The New Agricultural Revolution: B2B, Nano-drones and Organics

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Picture Credit: DroneOmega

As an Upper (Connecticut River) Valley denizen, IAI admires the courage, toughness and resiliency of farmers who are entrepreneurs who start their days early and end them late. Stop some time to talk with an organic farmer- they are focused, overburdened by regulations, but committed to the Farm to Plate movement. What also may be surprising to city folk is that they are not uninformed, they are committed to pride in their production, and they are indefatigable. Now, there are a lot of new technological developments that are breaking in their favor.

So here are examples of some new tools to support farmer-entrepreneurs:

I. Commodities Exchanges: Wikipedia provides a 50,000 foot view: A commodities exchange is an exchange where various commodities and derivatives products are traded. Most commodity markets across the world trade in agricultural products and other raw materials (like wheat, barley, sugar, maize, cotton, cocoa, coffee, milk products, pork bellies, oil, metals, etc.) and contracts based on them. These contracts can include spot prices, forwards, futures and options on futures. Other sophisticated products may include interest rates, environmental instruments, swaps, or ocean freight contracts.

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Equal Exchange- Pioneer in Championing Small Scale Farming: In 1986, EE founders Rink Dickinson, Jonathan Rosenthal and Michael Rozyne embraced the mission to build long-term trade cooperative partnerships in Nicaraguan coffee that were economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through our success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world.

II. Farm Management Software: Capterra lists a diverse group of FMS suppliers including these top six web-based offerings rated over 4 stars and 1000+ users:

  • Cropio: a satellite farm monitoring system that supplies real-time data on crop conditions in the fields (View Profile here).
  • Agrimap: simple, power farm software to make farmer’s lives easier. (View Profile here)
  • Agrinavia: helps reduce costs, increase efficiency, and promote exchange of data for precision agriculture. (View Profile here)
  • Agroptima: easy-to-use App & Farm Management Software that allows farmers to record their tasks and have an overview of the farm. (View Profile here)
  • FarmLogics: a full fledged web based on-premise or cloud installable agriculture ERP including contract farming module. (View Profile here)
  • FarmLogs – Data Science Tools to Farmers:  Jesse Vollmar and Brad Koch created web and mobile software that gives farmers instant access to soil maps, rainfall statistics and heat mapping and growth analyses to help make farming more efficient and profitable. After participating in the Y Combinator tech accelerator, FarmLogs raised $15 million in venture capital, including a $10 million Series B round funded late in 2015. (View Profile here)

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Picture Credit: FarmLogs

III. B2BMarketplaces: Business-to-business (B2B) exchanges or marketplaces provide dramatic opportunities to automate collaborative business processes with customers and suppliers, generate internal efficiencies, and reach new markets at minimal cost. B2B Ag marketplaces have been undergoing rapid adoption over the past fifteen years and improved dramatically in the last three due to big data aggregation, cloud computing and early adoption of distributed ledgers or blockchain. The Chinese Agricultural University analyzed the benefits and critical factors of B2B e-marketplace in agriculture product marketing case study by Shandong Shouguang Vegetable Trading Market Online (SSVTMO) in this 2009 paper here.

F4F Exchange: Here’s an example of the B2B ag revolution that is focused on integrated “supply-centric” grain, seed, crop protection and fertilizer sectors. The F4F vision is to create a transparent, open farmer and consumer centric integrated agri-food supply chain. But the mission is much broader: to work with all parts of the agri-food market in providing business solutions aimed at helping their customers meet the challenges of:

  • Legislation on assurance and compliance with rules and standards
  • Supply chain consolidation – across every sector
  • Need to increase – productivity
  • Intensifying competition – on price, service, quality, green factors, and value
  • Challenges in data management – volume, types, web enabled devices, speed of change, real time
  • Sustainability – the need for our industry to rise to the global challenge of creating more from less
  • Food safety – provenance and assurance on food origin and treatment is high on the list of matters concerning consumers
  • Rapid evolution of technology – allowing changes to be made to business processes that were previously not possible

IV. Drones and Other Reporting Technologies:  DroneOmega explains that “the advancement of drone technology has seen many emerging use cases including the expanding use of drones in agriculture. The availability of imaging sensors provide farmers with new opportunities to increase crop yields, minimize crop losses, and thereby maximize their profits. Farmers are now using technology that was once reserved for the military to monitor their crops from the air, instead of visually inspecting their crops on foot. The information gained from drone crop imaging provides a larger, and more accurate view of crop health.” Canadian farmers have been aggressive in adopting both B2B exchanges and ag drones as shown below and they focus on these key “in-field” farmer concerns:

  • Confirmation: Frequently checking that plants are growing at the rate expected
  • Early Detection: This is key to addressing plant health issues in order to limit the impacts, and provide time to implement a solution
  • Fertilizer Planning: Crops seldom grow evenly, and distrusting fertilizer based on plant health, instead of spreading evenly and reduce costs.

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Picture Credit: Canadian drone adoption from VisionGain.com

For further reading, Equal Exchange offers this list of resources here.