How to Stay on the Top in AgriTech Business

In 2021, agriculture tech companies have been riding a wave. By 2022, the smart agriculture market value is estimated to hit the  $23 billion benchmark. The aftermath of climate change and the growing alimentary needs of a booming population prove that integrating advanced technology in agriculture is not just an opportunity but a necessity.

new technology in agriculture

In this post, we will take a look at the trends that will dominate the market by the next decade and review how technology is used in agriculture to empower next-generation farms and livestock ranches.

Agriculture Industry Landscape: Challenges and Statistics

At the moment, the state of the industry is torn between two equally powerful forces — technical disruption on the one end of the spectrum and climate change on the other. While the former supplies the field with innovative practice, giving business owners and governments hope for steady growth, the latter is the cause of growing concern among researchers and activists.

To have a clear understanding of the state of agriculture, let’s zoom into market statistics and the challenges farming communities all over the world are facing.

State of Agriculture: Statistics

  • Agriculture is a powerful tool for eradicating poverty for over 65% of low-income adults. In developing countries, agriculture is a key value driver, responsible for over 25% of GDP.
  • Agriculture is a major pollution driver — it accounts for 70% of global water use.
  • In the US, one farm can feed 166 people.
  • To accommodate the alimentary needs of the global population by 2050, farmers will have to harvest 70% more crops than they do at the moment.

Smart Agriculture Development Trends

Smart agriculture is at the core of resolving the challenges brought by unprecedented population growth and climate change. By harnessing the power of innovative technologies, farm managers will be able to reduce waste, improve the productivity of each worker, and forecast natural threats.

In an insight-driven environment, farmers are finally ready to take charge of weather forecasting and trend-watching. The sprouting growth of data capturing and monitoring systems gives agriculture professionals access to terabytes of relevant data.

However, the key challenge is in processing and drawing conclusions based on on-site information. In this post, we will take a look at technologies that help farmers get a big-picture view of their activities, detect growth, as well as cost reduction opportunities, and prevent threats.

1. Crop-efficiency tech

Industry leaders and startups are aiming at increasing the effective yield of each plot. To that end, they integrate drones, big data, and robotics into farming workflows.

Here’s a rundown of powerful technological innovation aimed at improving crop efficiency:

  • Productivity zoning. Farmers can discover high-yielding areas of land by investing in productivity zoning agritech software. Through drone-based observation and the analysis of historical performance data for different areas, these platforms map out productive areas. Considering monitoring insight allows farmers to both prioritize high-performance plots and treat low-yielding areas to improve their efficiency.
  • Crop growth tracking. Through satellite monitoring, farmers can keep track of crop growth, detect threats in real-time, and make precise estimates based on large data sets. If farmers track the growth progress for various plant types, they will be able to develop custom nurturing strategies for different crops and maximize resource usage over time.
  • Preventing weather damage. The impact of climate change on agriculture is staggering: the increase of soil erosion reduced quality of harvested crops, and the inability to cultivate a wide array of crop types. Through preventive monitoring, farmers can reduce the scale of consequences brought forth by the environmental crisis. AI-driven forecast tools support agriculture site managers in predicting and preventing cold and heat stress for up to two weeks in advance.

2. Big data and precision farming

Precision farming allowed farmers to shift to the “grow more, use less” mentality. It relies on big data and analytics to maximize crop yield while reducing operating costs (namely, improving land efficiency, optimizing water and fertilizer usage, and streamlining the productivity of farmworkers).

Here are the most promising applications of precision farming:

  • Optimizing irrigation. Through precision architecture technologies like telemetry, farmers can reduce water usage and prevent yield reduction in the face of drought threats. Other than saving water, irrigation systems help improve transportation efficiency, reduce vehicle wear and tear, and optimize fuel usage.
  • Sensor-based data collection. Remote sensing is a key enabler of precision farming since it allows a continuous flow of temperature, soil conditions, and weather data. A growing number of households rely on sensing for irrigation scheduling and crop health monitoring.
  • Variable-rate seeding is a precision farming method that uses a varying number of seeds to determine different locations’ performance and assess soil composition and moisture levels. This approach allows farmers to maximize yield by using fewer seeds. Also, variable-rate seeding encourages farmers to zoom in on other factors affecting crop growth — climate, use of fertilizers, soil nature and broaden the range of factors site managers take into account when mapping out processes.

3. Vertical farming

Vertical farming is an agriculture management system designed to facilitate production by setting up sites in vertical structures (e.g. buildings). Vertical farming facilities can be created inside warehouses or greenhouses.

Unlike horizontal farms, vertical plots are fully controlled and subject to environmental threats to a lesser extent since they are regulated by technology in real-time.

