Many growers and crop advisors consider site-specific yield measurement as the best way to start with precision agriculture. The technology reveals differences in terms of quantity, and in some crops differences in quality as well. Every farmer knows that those differences are there, but to what extent remains uncertain until they can be measured objectively. Despite the farmer’s knowledge and experience, the amazement about the real differences within a field is often very big.
Possible in virtually every crop
By measuring the crop yield site-specific you not only harvest your crop, but also a huge amount of useful data about the quantity and quality of the crop. Where the first steps in precision farming with GPS were made about 25 years ago, yield measurement technology nowadays is commercially available for virtually every type of crop.
With the arrival of yield measurement systems for root crops about 5 years ago, it became possible to monitor yields in (for The Netherlands at least) big and moneymaking crops. Usually inexpensive weigh cells underneath webs or tanks/bunkers are used which makes the technology suitable for many pulled and self-propelled harvesters including potato, onion, sugar beet, chicory, celery, cauliflower, carrot, cabbage and flower bulb harvesters.
The majority of Agritechnica visitors is of course drawn to the – literally – big new tractors like the John Deere 9RX and the Fendt 1000 series. Not surprisingly, Agco said the Fendt 1050 was the most photographed product at the Agco booth. Another tractor, but with the size of a small car and parked somewhat secluded in hall 26, also attracted much attention. Not by that many visitors, but moreover by a lot of engineers from (tractor) manufacturers, including the above mentioned global players. I’m talking about the autonomous Greenbot tractor developed and manufactured by a Dutch company called Precision Makers. In fact, the roots of this vehicle lie at Dutch Wageningen University. It undoubtedly opened the eyes and ears of all tractor manufacturers. I definately see an analogy with ‘start-up’ car maker Tesla and the ratrace to introduce the first autonomous car between Apple, Google and the established car manufacturers.
For those of you who looked beyond the big machines and tractors, different trends were undeniably visible in the area of precision farming and smart farming, or should we call it (big) data farming? Almost all manufacturers of slurry / manure application equipment displayed NIR (Near Infra Red) spectroscopy solutions for inline nutrient content determination. John Deere and a number of partners (again) won a gold medal for their Connected Nutrient Management concept. Dutch company Veenhuis showed its Nutri-Flow NIR application and German company Zunhammer introduced VAN-Control 2, also with NIR. At the end of this year the first commercially available NIR systems will go into practice.
The neccesaty of collecting, transmitting and processing of big data was another unmistakable trend. Several companies showed telematics systems to send data wirelessly from field to office. The collection and transmission of data from implements and machines via the telematics system of the tractor was presented amongst others by Claas and by Kverneland (in a bèta version). Claas’ system goes by the name of TONI (Telematics ON Implement). Tractor manufacturers increasingly put effort in TIM or ICT solutions: Tractor Implement Management and Implement Controls Tractor. In Hall 15, the number of drones (UAVs) on display was enormous.
In its so-called Industry Note 513 from October Dutch Rabobank focuses on the impact of big data on farming. According to the report (Dutch) “From intuition to information”, data intensive farming can generate over 10 billion dollars extra value in arable farming. With the massive amounts of data, it is possible to base decisions on facts rather than on intuition allowing for increased economies of scale, says the bank. Data-intensive farming will also change an put stress on the relationships between farmers, their suppliers and their customers.
Smart farming requires cooperation
According to the report, the development of smart farming methods calls for close cooperation between farmers, suppliers, agronomists, developers of technologies and customers. In the absence of a proven revenue model, the farmer and producer of all self-contained data, might not get the majority share of the value created with the data. Cooperatives should play a more important role and should also ensure that the farmer instead of his suppliers benefits most from the value of analysing and combining the data. In the US, South America and Asia this will most likely result in the accelerated development of large agricultural cooperatives.
