Farms become Digital: A Solution for Efficiency Gains of World’s Food Production

The earth’s population is steadily rising and will reach 7.8 billion by 2020, 8.55 billion by 2030, and estimated 9.77 billion by 2050 according to the UNO. However, even today more than 800 million people worldwide do not have enough food for living on our planet. Luckily, politicians have identified this as one of their priorities during the last decades (e.g. the millennium development goals) and the number of people without enough food has decreased by about 20% over the last 25 years. Yet, there is still a long way to go. Bearing in mind the strongly rising population, the way will become even longer. 

In order to solve this, there are two possibilities: 

1)    Share the food of the world more equally
2)    Produce food more efficiently to produce more food overall

Point one is surely a vivid option with a big potential for improvements, however, the purpose of this article is to focus on point two and how this can be facilitated via Digitalization. 

There is a tremendous potential for using Digital solutions today and many farmers and specialized service providers are just about to start exploring them. Some of those services are adapted from other industries and some are rather new concepts. In both cases, I believe that they will not only bring food production efficiencies, but can also be food for thought for new service ideas: 

- Weather forecasting is an obvious use case and it is quite mature already. The data is typically provided by a third party that has the infrastructure such as sensors, and the capabilities, such as algorithms etc. to forecast relevant weather information for a farmer. This can include the amount of rain, the sunlight, and of course the temperature. Compared to ordinary weather forecasts, such data also considers whether the area is a sunny or less sunny hillside, as this will influence the total amount of sun and water reaching the area

- Connected machines is a concept that has started in industries such as the manufacturing and car industry and is now approaching farmers. Today, standards across different manufacturers of connected devices are not yet broadly established and it is typically not possible to connect devices from different providers. However, the market is evolving and first standards are emerging. The situation might already look much better in only a few years from now. This will allow the sharing of data across a wide range of devices and machines, such as the farmer’s tractor, a drone, or the home PC enabling real-time information and analysis of a field’s status and a much higher degree of automation across a farmer’s daily life

- A new level of precision of using fertilizers and manage pesticides is another use case that farmers are starting to experience. With the help of drones that take pictures from the field, close-to-real-time disease symptoms analysis, and with the capability of machines to read and understand the health of the crops, a tractor or machine can instantly adapt the amount or type of work it performs. Having such an ecosystem in place will boost the efficiency of farmers, while reducing the sprays needed and increasing the crop health at the same time

Those example use cases should only provide a first overview of what will change for farmers becoming Digital. Reading those, I am sure that you will come up with additional use cases that a farmer could benefit from in the future and I would encourage you to share these thoughts in the comments section below.