Commercial farmers are always looking for ways to reduce costs; to increase yield, efficiency and profitability – and technology is one of the greatest enablers.
Since the dawn of the agricultural revolution, farming has always been at the forefront of adopting new technology. What’s different today is that technology is developing at a rapid rate (more so than ever before). The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us, and farmers who fail to adapt are being left behind.
How can new technologies help farmers increase margins?
Like all business owners, farmers regularly have to make trade-off decisions. Technology can provide the data that helps them measure, control, and make the right decision to manage for specific outcomes.
In the past, innovations in farming tended to deal with only a part of the system (for example, a more fuel-efficient tractor); today, many innovations impact the system as a whole (for example, telematics technology that helps farmers with more cost-effective fleet management).
The key feature of many new technologies is their connectivity via the Internet of Things (IoT). As everything becomes connected, the farm collects more data that can assist farmers with better decision making and optimisation.
The types of new technology that farmers should be considering:
Because of devices like tablets and smartphones, farming technology is becoming cheaper and more accessible, enabling better analysis and decision-making at a low cost. Mobile technology also allows for faster and more efficient communication among farmers and farmworkers.
There’s more to automation than robotic, driverless tractors – automation technology enables farmers to collect and leverage data in real time while going about daily operations on the farm. For example, it’s not feasible for a farmer to check a planter multiple times and make minor adjustments to ensure optimal performance, but automation technology can do this.
Relatively cheap sensors can now be placed in anything from seed bags to fridges. These sensors provide information on which farmers can take action and make decisions.
The implementation of smart technology also allows for accurate variable testing. A farmer can vary an input or treatment and measure the impact on yield or cost, enabling them to refine processes, then implement repeatability.
Telematics is a technology that captures data from farm equipment and transfers this data to the internet in real time, allowing farmers to collect and manage information from their equipment remotely.
Telematics works like a mobile phone attached to the machine. The technology collects information from the equipment and sends it to the ‘cloud’ using a cellular link. Once the data is in the ‘cloud’, it interacts with other machines or can be analysed by computers or humans to speed up actions and decisions. When an action has been determined, the message will be sent to the machine to act upon it.
By automating decisions or actions at a distance, telematics enables precision farming solutions. For example, “smart” machinery would be able to analyse the soil characteristics and apply seeds or fertiliser based on specific conditions.
Controlling machine systems electronically allows farmers to use larger machines that cover more ground in a day. This saves fuel and time, improving the farmer’s return on investment.
Data and Analytics
It is the analysis of collected data that truly helps farmers make the most of technological advancement. Data analytic capabilities are getting more advanced every day, and many people believe that it’s analytics that will secure the world’s future food supply. For the farmer, decisions based on accurate data means that they are able to do more with less, improving efficiency and profitability.
Of course, most farmers don’t have the time or experience to analyse the plethora of data which can be generated, which is why a growing number of service providers offer services that analyse, sort and optimise this information.
Connect with the best in the bundu
Smart technology needs fast, reliable internet, which is not always easy to come by in remote farming areas. Bundu NetworX supplies internet connectivity to outlying and hard to reach parts of KwaZulu-Natal. Get in touch for a free quote: https://bundunetworx.co.za/support/.