Hyperconnectivity In Agribusiness

Gabriele Koelzow

Today’s world is undergoing a digital transformation. But how do you build hyperconnectivity in agriculture? New food safety concerns require options for food traceability and farm-to-fork accountability. Consumers demand fair treatment of agricultural workers in developing countries. This requires documentation of fair wages and safe conditions. Workflow issues wreak havoc on profitability. Digital farming makes logic-based decisions from sensors, weather data, and market projections. But how do we develop hyperconnectivity across the industry?

Implementing new technology to improve farming efficiency

With hyperconnectivity, everything is connected at all times. This includes machinery, crops, animals, processes, and people throughout the entire supply chain. Information exchange allows specialty agronomy services to grow. These practices help farmers increase yields and efficiency to help provide for our world’s growing human population. Added efficiency helps agribusiness compete in a chaotic market.

Field data points are captured by satellites, drones, and field sensors measuring weather and soil conditions. Yield and quality can be recorded in detail. Drones are becoming more common in agriculture, the top industry for commercial use of drones. They are used to gather many data points. They can also automate efficient farming activities, like placing beneficial insects in exact places of need. Farm equipment sensors provide insight into yield and quality.

Hyperconnectivity can also gather data on livestock data and robots can handle many farming tasks. For example, in dairy farming hyperconnectivity enables remote monitoring of animal health, predicts health issues, and measures milk quality. It allows for picture analysis, video monitoring of animals, RFID tagging, and acoustic monitoring of animal housing. Instead of walking to the barn at midnight in a blizzard to see if a cow needs help with a birth, a farmer gets an alert sent from wearable sensors attached to the cow’s neck. Hyperconnectivity is accomplished through transmitters and sensors that are revolutionizing agribusiness logistics. Mobile devices are used more frequently in equipment to track things such as temperature, humidity, and transportation parameters. Container tracking makes it easier to determine exact arrival time. Commodity trading and processing partners can track and assure quality from the beginning of the value chain.

Growing a hyperconnected agribusiness

Agribusiness mostly happens in rural areas. The high cost of building communication networks means the most advanced connectivity is around cities. Connectivity also varies greatly by region. It’s always available in some areas through broadband wireless while limited to SMS services in regions with very low levels of infrastructure. Connectivity allows for agronomic advice, payments, weather forecasts, farmer surveys, and similar exchange of information.

Sustainability has become more important as our world population grows. Documenting and tracking agricultural products is part of this process. In a hyperconnected world, this documentation happens automatically by capturing information along the chain as soon as it’s available. This includes, for example, documentation required when applying crop protection. When and how a product was applied is traceable. Knowing which batches it was used in during processing provides food safeguards.

Hyperconnectivity brings many improvements to the industry. It improves transparency, efficiency, and accountability through the value chain. It allows precise application of fertilizer to improve yields at a reasonable cost. Paperless processes speed business, minimize manual input errors, and reduce costs while saving resources.

It also improves collaboration. It allows new techniques to spread quickly, aided by crowdsourced local language translation. It’s easier to provide training and communications where it was virtually impossible before. Data can be gathered from sources using mobile devices. Faster payments are efficiently handled through local mobile payment networks and SMS, which reduces the risk of fraud. Hyperconnectivity makes it possible for smallholder farmers to receive financial and insurance services, reducing their risk.

Connecting our world in Sub-Saharan Africa

A fully digitized, hyperconnected world means the supply chain is completely connected. It establishes traceability while improving the lives of smallholder farmers. In sub-Saharan Africa, 65% of the labor force is in agriculture. It accounts for a third of the gross domestic product. Between 80% and 90% of world cocoa production is grown on 5 to 6 million small farms. Seventy percent of Kenya’s mobile phone users are using them to make and receive payments. Hyperconnectivity allows cooperatives to track farmer activities, including harvest and income data.

In the past, remote farmers had no idea what the weather would be or whether planting in hills improves yields. Their families depend on crops that may survive or fail. By simply providing access to mobile phones, farmers receive timely payments that act as income statements, giving them access to micro-loans or insurance by proving income. Families can improve their planting and crop yields. They can get crop insurance to cover unforeseen problems. The families are able to afford education, healthcare, and hygiene products. They have hope in their future. As the dusty fields are tilled and weeded, they’re secure in their livelihood.

By improving hyperconnectivity in agribusiness, we’re building a better world for everyone. The next generation of farmers will not remember a world where mobile devices didn’t exist. They’ve always had instant access to information. How will your business compete with that level of expectation?

I would like to draw your attention to the second annual Best Practices for Consumer Products Conference where I will host a customer panel on “Value Creation in the Digital Agribusiness Network.” The conference will take place in Chicago on October 3–5, 2016. To learn more about specific sessions and topics to be showcased at Best Practices for Consumer Products 2016, check out the Conference Agenda and don’t hesitate to register.  See you in Chicago!

For more insight, explore the digital economy for agribusiness.

Gabriele Koelzow

About Gabriele Koelzow

Gabriele (Gabi) Koelzow is the Global Business Development Lead for Agribusiness within the Industry Solutions team at SAP. Her focus is on industry thought leadership, strategy, customer co-innovation, and strategic initiatives in commodity management and agribusiness. She is currently co-leading a cross-industry program that works on holistically addressing the agribusiness industry and driving the development of a digital farming platform as a key innovation topic for the industry.