Article by Marco Brini , CEO of Enveve

Approaching Digital Agriculture, Precision Farming,… may be confusing to the point that even the definitions are heterogeneous.

Let’s have a look at this subject from the perspectives of some of the most prestigious Consulting Firms (according to @forbes rating by @Susan Adams).

1. @McKinsey & Company: PRECISION AGRICULTURE (@Clarisse Magnin)

McKinsey refers to it as “precision agriculture” and proposes a very good definition:

“Precision agriculture is a technology-enabled approach to farming management that observes, measures, and analyzes the needs of individual fields and crops. By allowing farmers to apply tailored care and manage water more effectively, it boosts production, improves economic efficiency, and minimizes waste and environmental impact. Its development is being shaped by two technological trends: big-data and advanced-analytics capabilities on the one hand, and robotics—aerial imagery, sensors, sophisticated local weather forecasts—on the other. According to 2014 estimates, the global market for agricultural robotics is expected to grow from its current $1 billion to $14–18 billion by 2020.”

2. @The Boston Consulting Group: PRECISION FARMING

The BCG booklet “Crop Farming 2030 – The Reinvention of the Sector” (authored @Lorenzo Corsini, @Kim Wagner, @Andreas Gocke, and @Torsten Kurth) takes off immediately at start describing a farm fully enabled by Digital Agriculture:

“Imagine a farmer who, rather than relying on his gut instincts, lets farm management software apply smart algorithms and a large pool of field data to make the daily decisions on how to work his fields. Instead of sitting on equipment outdoors, he and a handful of associates operate all the equipment for a farm covering thousands of hectares from a control room. GPS-guided autonomous drones constantly provide the data required for the algorithms, and other GPS-guided equipment works the fields with precision, sometimes even at the level of the individual plant. …. As a result, the farm needs less fertilizer, water, and crop protection than it did in the past.” and moving on “We expect the adoption of smart systems that integrate big data and analytics soft- ware, wireless connectivity, advanced equipment, and even molecular biology to increase dramatically through 2030.”

3. @Bain & Company

Bain & Company doesn’t have a specific definition for digital agriculture, neither specifically address the subject with the interesting exception of the following article appearing on Bain website:

“Can Agribusiness Reinvent Itself to Capture the Future?” (authored by @Satish Shankar, @François van Raemdonck and @Dalton Maine) mentioning the interesting case of:

” In India’s rural state of Maharashtra, a group of 400 farmers relies on smartphones and WhatsApp to participate in an online network that helps them connect with one another and with experts to learn ways to become more effective. They use their smartphones to reach customers, to discover new markets for their goods and to share realtime information about such matters as pricing and pesticide effectiveness. These Indian farmers are ahead of the curve. The fact is, many agribusinesses lag when it comes to using technology in their internal processes and systems, particularly across diverse, dispersed and remote operations…..

…We see three key ways that companies can use technology to enhance their business. They can interact digitally with stakeholders, providing an online platform where farmers, suppliers and customers can digitally connect. They can create a “smart view” of the entire value chain to help them reduce waste and optimize product flow. Finally, they can invest in Big Data and analytics to capture the full potential from their operations—be it in precision agriculture, trading strategies or consumer preferences.”

4. @Deloitte Consulting: IoT (Internet of Things) Agriculture

A very interesting report from Deloitte is entitled “From dirt to data: The second green revolution and the Internet of Things” (authored by @Will Sarni, @Joe Mariani, @Junko Kaji). It considers IoT (Internet of Things) as one of the main protagonists of the coming big change in Agriculture.

“… use of data to inform more efficient and effective farming practices and drive associated environmental and social benefits. Technologies such as advanced sensors and monitoring equipment can now allow farmers to monitor crops more precisely and continuously than in the past. The data collected by these technologies can enable farmers to make more effective and strategic decisions that increase productivity with reduced impacts on the environment. From manipulating the growing environment to produce low-potassium lettuce to attaching sensors to cows to identify potentially sick animals, there is little question that the second green revolution holds the potential for remarkable results. To manage all this, IoT technologies will likely take center stage on the farm of the future.”

“… the IoT should consider going beyond simply improving existing agricultural processes; it must introduce innovation that breaks traditional trade-offs. The good news is that this seems feasible: It is estimated that, with new techniques, the IoT has the potential to increase agricultural productivity by 70 percent by 2050”

In addition Deloitte Australia publishes online the ” The Agribusiness Bulletin” where interesting articles are available.

