Agricultural industry has been radically transformed in the past 50 years. Advancements in machinery broadened the range, speed and productivity of agricultural equipment, which led to more efficient processing of larger land areas. Seeds, irrigation and fertilizers were also improved, helping farmers achieve larger yields. Now, agriculture faces a new revolution revolving around data and connectivity. Artificial intelligence, analytics, connectivity sensors and other new technologies can lead to larger yields, improved water usage efficiency and build sustainability and elasticity in growing crop cultures and animal husbandry.
To further develop, agriculture has to accept the digital transformation made available by connectivity. The new technologies can upgrade the decision-making process, allowing for improved risk and variability management towards optimizing the yield and improving the economy. If these technologies are used in the animal husbandry industry, they can improve the wellbeing of the livestock, solving the growing issues on that topic.
The COVID-19 crisis further amplified the challenges of agriculture in five areas: efficiency, elasticity, digitalization, agility and sustainability. Sales reduction pressured the profit margins, increasing the farmers’ need to keep costs low. The shutting down of the global chain of supply highlighted the importance of having more local service suppliers, that can lead the elasticity of smaller farms. In the global pandemic, relying on manual labor affected the farms whose workers had restrictions to their mobility.
Furthermore, there are a lot of environmental benefits from the reduced travel and expenses during the crisis. They can lead to an increased desire for more local, sustainable sources which will make the manufacturers adjust their long-term practices. In short terms, the crisis highlighted the necessity of a widespread digitalization and automation, while the sales channels showed the importance of agile adaptation.
The industry is facing a double challenge: it has to develop the infrastructure that will allow the use of connectivity in agriculture, and in places where connectivity is already implemented, strong business decisions need to be made in order to find solutions. It is expected that, by 2030, advanced connectivity infrastructure to cover around 80% of the world’s rural areas. A key exception is Afrika, where only a quarter of the area will be covered. The key is to develop more, and more efficient, digital tools for the industry and facilitate their wide acceptance.