The AgTech Trifecta

Be Determined. Be Resourceful. Be Tech Savvy.

trifecta. / (traɪˈfɛktə) / noun. a form of betting in which the punter selects the first three place-winners in a horse race in the correct order; or any achievement involving three successful outcomes. 

I’ve never been to a horse race, but I use the word trifecta all the time. For me it all started with a trio I was in called Trifecta of Doom. It was me and two best buds. We gigged around with three mics and three acoustic guitars covering ‘80s tunes in weird ways. It was great fun for a short stint in my life. California–where I grew up–is a trifecta known for its three vastly different regions: North, South, and Central. Being a kid from the Valley in California showed me another trifecta: great weather, fertile soil, and the unrelenting determination of farming families. According to this article, there are more than 250 crops grown in the Central Valley with an estimated value of $17 billion per year using fewer than 1% of U.S. farmland while supplying 8% of the U.S. output, 25% of the Nation’s food, and 40% of the Nation’s fruits, nuts, and other table foods. All of this makes California the world’s 5th largest supplier of food, cotton fibers, and other agricultural commodities. 

So how are farmers able to maintain the production level, value, and quality of their crops and livestock? Many are turning to technology to find innovative ways to extend the available resources to find new ways to do more with less. Bitwise Industries has had the opportunity to help farmers realize the potential for AgTech integration in their organizations. Let’s look at a quick summary to define AgTech and then three real-world examples. 

What is AgTech?

Digital technology is finding a firm footing in farming–from the front office to the fields. It is optimizing production in the daily lifecycle on numerous farming operations across the nation and around the globe. Advancements in Ag technology include the basics like hand-held devices, sensors, machines, and information technology. Some technologies are more sophisticated such as aerial images, temperature and moisture sensors, robots, and GPS technology. These advanced devices, precision agriculture and robotic systems allow ag businesses to be more profitable, efficient, safer, and more environmentally friendly.

Agriculture technology could also include any use of the following:

  • Drones
  • Land/water data via satellite imagery 
  • Phone-based water management control
  • IoT-based sensor networks
  • Phase tracking
  • Weather forecasts
  • Automated irrigation
  • Light and heat control
  • Intelligent software analysis for pest and disease prediction and soil management
  • Biotech 

According to this Business Wire article, precision ag will reach $43.4 billion by 2025.

The Problem with Spider Mites

Spider Mites and ag don’t mix. Cardoza & Cardoza Farming Company–an organic raisin grower–covers 300 acres of land and six different varietals of grapes that all go into raisin production. They ship their raisins nationally and globally after harvest season in early September. Their farm experienced near devastation to their crops due to spider mites. These pests flourish with water-stressed plants that aren’t receiving enough irrigation to keep ammonia levels in check. To prevent the spider mites, Cardoza required a solution to monitor and remedy water-stressed crops.

They found GroGuru–a subscription-based solution for farmers that enables optimal irrigation and soil moisture management via the use of wireless underground moisture probes. The moisture probes used in this irrigation management system connect wirelessly to a mobile app that can be used on a smartphone or tablet—to monitor soil temp, moisture content, salinity, electroconductivity, and so much more. 

It updates in fifteen-minute intervals, delivering real-time updates to designated smartphones. The data received in the app is fully actionable and allows for instant course corrections to the irrigation system based on the data received from  the app.

Within months, the GroGuru probe system was calibrated and issuing accurate readings, allowing them to adjust their water delivery to their crops to keep them healthy and growing strong–keeping spider mites at bay.

The Mundane is Just That

This blog details California’s unique Mediterranean climate that allows the state to grow a variety of over 450+ different crops. Some of those crops are grown exclusively in California like almonds, artichokes, figs, and raisins. Add to the mix that California is the number one dairy state and is the 4th largest wine producer in the world and you begin to realize the vastness of what California ag means to food production globally. 

But, there’s still paperwork to do. With all the exciting potential, farmers can’t get past the daily grind of running a business. It’s a necessary part of the operation, but it constantly takes attention away from what matters most out in the fields. The farm business can lean on technology to help keep operations running efficiently, remotely, and accurately.

When it comes to managing employees who work directly in the fields—clock ins, breaks, lunches, and clock outs-are all tasks that can be accomplished digitally. Integrating labor management software gets supervisors away from pen and paper and streamlines the process with the benefit of accurate information that is easily accessible throughout the organization. 

These methods lead the ag industry into a future-proof position with time-reporting documentation that is input, tracked, and stored in the Cloud and remove a myriad of the data-entry mistakes that waste time, energy, and money. 

Water is Life

Our bodies are made up of 60% water. A farmer’s reliance on available water for their crops is 100%. Farmers in California—like many Western states—are doing their best to be more resourceful with less water resources. The current Western drought has been the driest 22-year-period in 1,200 years and has left many farms in dire straights. Preparing for a dryer future means leaning into tech innovations. Smart water management considers the time of day, the frequency, and how much water volume is needed to keep crops healthy and pests at bay. Farmers use this information to change watering schedules to maximize water flow and avoid under- or overwatering based on soil and plant moisture. 

There are companies that provide farming support tools that leverage machine learning to solve practical problems in agriculture. These types of  solutions are good examples of available Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscriptions. Certain tech platforms use proprietary algorithms to manage water, reduce energy costs, and improve revenue by allowing farmers to spend more time farming and less time pouring over data. 

One data mining platform was tested on over 4,000 acres of farmed land between 2015 and 2017 in conjunction with UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara to understand the impact on energy efficiency and water-use efficiency. They have been able to establish significant water and energy savings without the need for additional hardware installations because their technology leverages existing farm telemetry devices and SmartMeters that are already in use onsite.

The Future is Now

For the farmers who want to continue to farm responsibly, increase their profit margins, and pass a sustainable farm onto the next generation; it’s time to consider new technologies. AgTech is not reserved for massive corporate farms alone. It is accessible for farms of all sizes and makes. Custom software, precision farming tools, and data analytics are becoming commonplace with the younger generation. A recent study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln showed that nearly 95 percent of farmers who use precision agriculture and data management technology said their investment was worth it because they (70 percent) realized increased profits based on the use of technology. AgTech is a winning bet for a sustainable farming future.

Let Us Help

Technology Consulting is the Software Development-as-a-Service division of Bitwise Industries that specializes in custom software development, Contact Center-as-a-Service, staff augmentation, and Salesforce implementation. Our technology professionals have deep experience applying cutting-edge technology solutions to help organizations of all sizes navigate the technology landscape to find solutions to optimize their operations.

If you’re interested in uncovering the tech possibilities available to your organization or want to find more ways to increase your ROI with technology, click this link to schedule some time with one of our experts. 

This post was written by Jeff Rickels, Technical Writer for Bitwise Industries. When he’s not writing, he’s thinking about how much he takes for granted when he walks into a grocery store to buy food for his family’s dinner that night. Thanks for the help, farmers!

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