Digital Farmer Harvests Better Results With More Data

Cedrik Kern

Today’s modern farmer is just as likely to be on a smartphone as on a tractor.

While overalls and long days remain a regular part of most farming operations, the field is changing. Today, the digital farmer is far more engaged in technology.

This technological transformation means farmers have better information and make better decisions. Digital farmers stay connected to suppliers, processors, and agribusiness companies like never before. As the demand for food increases, these tools become increasingly necessary. Without them, farmers will be unable to stay competitive and boost yields and improve quality, which is needed to feed a growing world population.

Pillars of excellence for digital transformation

For any industry facing digital transformation, there are five key pillars that are required to be considered in the digital plan and architecture.

Customer experience is the first pillar. Participants need to understand customer demand and expectation to market products and services. At each step of the agriculture supply chain, customer experience is crucial.

As the world becomes more connected, supplier collaboration is a must across all spend categories. Agricultural goods depend on supplies at every stage. Crop inputs like fertilizer, irrigation, and planting services are necessary. Produced goods need processing, storage, and transportation. All need close collaboration with suppliers.

Successful agribusinesses need a well-run digital core. The business processes in the digital core from financials to logistics keep business moving. These functions ensure consistency through the value chain and supply chain.

Workforce engagement is important, too. It’s important that employees, seasonal workers, and subcontractors are sourced, trained, and used efficiently.

The Internet of Things is the final pillar. Equipment with sensors and software can collect data and send it to shared computer systems. Drones and sensors monitor soil composition, yield, and weather conditions.

Each of the five pillars adds significant value by itself. For digital agribusinesses, however, the goal is much moregreater. Instead, the next generation of agribusiness processes will stretch across all five pillars. The results are unprecedented opportunities to reimagine businesses models, business processes, and work. Agribusiness can tap into new ways on how they make money, redefine how they structure their operations, and redefine how work is done.

The digital farmer

Let’s take a look at an example of how these pillars play out. In this example, farmers leverage services and individualized solutions provided by agribusiness companies providing fertilizer and crop protection.

A farmer regularly shares data with such an agribusiness company. Companies feed this data through smart algorithms which process a broad set of data and experience to recommend optimized individual prescriptions. These individualized recommendations are shared with the farmer. The prescriptions include recommended fertilization, irrigation and crop protection. Harvesting suggestions and yield estimates rely on other provided data. The recommendations are all designed to improve efficiency.

Farmers can use different recommendations to choose services, supplies, and solutions needed based on individual experience and preference. These insights guide material selection and timing of key farming functions.

Analytics and compliance

The digital farmer uses data for other functions, too. Field data and yield data are used to benchmark with partners or competitors. Aggregated data leads to trend analysis that identifies best practices, improving future crop decisions. With digital farming, farmers remain in better compliance with the growing number of regulations related to farming.

Sensor data measures the application of crop protection. Water consumption is measured and recorded. Reports and audits can use collected data to produce trackable and reportable information. Connected mobile devices can feed data to and extract reports from a digital farm management application. The digital farmer leverages Big Data to get a complete real-time overview of farm operations.

With a couple of keystrokes, the farmer sees business actuals, workforce deployment, and resource plans. At his or her fingertips is a schedule of farm activities and field operations. Integrated crop pricing and marketing reports feed directly to the mobile device. Portals calculate and send transparent financials automatically.

Growing efficiency

Digital farming drives efficiency. It also opens up new opportunities within the ecosystem. Here are some examples.

Input products are applied with more precision. These gains result in lower production costs and higher revenue. Yields are better. Quality increases. Digital services share information widely. Companies can offer solutions or agronomy advice from cooperatives. Accessing this information through a digital platform consolidates information and function. Farmers can set optimal prices for input products.

Through the Internet of Things, connected products share collected data with machine and equipment makers. These providers offer farmers value-added services and applications. Originators offer digital services to complement farm operations. So too do food processors and producers. These efforts collect more useful data.

Finally, agricultural labs and contractors help improve new business processes. These providers and financial services organizations provide digital support products, too.

Conclusion

That overalls-wearing farmer is likely to have a smartphone or tablet in his or her pocket. He or she is looking at the most recent data on yield and price. Crop prescriptions are deployed, products ordered, and transportation units mobilized. For farmers and agribusiness companies, the future brings with it the potential for deep innovation. The knowledge base is likely to grow exponentially in coming years with more data guiding all aspects of the industry. For the farms and companies that embrace this innovation, the harvest will be bountiful.

Learn more about digital transformation in the agribusiness industry.

Cedrik Kern

About Cedrik Kern

Cedrik Kern is Solution Owner of Digital Farming at SAP. He drives the development of the SAP platform for digital farming as a key innovation for agribusiness. Cedrik is part of the SAP solution management team for Agribusiness and Commodity Management. This team is responsible for defining our global strategy for agribusiness and commodity management. As an expert for agribusiness and commodity markets, he influences the SAP solution portfolio and has architected co-innovation solutions with global leaders in the commodity trading and consumer products industry. He is a regular speaker at events and conferences presenting SAP’s solution portfolio and innovations for this space.