Digital innovation in agriculture, farming, and horticulture: What is digital innovation in agriculture?: Digital technologies are used to improve agricultural outcomes and some examples are data science, digital communication channels, and automation and sensors. Digital farming provides insights to farmers so that they can make decisions that will improve productivity. The farmer receives the data, but in the end, it is still up to them to decide how to use it to best fit their farm. An important advantage is that the data can be shared with other experts in the agro-industry, including agronomists, veterinarians, and other farmworkers, who form an integrated and strong collaboration. Digital agriculture has the power to change the lives of small farmers around the world. Digital solutions can help farmers access the best information, adopt the most efficient farming methods, improve the quality of their products, and connect with the right buyers to maximize their income.
Agricultural technology is also called agritech, it encompasses the application of advanced technologies in conjunction with the Internet to restructure the agricultural process globally. Digital Agriculture is an ICT (information and communication technologies) and data ecosystem that provides safe, nutritious, and affordable food for all, as well as timely, targeted information and services, to make farming profitable and sustainable. Helps develop and deliver.
It is the use of new and advanced technologies, which integrate into a system that enables farmers and other stakeholders to improve food production within the agricultural value chain through these technological advances, farmers can improve their yields while conserving resources, quickly identifying areas of their fields that need attention, collecting data and classifying them. The agricultural sector has a long history of inventing and adopting new technologies to increase productivity, address risks and improve environmental, social, and economic stability. The use of digital technologies and related innovations provide new opportunities but also new challenges.
Historically, there have been several revolutions in agriculture that have brought efficiency, productivity, and profitability to a previously unattainable level. Digitization will change every part of the agri-food chain. Resource management throughout the system can be extremely efficient, individual, intelligent, and predictable. It will work in a real-time hyperconnected way, which will run through data. Value chains will be identifiable and integrated at a highly detailed level while different farms, crops, and animals can be properly organized according to their own best recipes.
Digital agriculture will create systems that are highly productive, predictable, and adaptable to changes due to climate change. This, in turn, can lead to greater food security, profitability, and sustainability. Access to digital technology by providing links to suppliers and information to smallholder farmers and other rural businesses and providing consumers with access to and leverage of manpower services, strategic partnerships, support services such as training, finance, and legal services. However, it can provide significant benefits to reaching markets and customers.
A guide to digital innovation in agriculture, farming, and horticulture
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Improved farming practices will strengthen the production of safe and sustainable food, ensuring that there is enough food to feed the growing global population. Increasing access to digital farming solutions in emerging markets will allow locally sustainable and efficient food production locally, and the distribution of digital solutions will ensure that the negative externalities of farming around the world are minimized, including environmental degradation.
Key technologies in digital agriculture
Agriculture is the backbone of many developing economies, providing food security and providing income and livelihood to the world’s small farming families, numbering about 500 million. As the population grows and the appetite for diverse food increases, the demand for food in these developing economies will continue to increase. Nevertheless, small farmers face some problems that severely limit their agricultural productivity and income potential, including limited information on proper farming practices, poor access to credit and inputs. Early logistics and transportation services, and inadequate planning and risk management. In the coming decades, small farmers will also face the detrimental effects of rising global temperatures, including small-scale production and the widespread of crop and livestock diseases and pests.
Digital agriculture can help small farmers meet these challenges, increase their productivity and integrate into food value chains and adopt climate-wise smart practices. For example, the emergence of an integrated dataset that combines satellite imagery and weather and soil data is a significant development. Service providers and development partners can take advantage of these datasets to provide farmers with more affordable credit and insurance, better early warning of crop failure, and improved farm management.
Today, digital agricultural solutions run through simple advisory services that maximize planting time or send text messages about impending pest threats to complex, integrated platforms that enable farmers to manage their supply chain or help to access financial services. These solutions typically consist of elements of a digital stack of data and content like agricultural guidance) an integration layer, an analytics layer, and a user-facing layer that includes apps and tools. Their support is useful as solid digital infrastructure, appropriate government regulations and policy, healthy and fully functioning agricultural markets, and substantial human capital.
Digital agriculture involves different technologies, and most of these technologies have multiple applications. Then, these technologies include, but are not limited to;
- Cloud computing or big data analysis tools.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Machine Learning
- Distributed ledger technologies that include blockchain and smart contracts
- Internet of Things
- Farms, such as e-commerce platforms, agro advisory apps, or e-extension websites
- Precision agriculture technologies, including
- Sensors that include food sensors and soil sensors
- Guidance and tracking systems enabled by GPS, GNSS, RFID, and IoT
- Variable Rate Input Technologies
- Automated Section Control
- Advanced Imaging Technologies include satellite and drone imaging, temperature gradient, moisture gradient, and field.