Farm of the Future (authored by @Dan Kierath)

“The four components, production, monitoring, synthesis and decision support, are all fundamental requirements of the farm of the future. And much like a barrel’s ability to hold water is limited by the shortest stave, so is the farm’s productivity restricted by the weakest framework component. Without monitoring information your actions your decisions do not improve, if you cannot store your information you cannot use it to make better decisions and precision equipment needs decision support to convert the information to actions that results in increased relative productivity.”

Another interesting article is “Cross-industry innovations for agriculture”

“Big data analytics can reveal insight and strategy from examining large, dynamic data sets to uncover patterns, correlations and trends. From early applications in financial services, healthcare and retail sectors it has grown to a US$125 billion global market in 2015. Catalysts: increasing ease of collecting data, productivity and efficiency gains in a competitive landscape, and automation. Barriers: high investment and infrastructure costs, knowledge gaps, collating a variety of public and private sources of data, and connectivity to the internet. Opportunities: improved efficiency of input use, increased yields, optimised pricing, purchasing, sales channels, and capital allocation decisions.”

5. @PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers): digital technology for agriculture

PwC has recently published an interesting study “Agricultural cooperatives and digital technology – What are the impacts? What are the challenges?” (authored by @Philippe David, @Baptiste Bannier, @Emerence Croguennec, @Ramy Sedra). Some excerpts:

“The agricultural industry recognises that digital technology is a key issue, offering significant value-creation opportunities”

“Precision agriculture’s promise to “consume less while producing the same, or even more” has won over all the cooperatives, which have developed different services to assist their members. Data- capture and site-specific management technologies are becoming more established and are developing rapidly. The main concern regards the ability to use the data to identify the best solution, given the open and complex environment, as well as the “long” data-production cycle.”

“Technologies have progressed significantly but the key issue for the majority of the cooperatives lies in their choice, implementation and effective use.”

“Data ownership laws and regulations are a source of concern but not a barrier to continued progress and the challenge for cooperatives is still to demonstrate the value added through data sharing so that it is accepted by everyone.”

5. @Accenture: Digital Agriculture

Accenture is quite pushy on Digital Agriculture having even a specific web area for it promoting its own solutions:

“To be successful, a farm must grow as much per acre as it can, reduce the risk of crop failure, minimize operating costs, and sell crops for the highest price possible. This requires, among other things, effectively managing input resources like fertilizer, water, and seed quality and minimizing the impact of unpredictable variables (such as the weather and pests). However, achieving that objective is far from easy. Conventional methods like physical crop inspection are time-consuming and can be inaccurate, while fixed and tractor-mounted sensors alone can’t provide a real-time picture of what’s happening in the field. Farmers face further challenges in translating this data into operational insights that can help them understand which actions to take, when and where.”

“The good news is that new digital technologies now make it possible to collect and leverage huge amounts of critical data at minimal costs—thus making a farm’s field operations more insight-driven, and potentially more productive and efficient”

6. @KPMG: Smart Agriculture

KPMG references to Precision Agriculture come from Australia.

KPMG definition of Internet of Things:

“The Internet of Things is about allowing objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration between the physical world and computer-based systems – or simply put, making ‘dumb’ things ‘smart’ by connecting them to the Internet. This results in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit.”

….and precision agriculture:

“This technology is driving the concept of ‘precision agriculture’. Precision agriculture is the use of technology aimed at improving growers’ decision-making through data analytics. It includes software, such as big data solutions and farm management tools, and hardware, such as sensors, drones and satellites.”

7. @IBM: Precision Agriculture is Artificial Intelligence

IBM is already preparing for the “after tomorrow” predicting agriculture will be flooded with data to be automatically transformed in information through….Artificial Intelligence.

Five ways agriculture could benefit from artificial intelligence

“Five ways agriculture could benefit from artificial intelligence” (authored by @Madalina Irimia)

“While the growing number of connected devices represents a big opportunity for food and agribusiness players, it also adds more complexity for farmers and organizations. Moreover, the explosion of unstructured data, like social media posts, imagery or video content drives the need to know more, to receive real time recommendations on close at hand devices, like smartphones or tablets. The solution? The use of cognitive technologies that help understand, learn, reason, interact and thus, increase efficiency.”