Smart Farming – Agriculture 4.0 - Part I
On the opportunities of new technology
The fourth industrial revolution is changing the game in the food and agriculture industry: With smart harvesters, self-driving tractors and sensors to provide information on soil conditions and crops, digital agriculture holds immense potential to tackle the global challenges of the coming decades. The challenge for farmers is that of creating an intelligent technology network and using it with a goal-oriented approach.
The deployment of key agricultural technology such as blockchain, drones and the Internet of Things leads to higher yields, lower costs and reduced environmental impact. These tools also enable farmers to cultivate innovative crops and improve their resistance to freak weather conditions and climate change. The use of smart technology will also place agribusiness in a better position to meet consumer expectations and to provide end customers with detailed information regarding each product.
Smart Farming - The Future of Agriculture
In agriculture, the networking of individual systems is known as Smart Farming. At the current stage of development, machines are capable of processing information independently and making autonomous decisions, while the farmer takes on a supervisory role, ready and able to take corrective measures at all times. “Smart farming will shape the future of agriculture and supersede conventional farming methods,” predicts Gerd Bovensiepen, Head of the Retail and Consumer Goods Division at PwC. “In the future, agricultural machinery will operate as mobile data centres, and sensor technology will deliver all the most important data in real time.”
Return on Investment
New technologies that enable digital transformation require substantial investment on the part of companies. To a large extent, traditional agriculture has grown to become a capital-intensive business which still has a considerable amount of optimisation potential to offer. Increased productivity through Smart Farming is imperative: Although the surface area remains unchanged and climate conditions are becoming increasingly demanding, more and more people have to be fed all over the planet - in the year 2050, the global population is expected to be nine billion.
“Precise information about farm land and climate data leads to a more mindful use of resources and higher product quality.”
Gerd Bovensiepen, Head of the Retail and Consumer Goods Division at PwC
Recognising and meeting consumer demand
Consumer purchasing patterns have also undergone a dramatic change in recent years. Today, consumers have online access to a wealth of information on any given product and how it is produced. They have high expectations for food in terms of sustainability and health and are willing to pay a higher price for it. This is particularly true for “quality eaters,” who place high importance on the quality of their diet. If a producer has exhaustive records of all work processes throughout the food chain, he will be in a position to guarantee superior quality control and provide fully traceable information on rearing, freshness, quality and sustainability to the end consumer. To name just two examples, this can be achieved by means of a digital product passport or apps, which the industry already use to some extent.
Opportunities for the future
Precision farming machinery makes food production more resource-efficient and streamlined, and is also of vital importance in meeting global challenges such as growing demand and climate change. The cost of both products and services can be lowered through automation and resource-efficiency. In addition to environmental and economic benefits, smart farming also enhances the quality of life for people working in the agriculture sector: As a good number of tasks can be controlled remotely, farmers will see a change for the better in their working hours.