Lately, the food system has found itself under considerable pressure. Amid a growing population, demand for nature recovery programs, and lack of resources, farmers worldwide have to mitigate crisis after crisis while providing high-quality produce.
The intensity made connectivity, sustainability, and resilience new must-have elements of modern farming, prompting agricultural enterprises to explore digital solutions capable of adopting their workflow and supply chains to those new needs.
In this article, we’ll explore top AgTech trends that define the future of sustainable farming and allow for the building of revolutionary connectivity for the agriculture industry.
Sustainable farming: definition and value
With the Fifth Industrial Revolution on the rise, sustainability became the industries’ answer to uncertainty and instability of the economic landscape. Instead of prioritizing profit and making the most out of present opportunities, sustainable businesses choose to be more future-oriented, embracing waste minimization, eco-friendly energy sources, preservation of biodiversity, and measures against water pollution.
Accordingly, sustainable farming is farming with tools for identifying and preventing negative ecological effects, while maintaining a stable and thriving food system.
Such measures are essential for complying with nature recovery requirements and laying the foundation for long-term, high-quality food production in a controlled, safe, and stabilized environment. The more conscious and future-proof perspective on resource management and crop-growing methods enables organizations practicing sustainable farming to ensure that by making more with less. Additionally, they contribute to building a healthier and more available food system that can be built upon and improved by the next generations of farmers.
Naturally, such an ambition requires tighter control on the state of crops, weather, harvesting window, and the health of cattle—which is why sustainable farming goes hand in hand with connected agriculture.
Connected agriculture: meaning and examples
Also known as smart agriculture or smart farming, connected agriculture is based on technological innovation for a better vision and understanding of processes affecting crop growth, cattle fertilization, soil fertility, and other matters necessary for a prospering agricultural enterprise.
Connected farming is the logical result of the rapid technological development and disruptive inventions that enabled numerous companies to accelerate their performance. It is also a fitting response to niche-specific issues, such as labor shortage and climate volatility. Estimated at $19 billion in 2022, the smart farming solutions market offers the following solutions to tackle the challenges and implement effective sustainability practices:
- ML-empowered crop management
Crop management is a multi-layered, multi-stage process requiring vast knowledge and experience to gain the best yields possible. The lack of crop knowledge at any stage (pre-harvesting, harvesting, and post-harvesting) may result in a crop failure, i.e., compromise all farmers' efforts throughout the season. Using data analysis and deep learning allows them to mitigate those risks by eliminating the lack of knowledge.
Through ML models collecting data on crop state, weather, and soil, farmers can receive accurate suggestions on their next actions, such as the choice of pesticide or even a fitting crop type. Additionally, farmers can identify the most profitable crops to invest in via ML-based price and demand forecasting, thus being able to calculate their budget and inventory in advance.
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- AI-based automation for livestock management
Livestock management involves monitoring the health and welfare of each animal in the herd since its birth. Traditionally, farmers and workers had to manually create and keep records of health history, age, habits, and reproduction history—which is quite a tedious process, far immune to the cases of human error, data discrepancies, and other issues.
The introduction of AI-powered livestock management systems and apps enables farmers to automate recordkeeping, organizing all information about each farm animal and constantly enriching the database with new details. Therefore, farmers have more understanding of livestock well-being and can get relevant data about any animal by scanning its identification tag.
- Automation for real-time monitoring
Whenever automation in agriculture is mentioned, it's often associated with drones and AI-controlled equipment. However, automation options for connected farming exist in a greater variety. For example, automation farming software enables farmers to monitor the health and state of their livestock through apps. These apps assist with monitoring Veterinary Feed Directive requirements, receiving updates on the new regulations, and generating reports on livestock behavior and welfare. Intelligent automation can also be applied to business operations, regularly updating farm managers on stock prices and workers' status—which generally enhances labor conditions and lets farms manage their human resources more efficiently.
