IT in agribusiness – a tribute to fashion or necessity?
Information technology has been integrating for quite a long time already into all economy sectors, and agribusiness is a bright example.
If in some sectors, IT was not still applied effectively and is more like a tribute to fashion, a progressive agricultural business simply cannot exist without it.
Many technological solutions in agriculture that we used to perceive as futuristic, have now become commonplace. Additionally, while advanced technology used to be the prerogative of big business players, today even small farms are actively using drones, automated irrigation systems, different sensors and sophisticated software. Taking into account the dynamics of the exponentially growing worldwide population and the Earth’s dwindling resources, there is no wonder that information technology is an absolute necessity nowadays.
As in many other industries, in agribusiness the main task of information technology is effective data collection and processing, as well as effective decision making based on in-depth data analysis. Numerous departments of highly qualified agronomists today can be almost easily replaced by a series of different sensors, instruments of photo/video-fixation and program analyzers of big volumes of data.
Let’s talk about crop production, or more precisely one of its most modern concepts – precision agriculture, as an example. The technology of this concept is under active development at giants of the IT industry such as IBM. The thing is that the fields that should be scattered (especially when talking about big surfaces) have different heterogeneous soil, humidity, surrounding air etc., and as a result ideally need an individual approach to sowing and further treatment. Modern sensors rapidly and effectively collect data related to soil condition, air humidity etc. Remote photo-fixation (with the help of satellites or drones) helps estimate real crop quality. All collected data consequently should help to define the necessary volume of sowing, fertilizing, watering, plant protection and more. The cultivation of homogeneous fields will help increase productivity by 20% on average.
Other important structural elements of this concept are the various meteorological services that help rapidly and precisely modify meteorological conditions, to make effective corrections in the plant growing process. By experience, 90% of crop yield problems are related to meteorological risks. Correct modelling can decrease risks by at least 25%. Apart from this, understanding weather conditions will help correctly distribute the correct quantity of water and pesticides, and take the most appropriate plant protection measures, to increase effectiveness on average by 30%.
After the collection of all required data comes automated data processing, with the help of different cloud services related to Big Data, to give the most relevant recommendations on sowing, watering, poeticizing, chemical protection etc. Additionally, information technology helps formulate empirical advice for different types of plants depending on their location. This lowers product cost, improves resource efficiency, improves crop capacity, and helps atomize and control production processes.
The main purpose of precision agriculture is therefore to improve agribusiness effectiveness through:
- Operational outcome. Precise modelling of all cultivation stages makes time-management and process planning much more effective.
- Ecological outcome. Decreasing nitrogen-based pesticides, for example, would considerably decrease the impact on the environment.
- Agronomical outcome. Precision agriculture enables prior adjustments according to weather conditions, using only the required quantity of pesticides, and taking the right plant protection measures, thus increasing crop yield and contributing to global knowledge on specific plant types.
- Economical outcome. The increase in productivity and decreased expenses (labor, other resources etc.) will improve the effectiveness of the agribusiness overall.
To summarize, advanced information technologies are necessary for the effective modern-day agribusiness. I am persuaded that if we had such technologies in Ukraine, we would both continue to set world records as leading providers of agricultural raw materials, while progressing in creating more sophisticated products that, through good reputation and a stable economy, will strengthen our country.
Oleg Kuznietsov, partner of Kreston GCG