Are we on the brink of a new agricultural revolution spearheaded by digital technology? Not at all, because the digital revolution has already begun! Contrary to popular belief, the world of agriculture is actually an ‘early adopter’, appreciating the benefits that the IoT could bring. Such benefits include better efficiency, more money, higher yields, easier work and a more attractive industry. Furthermore, smart agriculture has a positive impact on the environment, reducing the need for inputs (fertiliser, phytosanitary products, energy and irrigation).
So, what are the trends to look out for in smart farming?
Digital solutions on every front
According to a recent study by Ipsos, the community is already well equipped with eFarming solutions, with each of the 233 farmers interviewed using an average of 4 digital tools or machines. And the list of agricultural innovations is already long: animal and plant health sensors, production management and GPS guidance solutions, automated tractors and farming machinery, drones and robots, decision-making aids, space weather news and satellite imagery — to name but a few. And the trend is set to continue with 65% of interviewees planning on investing in smart technology in the coming years.
Besides smart technology, the digital revolution can be seen in farmers’ habits: 70% of smart farmers have installed agricultural applications, and 16% have at least 5! This mobile trend has resulted in a marked increase in visitors to agricultural websites. For example, data collection and distribution servers (livestock farming) have seen traffic double this year, while forums, e-commerce sites and administrative websites have all seen traffic increase by 60%. Farmers are evidently keen to embrace new technology. However, given that 40% of them earn less than minimum wage, this is not always possible. In such circumstances, how can we push the transition towards sustainable smart farming?
Crowdfunding: a blossoming source
You have surely remarked how crowdfunding has revolutionised the traditional financial system. This alternative financing method involves raising funds without classic investors such as banks. Crowdfunding platforms are popping up all over the place, and their reach is huge…however agricultural projects are largely under-represented. It was with this in mind, and in response to consumers’ desire to get closer to producers, that the MiiMOSA platform was developed, quickly followed by several others (e.g. Hello Merci, Ecobol).
Concretely, MiiMosa works on the principle of reward-based crowdfunding. Project backers (farmers or small companies from the food industry) receive funding, and in exchange they reward donors with some form of incentive: a weekend on the farm, bottles of wine, hampers of fruit and veg…the platform allows farmers to promote their industry and forge long-term relations with new customers. Beyond simple fund raising, crowdfunding thus also strengthens the social bond between consumer and farmer. The next step? Action.
“Test and Learn”: FarmLabs to drive digital innovation
Arvalis, the applied agricultural research organisation, has joined forces with three other technical institutes (ITB, Idele and Terres Inovia) to develop a new concept: ‘Digifarms’. The main aim? To turn inventors’ ideas into reality. There are currently two digifarms, each uniting various agronomic production systems, which have become platforms for demonstrations and tests. Playgrounds for dynamic digital start-ups.
A series of projects has been running since 2016 to assess their new technology and innovations in real-life conditions. These experiments should help make management of future agricultural productions more precise: “The idea is to connect the long-term process of experimentation with the short-term process of digital technology,” explains Joël Merceron, director of the Livestock-farmers institute (Idele).
The number of experimental projects is continuously increasing e.g. Ferme 112 in East France, Invivo’s 1,000 digital farms and Agrial’s Agri’up. These projects are vital for showing the value to users and expanding adoption.
Lastly, the agriculture industry is proving to be perfect for digital applications which empower farmers to combine competitivity, environmental preservation and better working conditions, while also showing consumers the realities of the profession and the effort that goes into it.
GreenFlex is an active participant in this revolution and is dedicating itself to the sustainable digital transformation of the industry by organising the pioneering Agrickathon in partnership with Open AgriFood, The project aims to support young agronomists, developers and designers to conceive digital platforms that will define the farming of tomorrow.
These platforms were co-designed by more than 200 industry professionals and address their specific challenges such as consumer relations, new production methods and the adoption of digital technology. We backed 4 ambitious projects that will ensure the long-term durability of the food industry. We are hoping that they will be released shortly after the Agrickathon that will take place on 16/17 November.