How IT Automation Can Make Your Agribusiness More Effective And Profitable?24

  • 4 April 20:32
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People who work in the top management of agriculture companies constantly experience an enormous workload dealing with an almost endless number of processes. Rising with the dawn and going to bed late they are some of the busiest people you’d ever meet.

Every day, among other things, CEOs have to:

  • control key processes and metrics: livestock welfare, plants health, soil conditions;
  • keep track of finances and yields;
  • keep track of the deal flow and team efficiency.

Meanwhile, traders also have a great volume of daily routine to effectively manage buying and selling agricultural products. Every day, they need to:

  • monitor prices on various resources and follow their changes making use of different websites and resources;
  • make calls to suppliers, accept calls from buyers, sometimes follow up on details or carry around a reminder;
  • keep up with logistics to be updated on transportation rate, exchange rate, weather conditions, etc.
  • post ads to purchase and sell;
  • use about a dozen of disparate instruments (tools, websites, marketplaces, announcement boards, and commercial platforms) to close a single escrow.

Automation of processes might allow both of these sides to focus their energy and efforts on performing their main tasks minimizing interruptions and repeated actions.

How Can You Benefit From Automating Farm Processes?

As long as the agricultural operations get automated through the use of different software and apps, farmers, growers, and traders get almost endless opportunities to:

  • Increase the production of high-quality food through keeping track of soil, crop, or livestock welfare.
  • Reduce production costs and management overheads by implementing BPA (Business Process Automation).
  • Have all important data about the farm, put together from sensors or drones, on mobile device hence on hand.
  • Automate farm management to plan and predict, analyze pricing, monitor inventory, improve accounting, etc.
  • Improve efficiency using farm management solutions that already contain data categories for sowing, irrigation, cattle vaccination, crop harvest, and more.
  • Save time while being able to access all the needed information at mobile or web apps and process it in a few clicks.
  • Focus on more relevant issues taking care of crop or livestock health.    

The agricultural industry has low entry barriers: everyone backed with large enough funding can become a new entrant in the field. A company can’t create a significant advancement that will last for long without being copied by competition — most the of process improvements are not eligible for patent protection as can be considered as ‘common sense’.

Consequently, the only way to get better than average returns is having exceptional management. The firm that can produce more and receive better end result from each process while making fewer efforts wins the race.

This can be gained by automating business processes, for example:

  • Immediate monitoring of the balance sheet and the availability of assets to sale;
  • Prompt verification of crops, fields, livestock;
  • Instant analyzing of agricultural market and trade;
  • Fast management processes.

In general, it is all about automating the operations (from business processes to crop and livestock farming) which allows increasing production and cutting down expenses. Because the farming industry is not actively using digital innovations, it is your chance to be ahead. Automating the processes you will be able to get a competitive advantage in addition to the increased profit margin and efficiency.

What Are the Main Commercial Advantages that IT can bring to an Agri-Business?

With growing prices, limited water and space, diseases of crop and livestock, climate changes, and other concerns agriculture businesses experience every day, they need a tool that would help them adopt new technologies and act more efficiently.  

AgTech can be this solution. AgTech is a collective name standing for the use of technologies in agriculture and related industries (e.g. horticulture, forestry, aquaculture, and viticulture) in order to enhance yield, efficiency, and profitability. It includes products, services, and apps obtained from agriculture that aim to greatly transform farming through data monitoring, weather forecasting, and analyzing soil, pests, and ambient temperature.

What Are the Main Commercial Advantages that IT can bring to an Agri-Business?

Additionally, AgTech companies keep on providing unprecedented IT innovations (e.g. drones and sensors, robotics, AI, etc.) in the Agri industry intended to make farms more efficient and allow them to increase the harvest and hence incomes. Most popular software includes Hortau, FarmBot, Mirai, aWhere, etc.

