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Agriculture Start-ups: Build Tech for Products, Not Farmers

Despite the increased efforts by farmers worldwide to harness technology and use it to improve their farms, farmers still aren’t the main users of the internet and the various new softwares used to gather and analyse data.

In fact, it’s the products that farmers buy that can really make the most of new technology, software and the internet of things.

While us farmers are busy handling the day to day maintenance of our farms, our machinery, tractors, ploughs, tills, turbines and everything in-between is constantly collecting and sending data. This is much more data than any one farmer could gather and input to a spreadsheet or cloud based software.

So where does this lead for us in the future? Should start-ups be crafting and creating technology and software that integrates with agriculture products, or should they continue to create tech that is only used by the farmer?

How Our Farm Products Are Using Technology

Did you know that there are wind turbines connected up to the internet providing more data every second than 400 simple sensors combined? Or that there’s incredibly sophisticated sensors detecting earthquake tremors several thousand times a second?

Your tractor is more than likely connected with GPS, constantly pinging data and signals off of satellites and using the internet to track your movements. Meanwhile, if you’ve got one of the latest seeder models you’ll know that at this very second the machine is counting each and every seed that is planted to help you calculate your predicted yield for the end of the season.

The more products we connect up to the internet of things, the more raw data we have. Most of this data is sitting unused: few software platforms and clouds can gather it all and translate it into a single format to present to the farmer, and even if they can, do farmers really know how to use this data?

This begs the question: why do we trust your products to collect our data to an incredible degree of accuracy yet take on the task of collating and analysing the data ourselves?

The Future

What we really need is a new era of technology, software, clouds and platforms developed with farm products in mind, rather than the people that use them. We need to create platforms that can keep up with our products and seamlessly interact with them. The priority needs to be accuracy and integration, rather than ease of use and accessibility for farmers.

One great example of how technology is transforming (and successfully attracting investors) is Predix, a developer network. Predix works by connecting all your machines, data and applications together to improve farm efficiency. This really is smart farming.

Predix boasts that it can make any farming product or machine into an “intelligent asset” for your farm, gathering and sending data back to the Predix System. From there, the Predix System collates everything together, presenting it to the farmer.

You can analyse any product or machine that will connect to Predix, making it an incredible asset for your farm.

The Potential for Precision Agriculture

The cost of good tech is always on the up, which I’ve no doubt is leaving many farmers unwilling to invest. What will this platform offer me that’s better than me sorting through the data myself? How will it make my farm practices more efficient? How will it save me money? These are all valid questions and ones I urge start-ups and entrepreneurs to consider before bringing a new platform to the market.

Ideally, we need a platform that works with everything, regardless of the make and model. There’s no point having a platform that claims it can do it all when your tractor manufacturer decides to not make their machines compatible. Secondly, we need some intelligence here. Gathering data is only half of it. Once we have all our ducks in a row and every product is feeding data into the same platform, we need some clever tech to draw the right conclusions and save farmers the trouble of analysing themselves.

How we can achieve this is something our new start-ups will need to consider thoroughly if they want to create a new platform that really draws us into a new area, rather than clogging up the market with yet another tech cloud that relies too much on farmers making all the decisions.

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