Here is the most promising new technology in agriculture that support this nascent form of farming:

  • Hydroponics — a soil-free way to grow crops. Instead of using traditional plots, vertical farmers can plant crops in nutrient-rich solutions. These soil substitutes are under constant recirculation and 24/7 monitoring, supplying plants with steady nutrition.
  • Lokal — a setup that helps grow crops without using soil, water, or air. Instead, plants are brought up inside an isolated, LED-lit warehouse. The yield of lokals compared to traditional farming sites is impressive — statistically, crops grew 3 times faster inside these fully enabled structures.
  • Plantscrapers, houses that supply tenants with food, are another creative application of vertical farming. Founded by Plantagon, an Agritech company based in Sweden, it has a high estimated yield. Researchers and government officials project that, in the future, a plantscraper will be able to sustain 5,000 inhabitants.

Vertical farms are sustainable thanks to a robust set of agritech software tools that process, manage and visualize sensor data, ensure fine-tuned climate control, and support a flexible digital lighting system. Typically, vertical farms are supported by microservice web apps or software products that combine an intuitive interface with the use of innovative technologies (AI, machine learning, predictive analytics).

Convergence with technology is among the key benefits of vertical farming compared to traditional agriculture since it improves flexibility, facilitates risk forecasting, and gives farm managers real-time insight into the growth rate of crops.

4. Autonomy and robotics

By 2023, the market value for AgriTech robotics is estimated to exceed $10 billion. While the autonomy of these devices is limited, the rape of adoption is steadily increasing — in 2019, agrobots supported over 60 global projects.

The range of robotics applications in all-scale farming is impressive — here’s how markets can harness the power of their autonomy:

  • Cost-reduction through reduced downtime and early detection of crop loss threats.
  • Fighting talent shortage — agrobots can handle basic tasks like soil preparation or cereal crop harvesting.
  • Replacing conventional machinery — robots are lighter and more resource-efficient than conventional farming equipment.

The road to agrobot adoption is, while promising, not straightforward. The security of digital data and compliance with laws and regulations imposed by central governments are just a few among the technological challenges the developers of both the hardware and software associated with robots need to tackle.

5. Connected farms

Fragmentation and no universal source of data contribute to the operational inefficiency of agriculture. The lack of technical infrastructure on smaller farms (typically run by families) creates a huge hurdle for implementing innovation.

However, united by the growing need for high-quality crops, farmers are ready to take a joined approach to agriculture management. Forming alliances and building a unified value chain will help smaller farmers achieve synergy, with the total value greater than the sum of its components.

Here are the technologies fueling connected farms:

  • Cloud-based E2E farming solutions supported by Telcos. Telecommunication providers understand the potential of deploying smart agriculture on a larger scale (it’s estimated to bring over $13 billion in revenue). That’s why a growing number of service providers invest in assisting farmers in data migration and deploying large-scale systems for agriculture management.
  • IoT platforms. With the sensor, telecom, and data server providers united to build a large-scale smart farming infrastructure, farmers will be able to leverage the benefits of the Internet of Things. IoT platforms will support crop and livestock managers with the full value chain (the path of the end product from the farmer to the consumer) view, and automated farm checks.

Building Agriculture Innovation: How to Scale Development

Committing to innovation implementation in agriculture is technically complex. Building an infrastructure for location scouting, crop monitoring, and other processes is resource-demanding.

Specifically, development team leaders based in top tech hubs will have to deal with talent shortages. The demand for AI and data science engineers is skyrocketing — on the other hand, education programs struggle to keep up and supply the market with skilled talent.

That’s why available developers are quickly onboarded into large-scale agriculture tech companies and Silicon Valley startups, leaving smaller-scale players empty-handed.

How can tech team leaders find affordable and skilled talent to build innovative agriculture products? For most, the answer is by opening an agritech app development facility abroad. Here’s how expanding the team overseas will help tech teams gain a competitive edge:

  • Cost reduction. AI engineers and data scientists in the US and EU are high-paid (a data scientist in the US makes $120k a year, in EU countries like Germany — $62k). On the other hand, the average salary of a Ukrainian data scientist is $26,000/yr. Thus, by hiring tech talent abroad, business owners will drastically reduce operating costs.
  • Wider talent pool. Opening an R&D center or hiring a dedicated team in countries with a lower employer density is a way to bypass talent shortage. As a result, hiring talent abroad will reduce talent search time and propel tech teams to build projects faster.
  • Access to innovation. Building an offshore development team gives business owners access to a set of tools, ideas, and practices local developers are not exposed to. As a rule of thumb, combining the experience of main-office programmers with a fresh perspective of overseas engineers culminates in higher product quality.
  • Assistance from the R&D vendor. Most companies hire an employer-of-record entity when opening offices abroad. These are the teams of skilled experts in hiring, office management, benefits administration, and tax support. By sharing legal responsibilities with vendors, business owners reduce the amount of stress associated with running a cross-office team.

Conclusion

Modern-day agriculture is standing at the crossroads of environmental threats and tech-fueled growth opportunities. The resilience of the industry and its ability to withstand climate pressure fully depends on the speed and scale of agriculture technology implementation. At the moment, there is a wide array of innovative technologies farmers can leverage — from precision agriculture to vertical farming.

If you want to build a team that’ll steer the development of an innovative agriculture product, reach out to Newxel. Our experts will quickly assemble a skilled development team that will meet your agritech service needs and resonates with your ideas. To discuss your operational challenges and requests, leave us a message.

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