Data seems to make the world go round, with data driven solutions heralded as the solution of many of agriculture’s issues from green house gas emissions to selective breeding. So what is its role in agritech?
Numbers. They’re important. Pretty much everything now can be recorded and measured. This is vital in moving towards a more efficient and sustainable agricultural system. By creating baselines and understanding what level we are currently at we can then start moving towards reducing our consumption of resources such as fuel and fertilisers. Data can also be used to plot trends, predict issues, model solutions and influence making informed decisions.
How can agritech make use of this data demand? Agritech companies have already taken advantage of the need and abundance of data by developing techniques and products. These can be split into rough categories.
Someone’s got to be on the ground (or satellite) collecting all this data. Being able to provide a service to monitor and report back information on agricultural processes can be invaluable. This can be through automated robots such as our Barn4 member Antobot, satellites providing data to be used in mapping such as our member Mantle Labs, the Internet Of Things, sensors to detect weather patterns or anything else which is able to provide information from agricultural happenings.
One of the most important areas in which data is being used in agritech is precision agriculture. This involves using data to map fields, monitor crop growth, and make more informed decisions about planting and harvesting to become more 'precise'. By using sensors to collect data on factors such as soil characteristics like our Barn4 member PES Technologies , temperature, and nutrient levels, farmers can create detailed maps of their fields that show exactly where plants are growing well and where they are struggling. This allows them to target their fertiliser and water inputs more precisely, which can lead to significant cost savings and increases in crop yields.
Weather data is also an important area of focus in agritech. By collecting data on temperature, rainfall, and wind patterns, farmers can gain a better understanding of the weather conditions that are most favorable for different crops. This allows them to make more informed decisions about planting and harvesting, and can also help them to identify areas of the field that are more susceptible to damage from pests or extreme weather events.
Another key area of focus in agritech is sustainable farming practices. This involves using data to optimize various aspects of crop and livestock production, such as water usage, fertiliser inputs, and pest control, in ways that minimise environmental impact and improve overall sustainability. This not only leads to more efficient use of resources but also enhances the reputation and branding of the farm.
Data analytics and application
So you have all this data, what now? If you can supply data as well as ways of presenting, explaining and analysing it you may really be onto something. This is the next step of using data collected to provide another service, this can include using machine learning algorithms to predict the spread of pests, an app that tells you how much chlorophyll is in a leaf such as our Barn4 member Petiole Pro, measuring the nutrition of food such as our member Gardin, or a cloud based platform for innovative enterprise like our member Piatrika or any other service or product that takes data and adds value and nuance. Farm carbon calculators are an example that have been around for a while, giving a platform to farmers to input their own data and tell them the carbon outputs and areas to reduce them.
An area of agritech gaining momentum is the world of the data marketplace. This is the business of trading data, a second party buying and selling data to bypass the necessity of harvesting it yourself or have somewhere to monetise the data you have created. This gives farmers access to a huge catalogue of agricultural data in one location instead of relying on data produced by themselves. This could also create different streams of revenue for farmers or for agritech companies to take advantage of.
Issues in data
Of course data is important in making well informed decisions. However it isn’t the silver bullet for agriculture you may think. collecting and analysing data is only the first step. The real value comes from taking action on the insights that are generated, whether it's by making more informed decisions about planting and harvesting, optimising feed rations, or identifying early signs of disease. Data must be relevant and understandable to those it is provided to, just because we can measure something, will it help?
With the rise of data marketplaces we also need to ask who does data belong to? The farmer whose land it is collected on? The company that collects it? Or the marketplace which ultimately buys it? Care must be taken that farmers themselves share in the profit that their hard work and livelihood produce, and that agritech provides its primary function of benefiting the agricultural community.
In summary, data plays a crucial role in agritech, enabling farmers to make informed decisions, optimise farming practices, and improve crop yields. If applied correctly, data can be used to boost productivity while minimizing the environmental impact of agriculture. As technology continues to evolve, and data analytics become more sophisticated, it's likely that we will see even greater benefits from the use of data in agritech. We need to make sure agritech is conscious of what and who the data is produced for.
Whatever stage your agritech company is in, Barn4 can help expand it with access to trial grounds, glass houses and inhouse marketing and science experts. Contact us to set up a meeting.