Potential value big data over $10 billion
Rabobank estimates that the transition to data-intensive farming can generate over $ 10 billion additional value per year for farmers worldwide. This figure is based on an estimated revenue increase of 5 percent to 80 percent of the acreage of the seven most popular crops (corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, canola, barley and sunflowers). The actual value will be higher because the same benefits also apply for smaller crops such as sugar cane, potatoes, sugar beet, vegetables and fruit.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has released its analysis of all agricultural patents registered worldwide between 2010-2014. In addition, the group conducted interviews with farmers and industry experts in order to examine how smart farming systems (GPS-guided drones and other equipment, smart algorithms, genetic engineering, etc.) will reshape agriculture over the next 15-20 years. This study from Boston Consulting Group looks at key trends in precision agriculture and how they will change the future of agriculture in the next 15 to 20 years.
“We expect the adoption of smart systems that integrate big data and analytics software, wireless connectivity, advanced equipment, and even molecular biology to increase dramatically through 2030. By integrating inputs, farmers will gain better control over them, thereby driving a step change in productivity and yields and altering agricultural value pools and business models.
To thrive in this new environment, businesses providing equipment and inputs to farmers, as well as nontraditional players like providers of digital services, should take action now to adapt their strategies and capabilities and prepare for the changing landscape.
Although our research focused on Europe, the strategic implications are applicable globally. Companies can apply our findings to develop the strategies and capabilities that will allow them to harvest value from emerging business models in agriculture.“
More info: BCG Perspectives and Farm Industry News (including download link of the report).
The new report now available on ASDReports (www.ASDReports.com), is a comprehensive global market report with market data tables and figures providing an in-depth analysis of the Precision Agriculture/Farming market. The report presents detailed insights of the Precision Farming market along with key trends in the component and technology market, mapped across each application segment and geographical regions. BIS Research estimates the global market size for precision farming to grow over $6.34 bn by 2022 at an estimated CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 13.09% from 2015 to 2022.
The latest report from BIS* Research identifies the potential of the Precision farming market, covering more than 50 players contributing at different levels of the value chain in the market. The report has been completed with a deep dive analysis of the entire ecosystem, incorporating key market drivers, challenges, and opportunities for the current and forecast years. The market for precision farming is still at an incipient stage and therefore the report provides an exhaustive segment of market dynamics identifying the enablers for growth and pain points of the market. Also, the opportunities that could yield higher revenue for the market have also been discussed. Keeping in mind the dire need of securing the natural resources, the inextricable link between precision farming and sustainable development has been identified as the key driver in the report. The convergence of Modern Technologies and IT (Information Technology) with agriculture is further pushing the demand of precision farming techniques in the market. The fact that agriculture and its practices are deeply rooted in the mind-set of the farmers and producers instilled the need of identifying the restraints to the market. The paucity of awareness and absence of dedicated education of precision farming among the farming sector is by far the major pain point for the market, raising apprehension among the farmers.
Lack of standards
On the technological front, lack of standards and data management has surfaced as other issues revolving around the precision farming industry. There are several substitutes to traditional agriculture floating around in the market such a soil-less farming and stacking such farming techniques with precision farming to increase yield is one of the key opportunities for the market growth.
The Precision Farming Application and Technology market segment is meticulously drafted to cover the key applications of precision farming such as yield monitoring, variable rate application, soil monitoring and others. The segment also provides insights on the components used under precision farming practices namely, automation and control components, farm management, and sensing and monitoring components along with their market figures. Of the 6 key applications, the market figures indicate yield monitoring and soil monitoring to be the largest revenue generating applications in the precision farming market.
However, with a CAGR of 14.94% from 2015 to 2022 farm mapping has been identified as the fastest growing application segment. The geographical analysis for precision farming market has identified North America to be dominating the market in 2014, thanks to the willingness of farmers to adopt new technologies and maturity of the market. The trends suggest that with U.S. on the forefront, North America will continue with its dominance during the forecast years. Also, with the world’s most populous countries China and India, APAC will emerge as the fastest growing region in the market at a CAGR of 18.29% from 2015 to 2022. The report profiles key players from diversified industry verticals in the precision farming ecosystem with a detailed section of the competitive landscape of the market.
