What Technological Solutions Will Address the Farming Challenges of This Decade?

Technology can assist in reducing and controlling the impact of the many global socio-economic trends and emerging challenges faced by the agriculture industry. Connected agricultural vehicles, Autonomous farming machinery, AI-based decision-making at various stages of the value chain, smart irrigation systems, drone farming, and smart livestock monitoring are a few examples of advanced solutions that digital farming creates.

​Connected and automation technologies are on the course to change the face of farming by 2030. Over the next decade, available technologies will be fully integrated into the production flows, and new ones will occur. According to McKinsey research, if connectivity will be implemented successfully in agriculture, the industry could contribute $500 billion in additional value to the global gross domestic product in the next ten years. 


By this timeframe, technologies like fiber, low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN), Wi-Fi 6, low- to mid-band 5G, and short-range connections like radio-frequency identification (RFID) will expand their reach as networks are built out and adoption grows. New upgraded technologies will appear more capital-intensive— frontier connectivity, like high-band 5G and low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites, will begin to come online.


This article will address the potential growth of smart technology solutions by 2030 in Agriculture and Farming.  The top five solutions most likely to provide the greatest benefits to the industry are listed below.​

​1. Smart crop monitoring - Connectivity can create and upgrade multiple solutions for the farming industry. Smart systems like irrigation, weather data, soil monitoring, and more could improve existing yields and provide an accurate forecast for more effective crop growth with fewer deficiencies. For instance, by monitoring soil tension with sensors’ help, smart irrigation technology can provide precious insights into whether a plant can use the soil’s water and provide necessary irrigation accordingly. Sensors can also help prevent issues like disease or pests.  By delivering accurate images from remote corners of the fields, the farmers can stay apprised of all crop conditions and get early warnings when it is in danger. Harvest timing and even quality features like sugar level and fruit color can be monitored by smart sensors and help the farmers maximizing their yield revenue. The use of more and smoother connections between soil, farm equipment, and farm managers could unlock $130 billion to $175 billion in value by 2030.


2. Drone farming and remote interventions – Drones have already been present in agriculture for nearly two decades. Today, thanks to the available low-cost drones’ market, the next generation of new technology implementation of sensors, sprayers, and AI algorithms can help with daily tasks in the fields such as spraying pesticides, planting, and, more importantly, collecting data through pictures. In most cases, the data covers large areas of the field, and by sending it to the cloud and analyzing it – it is possible to develop new predictive models for many purposes. Other benefits include the capability to reduce losses caused by pests and to optimize deployment costs. There is no doubt that drones are an efficient tool that can lower equipment and workforce costs for farmers. By reducing costs and improving yields, the use of drones could generate between $85 billion and $115 billion in value by 2030.


3. Smart-livestock monitoring – As the demand for food is growing, the need to monitor livestock’s health is necessary. In large-scale livestock management, the animals congregate in crowded areas where they can easily infect each other. Indications like blood pressure, temperature, and pulse are under supervision with chips, body sensors, computer vision, and artificial intelligence. The combination of technologies assists in preventing disease and infection of the entire herd. Today, consumers’ awareness of the growing conditions of animals is rising. Therefore, environmental sensors can make automatic adjustments in the barns to control the heat and ventilate, and to keep the herd’s living conditions as optimal as possible. Better monitoring of animal health and growth conditions could produce $70 billion to $90 billion in value by 2030.


4. Autonomous farming machinery – Driverless tractors and self-operated robots based on sensors, GPS, and radars aim to reduce the workforce and optimize resource usage. It is predicted that farmers will adopt fully-autonomous agricultural vehicles much faster than consumers will adapt to Level-5 passenger vehicles on the road. The autonomous revolution is planned to bring a whole new world of operational efficiency.  It will also require enablers such as remote software updates and rich device management capabilities that could minimize equipment downtime and reduce recall/warranty-related costs.  Also, it will require cybersecurity protection systems limiting the risk of cyber-attacks on the fleet/infrastructure. Increasing the machinery’s autonomy through better connectivity could create $50 billion to $60 billion of additional value by 2030.


5. Vertical farming – This solution offers an alternative solution to the lack of abundant farmland. The purpose of this is to produce food on a vertical surface instead of on a single level to maximizing crop output in a limited space. This method is commonly integrated into other structures like a skyscraper, shipping container, or repurposed warehouse. This technology uses indoor farming techniques. The artificial control of temperature, light, humidity, and gases makes producing foods a possible task. In this vector of growth, embedded IoT systems will be massively leveraged to monitor the micro-farms conceptual vital signs, in combination with AI-based decision-making models.​


Implications for the agricultural ecosystem


Connected technologies offer smart solutions for the agriculture industry. Innovative products that use automation, data, and artificial intelligence will eventually change farmers’ decision-making and overall yields. The Agricultural production of tomorrow will be orchestrated by software. Some of this software will be in the cloud as part of smart, dedicated virtual services and spread across various embedded systems in the field. 


As connected technology expands in the industry, new players will likely appear. Today, providers selling pesticides, nutrients, and other types of equipment are playing a decisive role in the agricultural ecosystem, mostly due to their relationships with farmers.  However, new types of providers of solutions and services are expected to join the ecosystem in the future providing new technological advantages. For farmers, the focus on the end result is clear: increasing productivity while minimizing vehicle downtime.

Regardless of which solution will be adapted - autonomous, drones, or smart crop and livestock monitoring - the industry's main actors will be required to embrace collaboration to move forward.

‘The farmer's interests should remain the primary focus for all players which is to successfully operate all these solutions productively. For example, data gathered by autonomous tractors should seamlessly flow to the computer controlling irrigation devices, which in turn should be able to use weather-station data to optimize irrigation plans.’

- Hadas Topor-Cohen (HARMAN Senior Director, Product Management, Marketing)

​When these synergistic solutions are in place, farmers can expect to achieve a higher level of efficiency, convenience, and cost-saving.


The agriculture industry finds itself at a technological crossroads. Connected solutions will change the market, the farmer's life, and the entire ecosystem. All the players will have to deal with complicated challenges, but those that embrace it first, may be best positioned to thrive in agriculture’s connectivity-driven future.

HARMAN Solutions for Agriculture

Leveraging decades of experience in this industry, HARMAN supports agricultural vehicle manufacturers worldwide to securely and efficiently manage the multitude of special-purpose vehicles’ configurations and software. HARMAN OTA (Over-the-Air) solution enables connected agricultural vehicle manufacturers to greatly reduce equipment downtime and maintenance costs thanks to remote software updates, configuration, and enhancement of their deployed equipment. Greater use of Smart Farming technologies, such as OTA software updates, is vital to improving a farm’s financial performance and yield. 
To learn more, watch our OTA for Agriculture Animation​ today, or schedule a meeting with us to learn more about our products and services for Agriculture vehicle manufacturers.

Sources:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/feeding-9-billion/
https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/climate-change-and-agriculture
http://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/777731585054424384/pdf/The-Future-of-Work-in-Agriculture-Some-Reflections.pdf


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