- Automated machinery and agricultural robot
Why is digital agriculture important?
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Digital technologies are the portability, ubiquity, and mobility transforming agriculture production. The proliferation of mobile technologies, remote sensing services, and distributed computing are already improving smallholder information, input, and access to markets, increasing production and productivity, supply Smoothing China, and reducing operational costs. However, there are some challenges in overcoming the ‘digitization’ of agriculture and the food value chain. Issues such as cybersecurity and data protection, labor transition and re-education, and the risk of creating digital divisions between people with different abilities to adapt economies, sectors, or new technologies. To help governments and partners eliminate such multidisciplinary digital distribution to ensure that everyone benefits from an emerging digital society committed to the FAO.
Where is the growing trend towards digital farming?
Digital farming is widespread in most countries around the world, where technology is prevalent. The same technologies are used globally, including sensors, communication networks, aerial vehicles, robotic machinery, and other AI technologies.
The amazing thing about digital farming is that it is useful regardless of the size of the farm. The benefits are seen on a small farm level by large-scale agricultural leaders. It is used not only on farms but also in agricultural research laboratories and universities with an agricultural focus. Small-scale farmers love digital farming to help them decide how to best increase cow’s milk production, produce healthy calves, or improve crop yields. The reasons why more farmers are embracing digital farming are that they can move on.
Why is the adoption of digital agriculture gaining popularity?
Digital farming technology is gaining popularity in the industry as it is helpful. Popular programs include;
- Feed management software
- Dairy record software
- Milk meter
- Pedometer for animals
- Rumination collars for cud-chewing
- These programs come together to provide farmers with insights that have never been possible before. The result is better results for animals and farms.
Benefits of digital innovation in agriculture
The greatest benefits for farmers include;
- Increases the productivity of agriculture.
- Prevents soil degradation.
- Reduces chemical use in crop production.
- Efficient use of water resources.
- Disseminates innovative farm methods to improve the quality, quantity, and lower production costs.
- Changes the socio-economic status of farmers.
- Improved management and decision-making processes.
- Improved efficiency through more targeted applications.
- Increased productivity and profitability.
- Improved marketing.
- Real-time information
- Advancements in record keeping
- Management of risks and uncertainties
- A reduction in regulatory burden
For example, digital farming improves productivity and information by combining paper forms and paper data. It is replaced by a mobile form and a database that stores form information. Data collected in the field can be immediately sent to a central office or users, which improves communication accuracy.
Eliminate the risks and uncertainties by giving farmers access to big data to manage their crops by adopting digital technologies. Farmers may also have access to modern methods of overcoming crop and livestock management problems, so they are not alone in making decisions. Improved performance at the industry level has improved due to better performance, supply chain optimization, and better industry decision-making. Digital farming also offers a way to improve quality control and assurance, and it spreads throughout the rural community.
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Challenges for digital innovation in agriculture
High capital cost: It discourages farmers from adopting digital farming methods.
Small lands: Indian farms are very small in size and 1–2-acre farm plots are the most common. Also, leasing agricultural land under various arrangements is widely practiced in India.
Rental and distribution methods: Due to limited financial resources and small farm plots, renting and sharing platforms instead of directly purchasing equipment and machinery such as tractors, harvesters, etc.
Illiteracy in rural areas: Lack of basic computer literacy is an obstacle to the rapid development of e-agriculture.
Conditions for digital transformation in agriculture
Several terms will shape the digital transformation of agriculture from different perspectives;
- Some basic conditions are the minimum requirements for the use of technology that includes availability, connectivity, affordability, and supporting policies and programs for digital strategies (e-Government);
- And, enabling conditions (‘enablers’) are factors that facilitate the technology adoption: use of the internet, mobile phones, digital skills, and support for agricultural and innovative culture (talent development, sprint programs including hackathon, incubator, and accelerator programs).
What can governments do to reap the benefits of digital technologies for the agricultural sector?
Three key questions highlight the steps that governments need to take to ensure the opportunities offered by digital technologies;
- Firstly, government policies to adapt digital technologies through the agriculture sectors. Policymakers will need to consider the potential benefits, costs and understand some important factors affecting the use of technology to target interventions where there is market failure or public interest.
- How can governments use digital technologies to deliver better agricultural policies? This requires understanding how technology can contribute to the various components of the policy cycle, and to enable government agencies to hone their skills, invest in technology and training, or other actors (both government and non-government).