Precision farming in Europe took off about 20 years ago. The GPS and sensor aided technique in principle offers huge potential to improve efficiency and precision with respect for our environment. Nevertheless, the impossibilities seem to prevent a real breakthrough.
As from the beginning, the main focus has been on technology. Technology that, if you take a close look, hasn’t changed that much over the past decades. Of course we now use centimetre precision and autopilot steering systems, but the problems still are interpretation and translation of the collected data. How can you relate lower yields to soil conditions or nutrient deficits, or both?
Quite recently it was John Deere that drew attention to its slurry / manure sensing system. Initially it was on display at last year’s Agritechnica at German partnering companies Fliegl and Kotte Garant. At Agribex in Brussels John Deere was even awarded with a silver medal for this so-called Organic Nutrient Management System with Near Ifra Red (NIR) sensors. I wanted to write an article about it and since the project is still ongoing, the importers did not want to talk about it, so I ended up at Deere’s Strategic Marketing department in Mannheim (D). If you Google, you won’t find a lot of information or publications about it. The thing is, John Deere is not the only company and also not the first company working on slurry / manure sensing with NIR sensors. Initially it was German firm Zunhammer that developed a NIR manure sensing system in 2008. The applied for a patent as well. In The Netherlands, John Deere partners with Vervaet, manufacturer of self-propelled slurry applicators.
Another Dutch company, Veenhuis Machines, is also working on a solution to analyse manure on board of transport tanks. Veenhuis focusses on transport rather than on applicators though. Both John Deere and Veenhuis expect to have the first system available end of this year. A very promising outlook, since the systems enable to apply slurry as if it was (liquid) fertiliser! Enter the rate of N or P you want to apply and the system applies the correct rates site specific regardless of the slurry output in m3 per hectare!
A first article on this revolutionary way of applying slurry was published in Dutch magazine Boerderij no. 27 of April 1st and a second article appeared in TREKKER Magazine 308 of May.
Recently DuPont Pioneer and John Deere announced to cooperate in the area of precision agriculture. The companies seem to point toward closing the precision farming circle by connecting agronomic and decision support systems tot precision farming systems.
Currently the link between knowledge, information and practical cultivation measures is often still missing making it hard for farmers to interpret and translate the collected data. DuPont Pioneer now wants to link its software to the John Deere GreenStar and FarmSight systems. DuPont Pioneer widens its focus from selling inputs to providing information about efficient use of the inputs. The company seems to follow Monsanto´s introduction of FieldScripts software after the acquisition of The Climate Corp and Precision Planting.
In Dutch neighbouring country Germany, the Agritechnica exhibition was chosen for the introduction of 365FarmNet. Several companies including Allianz, Amazon, Bayer, Claas and KWS working cooperate in this new venture. The goal is to streamline all farm information into 365FarmNet, from crop plan to harvest and data documentation to accounting and business analysis.
Agco recently announced its new technology strategy Fuse Technologies. This platform is aimed at offering ‘leading-edge precision ag solutions’, says Agco. Interesting and about time as the various Agco brands all have their dedicated solutions for precision farming. AgCommand telematics for MF & Challenger vs. Variodoc telematics for Fendt and MF Auto-Guide vs Fendt Vario Guide steering systems. Besides Agco joined forces with precision ag specialist TopCon.
Fuse Technologies successor Fieldstar?
MF Fieldstar terminal
What amazes me is that Agco is not marketing and communicating its Fieldstar precision farming system anymore. Mid nineties of last century, Fieldstar was the pionering system in precision farming. The system was developed by the Danish combine harvester manufacturer Dronningborg. Partly owned by Agco at that time, it also manufactered the MF combines. In from 1997, Agco bought all shares. Fieldstar was a yield mapping system that registrated cereal yield per square meter using GPS. As precision farming is not only about yield mapping, but also about applying inputs at the right spot, they created the precision farming circle or cyclus. I couldn’t find it online, so I scanned it from my internship report of September 1998. With Fuse Technologies, Agco seems to initiate a renewed path of own precision farming developments. I’m very Q-rious what the strategy will bring! Will they pioneer again with revolutionary innovations? The near future will tell!