Data surrounds us everywhere. Every minute, smartphones and IoT devices collect billions of data points. Data has become one of the world’s most valuable commodities in recent times and it has surpassed oil as the world’s most valuable resource.
But this data revolution hasn’t reached every economic sector yet. The Agriculture sector in developing countries has been largely passed over. Not only is this a huge missed opportunity for data companies, but it’s also a significant obstacle in the path towards sustainable Agriculture and Food ecosystem.
Data is the Key to Sustainable Agriculture
We need to create a sustainable food future. The current world population of 7.3 billion people is estimated to reach almost 10 billion by 2050, and the current growth in crop yields will be insufficient to feed everyone. If we are to feed the world in years to come – and do it without destroying the planet – we will need a paradigm shift in global food production and consumption patterns.
Data could be crucial in making that shift happen. A study [1 ] from 2016 estimates that there are more than 570 million farms in the world, and almost 87 percent of all the world’s agricultural land is held by small-scale or family farmers. By collecting data from farmers on crop inputs and yields, development organizations and others could make better recommendations on where and when to plant, what kind of fertilizers to use, and the most effective ways to work the soil to increase yields without degrading the land. Without the insights of what farm-level data brings, the path towards sustainability is uncertain.
Farm data would provide immense benefits for agricultural-tech (AgTech) companies and farmers. Companies could use data on seed types, fertilizers, and irrigation to improve the ways on how they market agricultural commodities, and better tailor their services to the individual needs of farmers. Farmers will benefit from the increased efficiency that data-based insights. With these insights from this data, we can improve crop production.
Farm data would provide immense benefits for agricultural-tech (AgTech) companies and farmers. Companies could use data on seed types, fertilizers, and irrigation to improve the ways on how they market agricultural commodities, and better tailor their services to the individual needs of farmers.
There is already considerable interest in data from the agribusiness industry. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, “The world’s 500 million smallholder farmers risk being left behind in structural and rural transformations” [2 ]. There are promising new markets for farming technology in the developing world, which hold lots of underproductive agricultural land and the biggest potential for yield increases that could close the world’s sustainable food gap.
Creating shared value with Data in the Agriculture Industry
It is easy for companies to take advantage of farmer data, without offering anything in return. We need to create a data exchange process that allows farmers to get a new source of revenue in this new data economy by licensing their data to create shared value. While tech companies may have the capacity to gather and process large volumes of data, getting access to each farm data – some are very hard to reach, especially in rural areas – would be a herculean effort.
We need better tools to collect data like location, weather, pests, crop type, health & growth, acreage, and yield estimates in agriculture. That data alone has great potential and we need to take it to a global level to cover multiple issues across different commodities and regions. Global-scale data solutions that benefit both farmers and agriculture companies will need to consider a variety of factors, including lack of communications infrastructure in rural areas, technological literacy of the target audience and crop-specific characteristics. Moreover, these solutions need the right partners and a clear business case to reach global scalability.
Global Data Solutions for Sustainable Agriculture
Bringing together data companies, global agribusinesses, local organizations, global innovators, and farmers could generate win-win opportunities for all parties, while also tackling the global food challenge and bringing development to rural communities. Global-Scale data solutions are essential in bringing full benefits of the data revolution to Agriculture.
This article was originally published in Farmioc Blog. Republished with prior permission. Farmioc is developing the world’s most extensive global agriculture data platform.