- How can digital technologies change the role of government? On the one hand, digital technologies can create new roles or responsibilities for governments, including activating digital infrastructure (is it a matter for governments to be providers or regulators of new digital infrastructure, and under what circumstances); But on the other hand, if technology can reduce information compatibility and transaction costs, less government intervention may be needed.
- For policymakers, the challenge is to create policy and regulatory settings to facilitate the opportunities presented by digital technologies.
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Effects of adopting digital innovation in agriculture
The FAO estimates that the world will need to produce 56% more food by 2050 to feed more than 9 billion people. Furthermore, the world faces conflicting challenges such as malnutrition, climate change, food wastage, and dietary change. To create a “sustainable food future”, the world must increase food production by reducing GHG emissions and maintaining (or reducing) land used in agriculture.
Efficiency – Digital technology transforms economic activity by reducing the cost of copying, transporting, tracking, verifying, and locating data. It will improve efficiency throughout the agricultural value chain.
On the farm, precision farming technologies can minimize the input required for a given product. For example, Variable Rate Application (VRA) technologies can apply the right amount of water, fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide, etc. Numerous experimental studies have shown that VRA improves input utilization efficiency.
Off-farm / market efficiency
Technologies used in digital agriculture can make agricultural markets more efficient. Mobile phones, online ICTs, e-commerce platforms, digital payment systems, and other digital agricultural technologies can reduce market failures and reduce transaction costs throughout the value chain.
Reducing information asymmetry – Price information affects the performance of competitive markets as it affects price dissemination, arbitrage, and the well-being of farmers and consumers.
Buyer-seller matching – E-commerce matching reduces the cost of finding buyers and sellers, potentially shortening the value chain. Instead of going through dozens of intermediaries, farmers can sell directly to consumers. Also, market access services can solve matching issues without necessarily hosting online transactions.
Reducing transaction costs in commercial markets – Digital payments – whether integrated into e-commerce platforms or mobile money accounts, e-wallets, etc., reduces transaction costs in agricultural markets.
Reducing the transaction costs in government services – Digital payments can facilitate government provision of agricultural subsidies.
Equity – Digital agriculture demonstrates its commitment to creating a more equitable agri-food value chain.
Policies and programs to enable digital agriculture
Government policies in agriculture are one of the driving forces behind digitalization. These create a viable environment for competitive digital markets and e-services. Designing a digital program needs a high level of management ability. Developing countries are often the ones that have the least capacity to organize this process. In many countries, the agricultural sector is a major employer in rural areas – lags. There is a lack of published research on government digitization policies that can be gauged from the extent to which governments provide e-services and their policies on connectivity and data.
The use of digital technologies will create the need for policies and regulations regarding the data that will be developed. Lack of standardization in format and data ownership can make a difference, especially in a scenario where large international companies are pursuing digital agriculture for agribusiness while smallholders and local farmers are simultaneously rural. And using technologies to address social challenges in the farming sector.
Digital technologies include the Internet, data analytics, mobile technologies, artificial intelligence, digitally provided services, and apps that are transforming agriculture and food systems. Farm machinery automation allows inputs to be fixed and reduces the demand for manual labor. Digital logistics services provide the ability to streamline the agri-food supply chain.
Different ways in which a farm can be digitalized
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Digital farming provides farmers with timely access to valuable insights so that they can adopt best practices and manage their fields more efficiently, thus minimizing losses and maximizing profits. Agricultural technology offers various solutions for adopting digital farming. Digital agriculture technologies include IoT sensors, drones, and computer imaging. The location of physical devices on farms monitors and records data that is used to gain insights. Due to advances in satellite imagery, machine learning, and data storage in the cloud, predictive analytics software has become quite flexible as it is highly scalable and easy to use.
The technologies used in digital agriculture include sensors, communication networks, Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, and other advanced machinery and are based on the principles of the Internet of Things. Each of them brings valuable information for farming, from data collection to management and processing, as well as guidance and direction. This integrated system offers new insights that enhance the ability to make decisions and then implement them.
Digital agriculture brings significant benefits to farmers and wider social benefits worldwide. It enables organizations to share information within traditional industry boundaries to open up new opportunities.
Some example applications;
Software as a service (SaaS) – SaaS is a more economical and scalable way to upgrade to digital farming. Some agritech companies use machine learning and satellite monitoring for forecast analysis and actionable insights directly on farmers’ screens. SaaS is rapidly gaining popularity among businesses as they can evaluate and manage their aggregate farm operations with a single software and it is a low-risk investment with monthly and annual subscriptions.
