Data Analytics Meets Farming in Precision Agriculture: A Recipe For Cloud Services

By | August 25, 2015

Agriculture marches to its own version of Moore’s Law, with crop productivity steadily increasing for decades. While past improvements were the result of better plant hybrids, fertilization and production equipment, information technology will be the key to sustaining and perhaps accelerating agricultural productivity. Precision agriculture, a collection of data collection, analysis and prediction technologies that looks like something out of Google, not John Deere, describes a group of technologies designed to collect and analyze detailed information about growing and crop conditions that feed complex models designed to provide actionable recommendations to improve yields and reduce costs. A complex problem that combines sensor technology, data collection, crop modeling and predictive analytics, the computational elements of precision agriculture are ideal for cloud deployment. I explain why in this column.

Historical Corn Grain Yields for Indiana and the U.S. - Corny News Network (Purdue University).clipular

The field has already attracted the attention of big companies like IBM, which has researchers working on agricultural weather forecasts, models and simulations to improve farm decisions, and Accenture, along with a host of startups as profiled in this Forbes column. Yet farming is a hands-on activity and many of the measurements that feed precision agriculture models require instruments and implementation expertise that small farmers don’t possess.

Source: Accenture

Source: Accenture

Here’s a look at the connected tractor and some of the many data sources used by today’s farmers. The scenario is not unlike many IoT designs for industrial equipment and infrastructure and makes for interesting networking and data collection challenges.

Source: Prof. dr. ir. Josse De Baerdemaeker Department of Biosystems Division MeBioS KULeuven, Belgium

Source: Prof. dr. ir. Josse De Baerdemaeker
Department of Biosystems
Division MeBioS
KULeuven, Belgium

The full column has details, but although it’s still relatively small, one estimate shows the precision agriculture market growing at over 13% per year hitting $3.7 billion by 2018, with the rate in emerging markets expected to exceed 25%. According to an investment bank report on precision agriculture, “The entire industry is realizing that a key value driver in the development of precision agriculture is data — collecting it, analyzing it, and using it.” Although data collection will remain a local problem, shared cloud services can accelerate the analysis and lower the barriers to farmers needing actionable intelligence. Precision agriculture will be an interesting field to monitor for both technological advancements and investment opportunities.Details here, but although it’s still relatively small, one estimate shows the precision agriculture market growing at over 13% per year hitting $3.7 billion by 2018, with the rate in emerging markets expected to exceed 25%. According to an investment bank report on precision agriculture, “The entire industry is realizing that a key value driver in the development of precision agriculture is data — collecting it, analyzing it, and using it.” Although data collection will remain a local problem, shared cloud services can accelerate the analysis and lower the barriers to farmers needing actionable intelligence. Precision agriculture will be an exciting field to monitor for both technological advancements and investment opportunities.