As the population continues to grow at a rapid rate, there is a growing need to improve farm productivity to meet the nutritional needs of a rapidly increasing population. As a result, technology and the Internet are finding and implementing innovative applications in farming to tackle this uphill challenge.
Farm management software plays a critical role in this area since it drives the introduction of new technologies in the farming sector. The term Agriculture 4.0 is used to describe the phenomenon where Internet technology and contemporary tools are being used to improve farming output.
In 2017, the value of farm management software sales was around $1.5 billion around the world. This is expected to increase up to $1.8 billion by 2023, registering a growth of more than 17 percent in just a short span of 6 years. The United States and Canada lead the world as they command the greatest market share, whereas France, UK, Germany, and Italy are the other big players in the farm management software industry. Potential markets that could become active players in this industry include Brazil, India, and other Asian countries that thrive on agriculture as the technology becomes more accessible.
What is Agriculture 4.0?
Agriculture 4.0 is a term that describes the application of automation and web technology to farming methods and practices. Technologies like automation, drones, satellite imagery, Internet of Things, and sensors are some of the concepts that are becoming part of farming equipment and methods.
These technologies aim to make agricultural practices more efficient, modern, and sustainable. There is immense potential for these technologies like precision agriculture and satellite data collection to not only improve the output of farms around the world but also to make the processes used in farming more streamlined and efficient.
Digitization in Farming
The drive towards digitization is aimed at improving the sustainability of farming practices all over the world.
Here are some of the examples of digital farming:
- Farm management software is offering opportunities for farmers to undertake more efficient, automated, and data-driven yield mapping. Data can be produced and recorded in real-time, which eliminates the need to send out scouts to collect data randomly from the farm. Field-scale mapping, crop dynamics, and irrigation data can be collected and closely monitored.
- Precision agriculture is used to deliver resources to crops based on weather, soil, and air data. Irrigation data is closely monitored while crops are rotated based on scientific data to achieve better crop diversity.
- Costly on-spot checking can be reduced through automation and digitization, which can help to improve crop monitoring and qualify for government subsidies.
- Wetness indicators can be entered into the farm management software to determine the exact level of irrigation required by crops. This can help to deliver the right amount of water to the crops that need it the most, leading to efficient use of scarce water resources.
- Crops are monitored at different stages by the use of digital satellite imagery. Using this data, harvest readiness can be determined accurately, which can reduce spoilage rates. Also, diseases and pestilence can be detected earlier than traditional methods.
- Drones are flown over the farming area carrying cameras and sensors to provide data about the growth stage of crops, air moisture levels, precipitation, humidity, and many other factors.
- Self-driving equipment, like tractors, is operated by artificial intelligence to achieve better tillage outcomes for farmers. The use of human drivers is eliminated as the vehicles are driven by automated technologies.
- IoT sensors are used for recording weather data, including airspeed, temperature, precipitation as well as solar energy to determine the photosynthetic activity of plants. It can help to identify plant varieties that are more efficient at converting solar energy.
- Agronomists are a regular feature of digitization of farming methods. They use a variety of farm management software to test soil quality, including characteristics like salinity, nutrient profiles, and other statistical analysis to advise farmers about the health of various crops. Such close collaboration and analysis of digital data is the defining feature of digitization of farming in the future of Agriculture 4.0.
Technology in Farming
Technology plays an important role in Agriculture 4.0 and the use of farm management software. This software is used to process data collected from satellite, sensors, and IoT devices. The data pertains to plant growth, soil composition, water quality, and climate characteristics. Once the data is processed, the results inform farmers and agronomists about the effects of these factors on plant health and crop outcomes, including the nutritional potential of the crops.
Taking action based on these farm management software can help to bring more nutritious food to agricultural markets. The stakeholders who can benefit from the widespread use of farm management software include:
- Farmers and farming cooperatives
- Government bodies tasked with agricultural productivity
- Food security agencies
- Subsidy management agencies
- A variety of national and international bodies
A number of technologies have enabled integrated crop management to be practiced to achieve improvements in farm productivity. The forthcoming revolution in agriculture is being driven through farm management software that focuses on better livestock management and crop management through real-time collection and analysis of geospatial data. This software also helps farmers to improve financial management practices. Some of the areas where farm management software are being used more commonly include:
- Yield planning
- Resource management
- Data recording and making decisions
- Weather forecasting
- Subsidy planning
- Soil analysis
- Crop mapping
- Livestock planning
- Precision farming
- Greenhouse farming
- Some of the challenges that farmers and agronomists face when using farm management software include data privacy and security. Since a large volume of data about the farms is stored on this software, there is a need to abide by the applicable laws and regulations about data ownership, transmission, disclosure, and access.
- Farmers should put in place adequate systems and protections to safeguard data against unauthorized access and use. When such software is connected to a cloud platform or when they are operated under SAAS and PAAS business models, additional measures need to be taken to ensure the protection of data and systems.
- Farmers are coming under pressure from governments and intermediaries to increase farm output and crop yields. Moreover, many farmers experience a steep learning curve when adopting digitization and learning to use farm management software. It is also possible that farmers resist adapting to these new technologies, especially those that might lead to loss of jobs which may require them to lay off farmworkers.
The Future of Farm Management Software
As the market for farm management software continues to grow, it is increasingly possible for farmers to produce better crop yields while are reducing farming costs. The nutritional value of plants can also be increased by identifying more efficient plant varieties. As more and more farms become connected to the Web through farm management software, problems like droughts, crop damage, pestilence, and food insecurity can be solved in the coming years.