TRENDS

3 Tech Trends in Agribusiness

by ManagerPlus on August 18, 2020
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Farming is a livelihood rooted in tradition but driven by innovation. Agribusinesses have always needed to continually modernize the way they work the land to stay competitive. Today, farmers are embracing new technologies to support asset management.

Tech solutions can benefit all types of agribusiness, from urban farms to far-reaching fields. In this post, we’ll cover three tech trends impacting modern agribusiness and why they’re important in light of the ever-growing expenses. 

Farming investments

Despite being one of the most vital jobs in the world, farming can be a capital-intensive venture. For example, a new farmer seeking to enter the grain market might need upwards of $5 million to get started.

Certainly, the most essential farming investment is land, and procurement costs can vary widely by location. The equipment assets needed to work the land (even when bought secondhand) can also be costly to acquire and maintain.

Next, operating an agribusiness requires consumables, such as seeds and fertilizers for the growing season. In addition to these products, farmers need facility assets for storing equipment, supplies, and harvested crops.

Over time, farm operations include ongoing costs, such as equipment maintenance, repairs, and fuel. And with a portfolio of tractors, combines, harvesters, and tools to take care of, farmers need to manage every investment wisely.

Most farms today count on technology to help them manage operations, save time, and realize greater returns.

Modern solutions, like enterprise asset management (EAM) software, are among the fundamental tools helping agribusinesses grow and thrive. EAM platforms ensure farms manage their assets effectively to realize the most value from their equipment. EAM software also stores a wealth of operational data growers can access to make informed decisions.

In addition to the foundational technologies, here are three emerging tech trends that are gaining in popularity in agribusiness.

3 new technology trends in agribusiness

1. Drones

Many agribusinesses are finding valuable applications for drones and adding them to their asset registries. These small aerial devices might be rotor-type or fixed-wing, and remotely controlled by computer or manually.

When equipped with digital cameras, these flying assets can take high-definition aerial photos, meaning agribusinesses no longer have to rely on satellite imagery to determine crop health. Farmers use imaging drones to assess crop growth, hydrology, and both current and season-to season soil conditions.

Equipped with sensors, drones might collect data on temperature, moisture, slope, elevation, and humidity. And outfitting a drone with the proper spraying equipment allows precise control over which areas are treated, often an improvement over the broad coverage of traditional crop-duster aircraft.

Drone technology has even advanced to allow these autonomous aircraft to fly in swarms for cooperative crop monitoring and treatment.

Drone technology also assists with:

  • Estimating yield predictions
  • Carrying out drainage planning
  • Improving fertilizer usage

Measuring results on cultivation techniques is a huge advantage for agribusinesses. With drones gathering information from above, there are more opportunities to compare crop conditions year-over-year and assess the effectiveness of initiatives. This translates to bottom-line business insights.

And like other valued farming assets, drones require preventive maintenance  to perform at their best. Farmers can use cutting-edge EAM software to schedule and document the required specialized maintenance and upgrades.

For example, an imaging drone needs a regular schedule of lens cleaning, especially in dusty conditions. A bit of dirt on the lens can bring the day’s photo shoot to an impromptu end.

As always in aviation, safety is paramount. Regular maintenance keeps the drone asset in good working order and avoids accidental collisions with people or property. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on maintenance and keep the manuals handy in your EAM.

An EAM platform can manage on-demand work orders to repair drones as well. The more sophisticated drones become, the more economical it becomes to repair rather than replace them.

Although federal aviation policy hasn't yet outlined a required maintenance program for drones, airworthiness is always the responsibility of the operator. Ensure you care for your drones just as diligently as you care for your trucks and tractors.

2. Connected farming technology

Wireless communication and the Internet of Things (IoT) are revolutionizing industries around the world, and agribusiness is no exception. From using sensors that determine how much water a particular crop needs, to applying blockchain technology for shared learning between businesses, connected farming is driving change within the industry.

Here, the need to have access to reliable wireless connection is indisputable. However, many rural areas still lack broadband technology. The FCC estimates 24 million Americans don’t have access to broadband Internet yet.

Unfortunately, some frustrated farmers are facing a situation where they aren’t able to keep up with the pace of technological advancement because the infrastructure isn’t there. Until connectivity is available, using the offline capabilities of asset management software is one of the best ways to gather data no matter where you are on your property.

For example, you might be on the most remote part of your acreage, collecting information on your vehicle assets. An advanced EAM software with offline mobile capabilities can gather that data and automatically upload it when you reconnect later. No rekeying and no need to remind yourself to do it later.

This is especially useful for an agribusiness using EAM software for fleet assets. Tractors and trucks are often driving in and out of broadband access areas, and using an EAM platform with offline capabilities speeds up data collection and keeps the fleet on schedule no matter where it goes.

3. Use of data analytics

As agribusiness gets more connected, farmers will not only be able to collect more data but also analyze it with greater precision. Here are some of the ways to use advanced data analysis to streamline farming operations.

Calculate key performance indicators (KPIs)

Measuring progress toward goals isn’t always simple, especially for complicated agricultural KPIs like cost per bushel or cost per acre. These metrics involve tracking and consolidating all types of expenses. Be sure to leverage your asset management software to figure in the costs related to equipment repairs, parts, and materials. Using asset management software to analyze this data makes determining KPIs headache free.

Track equipment life cycle costs

Agricultural equipment is a significant capital investment, and it’s beneficial to determine the true value of these assets in order to make informed business decisions. Consider the cost for acquisitions, rentals, and disposal. Sophisticated data analytics make it possible to track maintenance and repair costs for each farming asset, determine its uptime, and calculate its life cycle cost. This enables a farmer to choose the best long-term equipment strategy.

Identify trends in crop behavior

Gathering data using technology, such as aerial drones, is getting easier for agribusinesses. Powerful analytics let farmers identify crop behavior trends and adjust their approaches to increase yield.

Balance labor costs

Accounting tools help farmers interpret their data and take the guesswork out of business decisions. Be sure to include maintenance costs from your agribusiness asset management software in your total labor calculations. Those added insights directly contribute to a farm’s overall profitability.

Growing the future of agribusiness

Drones, connected farming, and data analytics are only just emerging. The future will bring new applications of those technologies to improve the profitability of agribusinesses.

EAM software supports agricultural businesses with the essential foundation for asset management and asset availability. It helps farmers get more value from their equipment, simplifies maintenance tracking and scheduling, and aids enterprise-level decisions.

To learn more about the benefits of ManagerPlus and how EAM solutions support the profitability of your agribusiness, schedule a free demo.

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