IoT and Sensors in Equipment – Sensors are being installed on agricultural equipment to track machine health and more, like technology within the IoT and sensor field in equipment. By using precision agriculture, tractors and farming implements are being developed with navigation systems and also different variety of sensors. Some of these sensors are built using GPS with the ability to compensate for uneven terrain. Some are designed for production mapping and crop documentation, just from the applicable taxi. While other people are monitoring when the tractors need to be serviced. Together, these sensors are reducing the amount of experience of downtime machines.
Drones and crop monitoring – When you are working in your garden, you can usually see all your plants at once, but farmers work in fields that are spread over hundreds of acres, which means That they have managed to get a bird’s eye view from the plane. Imagine a return on investment if farmers can imagine their crops using air resources. Drones are being used extensively to monitor crops in response to drought and other adverse environmental factors. Drones that produce 3D imaging can be used to analyze ground quality and plan seed planting patterns. Drones are also being used to spray chemicals on crops while taking care not to enter groundwater. Recent studies have shown that drones can increase spray speeds up to five times faster than other types of machinery.
Farming and robotics – Just like the use of robots and artificial intelligence in other industries, robotics in agriculture will improve productivity and result in higher and faster yields. Robots such as Spray and Wedding Robot can reduce the use of agrochemicals by an incredible 90%. Other startup robotics companies are experimenting with laser and camera guides to identify and remove herbs without human intervention. Other companies are building plant transplanting robots that add a new level of efficiency to traditional methods.
Use of digital technologies among farmers and rural populations
Literacy and the availability of digital skills and technologies all influence the use of digital innovations. However, the most important component to open up the possibilities of using digital technologies is access to the internet. Although almost half of the world’s population now uses the Internet, it is disproportionate in developed countries. Education and income levels strongly determine how (and if) people use the Internet. People with higher education use more advanced services, such as e-commerce and online financial and government services.
In rural areas, where education and literacy rates are generally low, mobile phones are mainly used for communication and social media. Low smartphone ownership in rural areas, high internet costs, and limited network coverage also pose challenges for the use of mobile farming applications and to facilitate agricultural support and information flow among farmers to limit the use of social networks. Such availability of information can help farmers make better farming decisions that can help increase productivity, reduce environmental impact and improve livelihoods.
What is the impact of digitalization in the agriculture sector?
Increased productivity – By using farm automation tools and data management solutions that empower them to increase agricultural productivity. Technological innovations adoption has made a clear shift from more traditional and time-consuming operations to more modern and cost-effective operations. Furthermore, management can benefit from the use of digital agriculture to align its organizational strategies with sustainable development goals by ensuring a more sustainable and flexible agricultural food system globally.
Increasing farmers’ livelihoods – Digital farming plays an important role in understanding crop science and improving agricultural practices to achieve better yields. Expandable and low-cost solutions also facilitate the delivery of a trial and tested package of practice to help large and medium-sized enterprises reach farmers, especially in developing regions, to adopt more scientific methods of farming. Providing the use of agricultural technology improves crop yields and helps reduce losses due to crop pressures such as pests, diseases, and unpredictable weather conditions. As a result, farmers can reap better returns at the end of each season. ICT solutions enable producers to meet the standards set by international certification bodies, making it more likely for farmers.
Better market linkage – Digital solutions support the virtual integration of multiple stakeholders, giving producers direct access to agricultural inputs, and commodity merchants. This, in particular, helps smallholder farmers overcome some of their challenges, including inadequate intelligence on current commodity prices and other important market information, failure to negotiate payments, and the market. This includes a lack of access to alternative buyers.
Informed of decision making – Another notable advantage of adopting a digital farming system is that it provides consumers with almost real data. A combination of form and satellite imaging-based intelligence provides workable insights on productivity based on a wide array of growing conditions, thus allowing producers to better plan farm operations and resources more efficiently allows management. Furthermore, the intelligence gathered at various locations along the supply chain enables producers to understand the needs of the market and move crop production accordingly. Both private and public institutions can leverage these insights to reduce risks, improve crop management, and ensure minimal crop damage and food wastage.
Effective policymaking and implementation – The rapid increase in mobile and internet access in developing countries has put millions of farmers on the radar of policymakers. Digital innovations allow government agencies to create a centralized database, providing details of farmers in each state or country. Seasonal data on crop production and plot performance also empower lenders and insurers to identify potential risks, formulate effective policies and ensure their prompt and full implementation. Submitting their details to the farmers will also ensure that they get timely updates on the schemes related to agriculture that are most relevant to them, to assist in their development.
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