The agricultural world is undergoing a major transformation. Since 2017, buyouts and mergers of agrochemical giants have changed the global face of agro-economy. The ownership and exploitation of data for precision farming is at the heart of these changes.
Precision agriculture is knocking on the door. Agricultural performance will be the key to feeding nine billion people worldwide by 2050. Big Agro Data has been in operation since 2000 in the phytosanitary industry. But not just there… through its subsidiaries, Monsanto* offers farmers a data processing service. Other startups have embarked on the Agricultural Data journey, including former Google employees. Artificial Intelligence is used to improve production, limit the consumption of water and pesticides, limit the risk to bad weather and make predictive analysis. In short, produce more, save natural resources and respect the environment.
Drones can monitor crops via aerial images. Agricultural machinery produces data. Robots are taking over the plots (weeding robot for example). Sensors provide local weather data, disease and pest monitoring, and a host of other data. Farmers now have collaborative solutions to cross their Data with external Data and share their results with other professionals. Decision support tools cover ten million hectares in Europe.
Data Agri, a French use charter
This new context has led professionals joining forces. In France, the FNSEA and JA syndicates have created Data Agri, the agricultural data usage charter. It was created to enhance and ensure the exploitation of agricultural data. With this, each collection and use of Data from a farm will be the subject of a contract: readability, storage of data, portability, right of control and withdrawal, confidentiality and anonymization of aggregated data… The respect for 13 principles of the Charter allows a farmer to obtain the Data Agri logo. Switzerland and Germany are also following this path.
This transformation will make it possible to modify certain practices considerably. Fertilizer treatments will be geolocated to allow a reduction of phytosanitary products. Decision support tools will help determine the ideal harvest time by “matching” weather data, agricultural market prices and farm characteristics.
The manufacturers of farm machinery have seen the light. Artificial Intelligence and mathematical modeling now form part of discussion topics and projects for the DKE Group, the manufacturer Kuhn, John Deere and the AGCO Group. Their objectives: to improve the performance of machines, their intelligence from an agronomic point of view, beyond that of comfort, safety and autonomy.
Towards a precision 4.0 agriculture
At the SEDIMA Congress**, agricultural machinists agreed on one point, Data will be a solution for the future of agriculture if its exploitation increases productivity. Data machines today are held by the manufacturers and used in Research and Development. The farmer owns data concerning agronomy and plots. Today the farmer is connected to their machine. Tomorrow, the different machines will have to talk to each other, as well as to the farmer and their partners concerning plot management. The farmer will be able to steer and plan the work, manage the equipment fleet, store the history of tasks and results, integrate the recommendations of the agronomic advisers and use the data from sensors. An extensive program in which new players involved in Big Data and Artificial Intelligence will play a role.
In Tunisia, Big Data is captured at national level. The Tunisian government, South Korea and the African Development Bank have signed a joint agreement to improve agricultural yields and monitor desertification. Three Korean drones will survey the Tunisian soil from August 1st, monitoring irrigation networks, soil quality, topography and crop yields. All of this data will be screened and processed. First objective: to increase agricultural production by 20%. This $1 million project includes a transfer of skills. The Tunisians will need the capability to collect and analyze the data. They will also have to pilot and maintain the drones.
The AgTech investments
These profound changes in the agricultural sector have led entrepreneurs and investors to invade the global AgTech market. Between 2012 and 2015, investments jumped by more than 80%. Artificial Intelligence is playing a vital role in this economy that will feed nearly 10 billion people while respecting the environment.
Artificial Intelligence makes it possible to set up decision-making processes for all players in the agricultural world. It also opens up new prospects for urban agriculture, implementing new complementary concepts such as vertical out-of-the-ground farms: Sky Greens in Singapore, Mirai in Japan, AeroFarms in Newark. Projects that do not interfere with the creation of micro-farms, which, with the support of new technologies, are very promising, and with a view to optimizing the exploitation of available agricultural land.
The best is yet to come…
*The American heavyweight of insecticides, fungicides and other herbicides, Monsanto, has just been bought by the German brand Bayer, drug specialist, for 51 billion Euros. In China, Chemchina has merged with Switzerland’s Syngenta. In the United States, Dow Chemical has merged with DuPont. The group is worth 150 billion dollars on the stock market. The goal: to become the number two in seeds and the number three in pesticides.
**Syndicat National des Entreprises de Services et de Distribution du Machinisme Agricole, d’Espace Verts et des Métiers Spécialisés
Terre-net: https://www.terre-net.fr/materiel-agricole/tracteur-quad/article/le-big-data-avenir-des-agroequipements-207-136866.html ; https://www.terre-net.fr/actualite-agricole/economie-social/article/definition-de-l-agriculture-4-0-202-138781.html ;