diverse sources it is possible to recognize different productivity zones in a field with extremely high precision.

In this scenario, Big Data will make agriculture economically more efficient and profitable with great sustainability. For this purpose, it is very important to successfully detect different points in a map, which is the type of information our cellphones already provide. In the future, this kind of information will be in every machine and gadget available. This will allow more information to be processed and, increase mapping accuracy.

Tomorrow’s maps, fully connected to everything that moves, will be so fundamental that the map itself, indeed, will be our operating system.

Creating a big map from hundreds or thousands layers of data including decisive details to increase agriculture’s efficiency has always implicated sending agronomists to the field and waiting for their reports. In the future, besides sending agronomists, pattern-recognition robots will search and provide information of great economic impact. Moreover, computerized-vision software will inquire nutrients levels in soil, number of seeds per meter, and will even detect the presence of plant diseases, weeds, and plagues. In that case, the robot will tag that area in a map with a note indicating the presence of that particular weed, disease, or plague. Machine-to-machine conversation will provide users helpful solutions, therefore increasing business intelligence software, where machines will be the main source of information.

All this will allow having the ‘field in our pockets,’ controlling every machine and equipment of the farm through only one device, your cellphone; technology called ‘home automation.’

In the next few years, agriculture machinery will go over the fields on an autonomous way with GPS and multiple sensing devices. Thanks to the accuracy of those machines, each square meter will receive a different seed density and fertilizer levels according to its yield potential. These knowledge will complement decades of farmers’ experience by employing satellites, biotechnology and mathematical algorithms.

Furthermore, farmers will receive personalized suggestions of products and services on their mobile devices. This will be of great utility while farmers are on the field monitoring weeds or plagues damage, or whilst harvesting their crops.

Farmers always expect the possibility of increasing their yields, comparing their results with those of their neighbors. If other farmers are achieving better results because of the selection of genetically better seeds or because their machinery is more efficient, farmers would really like to get their hands on this information. In this way, agronomic consultancy will be available through social network with the best specialists in each field. Farmers will have the possibility to share their data and access specialists through video conferences, asking about weed or diseases control strategies. Every machine will have an on-board screen with access to all the available data.

Big Data in agriculture will also benefit several other businesses. For example, it will correct imperfections in rural real state market. Knowing different soil classes, climate patterns, and productivity has always been limited to neighbors, but now the access to geo-referenced maps will allow investors to take better decisions. Big Data in agriculture will also affect insurances business. With the access to data from each individual farm, insurance companies will be able to identify those with less risk associated, more productive, which might result in a lower insurance fee. This will end the actual system, based on regional averages.

Nothing is more annoying for farmers than stopping the harvest because of a broken part of a machine. With real-time machinery data, and even with replacements delivered by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), this problem will be severely minimized. UAVs will be part of this revolution in agricultural technology, helping farmers to supervise their crops and estimate yields without doubt whatsoever.

What is more, irrigation systems will also benefit from the Big Data era. Farmers will be able to select the more appropriate zones in their fields to irrigate. For example, thanks to massive data management, farmers will know with great accuracy which zone has high-risk of suffering a drought, thus prioritizing irrigation in those particular areas. In this way, sensors deployed through the field will be the base for implementing a variable rate irrigation system, economizing energy and water.

There are no doubts that future farmers will be able to manipulate several machines in several fields at a time, being guided by satellite technologies. We are rapidly approaching a virtual future.

Agriculture will be one of the first industries to take advantage of Big Data towards an intelligent agriculture which is environmental friendly, more efficient and more profitable.

Read Leonardo’s “Meet the GES Delegate” profile, also found in this GES Medium Publication.