- Farm management software for labor organization
The usefulness of ERP systems isn't limited to the BFSI sector exclusively—farming and agriculture businesses benefit extremely from the ERP software's functionality, resulting in rapid farm management software market growth (expected to increase its CAGR by 11.9% by 2028).
The use of farm management software allows farmers to insert more efficiency into their activities and take them to an entirely new level of management.
Employee activity tracking
Farm managers fully see employees' schedules, rotation, and tasks. Meanwhile, employees can view reports and work-related data and send notifications.
With the help of a system that analyzes data on farming activities and crop results, farmers can make more informed decisions regarding crop rotation, fertilizers, approach, and pest control.
Farm managers see accurate numbers on their stock of fuel, pesticides, fertilizers, fuel, and farming equipment. It allows them to calculate how much inventory they need to buy to prepare for the next season.
With their financial data in front of them, farmers get more control over their expenses and financial activities. Therefore, they can calculate their profits and see areas for improvement or opportunities to cut expenses.
Effectively connecting farmers to the activities within their fields, farm management software became a game-changer for agriculture businesses aiming to adapt to modern challenges and shift their operations towards sustainable farming.
- Blockchain for supply chains traceability
Agriculture supply chains are often a chaotic environment with complicated traceability. The presence of several stakeholders creates additional challenges for quality standard compliance validation, verification of yield monitoring, and crop growth phase requirements, affecting the pace of business operations.
Implementing blockchain technology into connected farming seeks to overcome these challenges and facilitate standard compliance, requirements monitoring, and traceability.
In practice, blockchain-based supply chains imply creating a transparent and immutable data storage for farmers, where all the data on crops and produce journeys is stored within one decentralized data chain. At the same time, transactions are handled with smart contracts. Within such an architecture, all stakeholders have permission-based access to the digital ledger, keeping an eye on operations and resting assured that all conditions are met, and all practices are implemented.
- Cloud computing for connected farming
One of the main obstacles between agriculture and digital transformation was the necessity to invest in large mainframes for storing agricultural data. However, cloud technology allows bypassing this obstacle and storing massive amounts of crop, livestock, and price and sales data within cloud-based platforms.
In addition, cloud computing solutions for connected farming allow farmers and workers to access important data from any place via mobile apps, thus untethering them from stationary workplaces and letting them combine data analysis and research with their farming activities.
Imbuing smart farming with cloud technology also helps improve communication between fields and facilities as workers can exchange information faster, improving decision-making and issue identification. Another significant benefit of cloud AgTech solutions is that they potentially enable farmers to connect with buyers directly, eliminating the need for middlemen in trading. By providing public access to data on crops and farm livestock, farmers offer greater visibility for their produce, attracting buyers and increasing their sales rate.
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What does the future of sustainable farming look like?
With all the examples of AgTech solutions listed above, it's important to see what the numbers say regarding implementing technologies for connected farming.
- 2,400 million USD—the estimated price of the AI AgTech solutions market in 2026
- 41% surge in CAGR is expected for the blockchain agriculture solutions market by 2029
- 11.9% CAGR growth projected for the farm management software market in 2028
Although many AgTech digital solutions are still new to the agricultural market, farmers and workers from large-scale to medium-sized facilities promptly realize the value behind connected farming and sustainable agriculture.
For example, a cloud-based solution built on AWS allowed around 5,000 clients across 50 countries to achieve 50% water savings and 20% yield improvement—which now enables developers to update their technology with data on crop diseases and other valuable information from agricultural research, increasing its value to farmers.
These numbers and positive shifts brought by sustainable farming would undoubtedly contribute to the expansion of connected agriculture as more and more farmers will be prompted to invest in adopting existing agricultural technologies and encourage the development of new ones.
Our teams of cloud and automation professionals, data scientists, and blockchain developers are proud to contribute to the emergence of AgTech innovations by offering our expertise to farming entrepreneurs who wish to boost their productivity through connected farming.
So, if you’re looking for solutions that would upgrade your agriculture operations and grant you full traceability of your activities—let’s chat. We will ensure your facilities' smooth and successful transition to sustainability, resilience, and increased productivity.