The World Government Summit has called this movement as “Agriculture 4.0”, one that aims to greatly transform agribusiness by optimizing the farming processes through the correctly selected software:

  • Crop management. Crop management software enables monitoring sprays and chemical usage, yields, amount and type of packing material, storage details, crew activity, audits, hence helping farmers and agronomists clearly understand the factors that impact the margin of yields.
  • Livestock management. Livestock management software helps keep track of the livestock from birth to sale.
  • Food traceability. Food traceability software allows keeping track of food products composition, help to reduce waste, improve quality control, avoid compliance costs, enhance production planning, make the traceability easy and accurate.
  • Weather records. Weather records software and apps allow monitoring the information about soil erosion and farm pollution caused by weather changes and another worldwide phenomenon.

Among the rest of major IT innovations that gradually pervade the agricultural market and are expected to continue growing in the coming years, let’s consider the following.

Business Process Automation (BPA)

BPA is about simplifying complex business processes that aim to save time and improve overall operational efficiency. It enables the integration of apps, reorganization of the workforce, and the use of specifically developed software within the company. In fewer words, being quite a new concept on this market, BPA is intended to make operations more cost-effective, optimized, transparent, and even error-free.

In order to survive in a fiercely competitive environment, agricultural companies try to transform their business processes to deliver on the expectations faster and cheaper even if it means getting ahead of the market by half a step each time.

How to improve business processes

  • use business process management software to expand cost efficiency hence increasing the revenue by optimizing business operations, automating repetitive tasks, enhancing the quality of goods, and reducing corporate risks;
  • go ahead with task management software to track every minute and dollar spent on project works you and your employees are responsible for: when you monitor each task, you can prevent issues before they escalate and save money;
  • start using file management software to store documentation in a digital environment which allows greatly reducing the cost of handling and transferring documents;
  • go with ERP software to manage all core business processes including sales, accounting, inventory, logistic, warehouse, working documentation, and others: implementing ERP system you can save labor, admin, and material costs contributing to better cash flow;
  • apply CRM system to help your sales team to sell more and make upsales: when you have the information about all the interactions with a given client, it’s easier to predict and anticipate his needs, and, therefore, to make a sale.
  • utilize APIs to integrate apps and systems for BPA and control how much profit each client brings.

Implementing business process automation to the agricultural sphere may lead to effective changes for both CEOs’ and traders’ sides. They may reduce time spent on predictable tasks, remove the risk of human error hence leading to better productivity and higher profit.

How to improve business processes

Other Ways to Increase Profit from Your Agribusiness

Precision agriculture

Precision agriculture that is also known as precision farming is another way of digital transformation in agribusiness. It is nothing but the conception of farming management grounded on monitoring, measuring, and replying to inter- and intra-field crop diversity.

It makes agriculture more accurate and controlled when it comes to measuring soil indicators, growing crops, ranching cattle, and reducing the use of chemical fertilizers, for instance. To implement the principles of precision farming into the process, the agriculturists go with IT and a great number of items like:

  • GPS guide;
  • satellite sensors;
  • robotics and drones;
  • phase tracking
  • soil sampling based on GPS;
  • telematics;
  • smart software analysis for harmful organisms and disease forecasting;
  • other analytical tasks.  

Applying precision farming, the landowners can be sure that the accurate combination of water, nutritious and protection elements substances are spread to a specific area. Beside positively influencing the planning, planting, growing, and harvesting, precision agriculture contributes to increased yields and productivity at farms.

Additionally, it can help to forecast ROI on specific greenery grounded on its cost and profit inside the market.

AI and machine learning

These days, people from different industries pay special attention to AI and machine learning. Agriculture is not an exception.

Artificial intelligence refers to a technology imitating human actions by learning, interpreting events, supporting, or replacing people for typical and repetitive tasks. Basically, if you have enough data: dozens of thousands of samples of human-made decisions/predictions, you can teach a machine to make decisions and/or predictions just like a human would do, but with much more precision and speed. For example, if you have 10.000 photos of an ill crop, and 10.000 photos of a healthy crop (classified by a human), you can teach a machine to tell a healthy crop from an ill one.

Used in different agricultural applications, AI and machine learning bring numerous benefits. Besides improving the overall agricultural processes and farming practices, the agrarians get more effective ways to save their harvest and protect it from weed plants hence increasing the main income.

