01 Nov 2022

What is AgTech? And how is it disrupting the Agricultural Industry?

Cameron Roy
01 Nov 2022
What is AgTech? And how is it disrupting the Agricultural Industry?
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AgTech Explained

An ever-evolving competitive landscape, variable weather conditions, and increasing operation costs have left modern-day farmers with the challenge of how to increase their productivity, whilst remaining sustainable.

How do they gain more control, save time and create a competitive advantage without driving unsustainable increases in operational costs? This is where AgTech comes in. 'AgTech', or Agricultural Technology can be defined as any device or innovation that aids in the decision-making process within the agricultural industry.  The farming industry is positioned for large-scale growth in Australia, but with growing demand for produce from end consumers, and increasingly competitive export markets, farmers are often being tasked with doing more with less.

This means driving consistent, maximised productivity and efficiency, and reducing risk wherever possible. AgTech innovators such as INCYT are looking to improve efficiency, maximise production and aid sustainability through actionable data and better decision-making tools. AgTech isn’t just the physical hardware and devices we see in the field, the term also extends to areas such as cloud computing and software for everything from remote environmental reporting to project management. Ultimately, Agtech aids farmers in making the right decisions, with the right data, at the right time.

INCYT devices and similar AgTech systems were created to give farmers back control and eradicate the pain points of those operating businesses within the agricultural sector.

Driving Forces Behind AgTech

One of the key reasons behind AgTech adoption within the agricultural industry is the need to keep pace. With the global population poised to reach nearly 10 billion people in 2050, there is growing pressure on producers to seek out production gains wherever they can, without increased operational costs destroying their margins.

As a result, they need to increase both efficiency and output to remain competitive, with technology becoming the main tool in that mission. With time being a precious commodity in farming, the value these devices deliver is often that they can provide frequent, remote reporting on a key variable (such as soil moisture) that a farmer simply wouldn’t have time to manually check 1, 2 or even 5  times a day in each paddock on his or her property.

Whilst some AgTech products aim to automate some of the simpler processes completely, most devices are used to enhance existing decision requirements and give additional data to the farmer or end user, which they can then combine with their own knowledge and experience to make an informed decision. The aim of these devices is not to de-skill agriculture workers, but to help them utilise data previously unobtainable through observation or difficult to acquire because it involves  time-consuming manual checking. This concept is important when discussing the topic of climate variability. With seasonal weather patterns and microclimates becoming more and more unpredictable, farmers, now more than ever, are being forced to adapt their practices in order to remain profitable under these conditions.

AgTech product ecosystems, such as the range developed by INCYT, have the potential to provide updates from different points across a farm, including time-crucial alerts on changed conditions that enable farmers to act accordingly. It’s also worth noting the benefits of AgTech and remote reporting outside the potential efficiency gains.

Simon Blyth, the founder of INCYT by LX, often mentions how as a child growing up on a farm in rural NSW, he and his family could never go on extended holidays. His father would regularly have to cut trips short, or be in frequent correspondence with those back home in order to check in with the status of the farm. A product ecosystem working 24/7 and reporting straight to a mobile device or laptop eradicates that barrier to work/life balance , as real-time updates can be viewed from wherever you are.

Key Examples of AgTech

As mentioned earlier, AgTech doesn’t just consist of physical hardware. Below are a few examples of AgTech and how they work:

IoT and sensors: IoT or the ‘Internet of Things’ is a relatively new concept to the agricultural industry. The ‘Things’ element of IoT, in relation to agriculture, often means a device or devices, but it also encompasses the previously unconnected materials or resources you are wanting to measure. The idea of IoT in Ag is that it uses machine-to-machine (or M2M) connectivity to collect and provide data on previously unconnected ‘things’ such as the water levels in soil, the internal temperature of a hay bale, or the amount of rain that falls into a bucket over a specific time period.

Usually, the devices that provide this reporting are IoT sensors, which are connected either directly to a network or via a telemetry node. Data recorded by the sensor is usually processed in the cloud and made available through a reporting software program or app.

Cameras and Drones: Being able to remotely monitor live feeds of key areas on farms can be a valuable time-saving tool. Motion-activated cameras or smart cameras that send alerts when key activity is recognised are becoming popular for on-farm security and livestock management. Drones can also be used to quickly see what’s happening when physically travelling to a location isn’t practical, allowing you to essentially be in 2 places at once.

Farm Management Software: As with many businesses, on-farm processes around people management, operational planning, and even HR are being digitised, with a number of companies offering Ag-specific software platforms. This form of AgTech is software focussed rather than hardware and helps farmers plan more effectively, forecast results, and manage personnel.

Apps: Apps or Applications, are programs used on a mobile device. Brands such as INCYT develop their own integrated Apps in order to aid users with the ability to visually see the status of their farm at the touch of a button.

AgTech in the Real-World Setting

It’s one thing to discuss the potential benefits of implementing AgTech, but we know that for producers, it’s often difficult to equate this with tangible, real-life gains or find evidence of this technology working in the real world. Linked below is a case study from the Longerong Data Farm project at the agricultural college in Horsham, Victoria. INCYT devices were installed on the working farm there to provide data reporting on key inputs and help students and visitors learn about AgTech and how it can enhance different farm processes. Here you’ll see all types of AgTech devices working together as part of the INCYT ecosystem.

About the author
Cameron Roy

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