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Digital thinking and ecosystem

The battle for farming data

In a recent issue of “The economist” ( May 6, 2017) , data was described as the new oil. The strategic value of data in agriculture is particularly critical and its ownership already triggers competition and debates.

Thanks to IoT,  farmers in many countries save costs by reducing the usage of fertilizers and herbicides. They optimize the crops in their fields thanks to the multitude of sensors planted in the ground, sending data that gets correlated with weather information and GPS positioning. Sophisticated dashboards can give them very precise instructions on what needs to happen on a very specific part of their field. Some producers or coops qualify this system as ecologically intensive farming. For the most part, large agriculture corporations and coops bundle these services under SaaS format with reasonable subscription fees. Farmers will then use only what they need vs. over consuming unnecessary amounts of fertilizers and herbicides. What is the catch ? The agri-corporations have a crisp understanding of quantities required hence a wonderful forecasting tool, live feedback on products efficiency and more importantly visibility on the future crops. This sticky B2B model is in a way no different from the B2C data trail where we happily leave personal information when navigating websites to be then bombarded with personalized ad.

In case of agriculture stakes are high as it removes autonomy of decision to the farmers who often own the land, have to make a living out of it and feed the rest of us. This disempowerment mirrors a similar lack of autonomy when farmers cannot use homegrown seeds or do without certain chemicals. This high dependency limits innovation in sustainable agriculture.

Start-ups of the #agritech are on their way to democratize the agridata. They find themselves sometimes in a conundrum as the agro-industry is interesting to fund their application for their own usage and struggle to admit that farmers can reach wider information at their finger tips. Farmers are tech-savvy entrepreneurs and they understand or soon will the importance of easily accessing critical data. The information provided may not own all the bells and whistles but suffice for small and medium farms giving them full control on their choices.

Governments could also argue that in order to anticipate climate change they should obtain priority access to build long term agricultural policies and protect the food supplies of the future. The battle is only starting.

#bigdata #farmingdata #agritech #innovation

Veronique G Boudaud - digitize2grow

Veronique Boudaud