Here are some applications the artificial intelligence is successfully used in:

  • rural automatons;
  • driverless pre-programmed tractors that can work on fields;
  • computerized water system frameworks;
  • yield forecasting algos grounded on weather and previous harvest data;
  • robots handling harvesting and picking fruits and vegetables;
  • picture processing methods to recognize the bugs etc.

Robotic harvesting

AI technology is absolutely important in agribusiness. While interpreting the data manually takes too much time, machinery (like “See & Spray” by Blue River Technology) can handle it faster, with a more precise result, and without human error. While agricultural processes are being gradually automated and the technologies get more sophisticated, cost-effective, and accessible, the farmers get a chance to improve their working efficiency and revenue by spending time on other essential things.

Data partnerships

As long as conglomerates grow, the farmers ought to think about the changes that would improve the overall productivity. Data partnership may become an appropriate solution.

In short, you can sell data (about crops and livestock health, weather and soil impact on the output, your internal costs, etc) if you have large enough volumes.

It is about a strong synergy between Agri industry players containing farmers, agribusiness suppliers, equipment manufacturers, traders, and even pet vets.

Consider veterinarians, they could have access to information about animals prior to visiting farms and give advice on handling minor issues remotely. Collaborating with vets could help prevent diseases and maintain livestock health, as well as reduce extra money spent on treatment. It also plays into improving the efficiency and profit margin of the agricultural enterprise.

In short, the idea of data partnership or collaboration of agroindustry players is critical for developing a solid agricultural ecosystem boasting high efficiency and profitability.

AR and VR

While there is a widely held belief that Augmented and Virtual Reality is only used in gaming and entertaining fields, it keeps on being incorporated into the agricultural industry step by step. These two technologies are intended to optimize farming processes and hence increase the overall efficiency. Thus, let’s consider both of them in details.

Farming is challenging. Far more challenging than it seems from aside. It requires accurate measurements, planning, and a scientific approach to reach the most generous yield. Incorporating AR technologies (e.g. wearable AR glasses, cloud-based platforms picking satellite data on farmers’ land plot, a variety of AR apps, AR smart garden systems, etc.) into conglomerates may result in more precise metrics and improved productivity.

According to numerous researchers studying AR, there is a great number of potential applications, like:

  • tracking fields and detecting pests and insects;
  • land expertise recognizing what crops would flourish on a specific land;
  • modeled agriculture training allowing farmers to avoid costs spent on handling real equipment.

Along with augmented reality, an increasing number of agribusinesses use the virtual reality to handle standard and specific ag processes from training people to selling on stock. It aims to greatly improve efficiency by simplifying farming operations. But what else has made VR so popular in the agricultural industry?

The thing is that it is way cheaper than many other farming technologies due to its affordable original price which is getting lower day by day. Additionally, it is really easy to use. Featuring a simple and intuitive UI, it doesn’t require any particular knowledge allowing users to quickly understand the principles of work. Virtual reality in farming is represented in headsets, VR simulator, scouting with VR, and machinery is driven remotely with the help of VR.

When it comes to finding out more application examples, it is important to highlight the following:

  • cattle video monitoring systems that allow farmers to check in the animals remotely;
  • teaching tools in vet medicine;
  • virtual crop monitoring;
  • weather forecasting to be ready to meet climatic changes right;
  • equipment monitoring that allows working with different types of equipment used in farming.

AR and VR in agriculture

With a growing population and significant changes in climate, farming becomes more challenging to manage. Therefore, implementation AR and VR technologies may bring noteworthy solutions for the industry and greatly help farmers to optimize the overall working process resulting in the increased revenue and efficiency.     

Wrap Up

Among the agricultural innovations we’ve reviewed, there is a bulk of ready-made solutions (for farming management, tracking livestock and soil health, training employees, etc.) that you can start using shortly. Besides, you still have enough space for developing custom-made innovation products (based on your field knowledge and needs) in case you decide on using them for your own conglomerate or selling to others. Making an analysis of the existing software you have an opportunity to create something unique that the market of digital technologies has not met yet.

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Previously, we wrote that “If consumers do not see anything unique in your brand, you have consumer goods”

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