Digital Technologies in Agriculture: adoption, value added and overview

Ivanov Igor
Feb 5, 2018 · 8 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Evolution of Digital Agriculture, Source: Accenture

The adoption of digital technologies in agriculture has been increasing at a rapid pace. In fact, the adoption of digital technologies in every industry has been increasing. The reason why this is such a prevalent trend is that digital technologies bring tremendous value for businesses and individuals. In the agricultural industry, there are many digital technologies that fall under the category of “precision agriculture”. Precision agriculture technologies are changing the way that farmers manage their crops and is being adopted at a growing rate.

Precision Agriculture Technology Adoption

Precision agriculture is a data driven methodology for managing and optimizing the production of crops. In recent years, agricultural producers have been adopting precision agriculture technologies for a handful of reasons. A recent study that was conducted at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which is focused on precision agriculture technology adoption, reflects this trend.

In this study, a survey was given to agricultural producers at various Nebraska Extension events throughout the year of 2015. Therefore, the survey participants are likely to be Nebraska based farmers. There was a total of 126 responses of farmers whose farms were an average of 1,247 acres of row crops out of a total average operation of 1,507 acres. The figure below shows the differents types of precision farming technologies and the rate at which they are adopted.

Image for post
Image for post
Precision agriculture technology usage, Source: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

From this figure we can see that:

  • The highest adoption was soil sampling (98%) and computer w/ internet (94%). Yes, you need computer with internet to use latest digital technologies in agriculture.

Overall, the adoption of precision agriculture technology is fairly high. Some of these technologies, like internet or tablets, are not necessarily used solely in precision agriculture, but they are the foundational technologies that allow for further adoption.

Another report, which was published by Goldman Sachs, highlights the significant increase in expected yields based on the technological improvements being introduced by precision agriculture. Their report estimates that these new technologies with allow for 70% higher yields on the existing agricultural land. This translates into a total addressable market of $240 billion by 2050. The below figure shows how different technologies will influence the global crop value in the US.

Image for post
Image for post

From this report, it is clear that these technologies will have a significant impact on the agricultural industry. The technology solutions that are offered and will be offered in the future increase the value of land by making it possible to produce significantly more crops per acre.

Image for post
Image for post

The above figure from the Roland Berger report reflects the estimated market for precision farming technologies. We can see that the US and European markets are the most attractive. Even though the estimation supports this statement, the developing world will also see some major growth in precision agriculture because of the current lower cost. This figure is another key indicator that the adoption of these solutions will only increase due to the value that they are bringing to farmers.

Potential Benefits And Value Added

Now that we can see that this technology is highly adopted and will continue to be adopted by farmers, we can explore some of the benefits that come with precision agriculture technology. The main value that precision agriculture technology brings includes:

  • Efficiency in use of resources like chemicals, fertilizers, water, fuel, etc.

These benefits add a tremendous amount of value to the production process, due to the increased yields that are a direct result of the integration of this technology. The added value can be determined by analyzing the estimated increase in yield, and in the same Goldman Sachs’ report, they calculated the added value in dollars based on each of the main forms of precision agriculture technology. The results are below.

  • Precision Fertilizer — $65 billion TAM (total addressable market) with $200 billion in added value based on an 18% yield increase.

Main Digital Technologies In Precision Farming

We briefly covered some of the different forms of technologies that are used in precision farming, but let’s look at the main technologies in detail.

Field Monitoring

Image for post
Image for post
NDVI — general indicator of crop health
  1. Crop Health Monitoring (mostly based on NDVI) — Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) is a method that is used to determine the health of crops through the analysis of drone and satellite imagery. It looks at various wavelengths of light, both visible and nonvisible, to make these calculations. This technology can allow you to assess the general health of your crops and detect crop variability.

Data Management

  1. Farm Management Software Platforms — Farm management software platforms are just what they sound like — platforms that help farmers manage their crop production. These platforms (i.e. Granular) integrate with the different hardware devices that are used in precision agriculture. The data from these devices are aggregated onto the central platform where they can be processed and analyzed to help farmers make better decisions on how to manage their operations.

Variable Rate Applications (VRA)

Variable rate application in precision agriculture focuses on the automated application of materials like herbicides, chemicals, and seeds to a landscape. These materials are applied in an automated fashion, which is based on data that is collected by sensors, maps, and GPS. This process involves different forms of precision agriculture technologies like multispectral and hyperspectral cameras, satellite imagery, and application machinery on tractors. VRA is one of the main features of precision agriculture, that allows to optimize use of chemicals, fertilizers and other resources.

Automation In Agro Machinery

  1. Farm Robots — Robots are used in many industries to automate different tasks. In farming, robots are used for a handful of reasons, but one big use is the automation of weed management. Blue River Technology and Ecorobotix are two companies that have developed robots that use cameras to identify weeds in real time and will make decisions on how they should deal with them.

The Future Of Farming

Image for post
Image for post

The future of farming is very bright. There are more and more precision agriculture technologies coming out every month. All of these solutions offer substantial value for farmers in their effort to optimize production, better manage their operations, and both save money and make money off bigger yields.

These technologies are being adopted by farmers at an accelerating pace. The Roland Berger and Goldman Sachs reports show how both the market size and the adoption are at all time highs, showing no signs of slowing down. From field monitoring technologies to variable rate application, the available precision agriculture technologies offer an end-to-end solution for today’s farmers.

Gamaya blog

Official Gamaya blog.

Ivanov Igor

Written by

multipotentialite aiming to make agriculture great again!

Gamaya blog

Official Gamaya blog. Gamaya is a Swiss-based company that develops environmental intelligence platform to address crop and region specific issues to increase efficiency and sustainability of farming businesses.

Ivanov Igor

Written by

multipotentialite aiming to make agriculture great again!

Gamaya blog

Official Gamaya blog. Gamaya is a Swiss-based company that develops environmental intelligence platform to address crop and region specific issues to increase efficiency and sustainability of farming businesses.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store