The Importance of Innovation and Digitization in Agriculture

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"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." - Chinese proverb.

The agriculture industry faces the unique pressure to innovate. Innovation in agriculture is driven by external factors such as competition, deregulation, resource scarcity and customer demand1. Next to maintaining company growth and sustainability, agriculture companies’ goal is supplying the future's world population, despite the challenges of global warming and other environmental threats.

The United Nations estimates a total world population of 9.6 billion in 2050, which is a ± 33% growth relative to 2018-- and which affects world-wide food security. To serve this need, that means global agricultural production must increase by 60-110% in just 30 years2. Current digital innovations in agriculture such as automation, decision support systems, agricultural robots, smart sensors, digital phenotyping and self-driven equipment, along with continuously bred and modified crops for beneficial traits, diversity and yield by scientists are expected to contribute to increased production3, but that depends on the capacity of organizations to innovate today.

World-wide implementation is still minimal however, since currently less than 20% of the worlds acreage is managed by technology. Annual crop losses due to biotic stress are up to 40%4 and due to abiotic stress (such as global warming) up to 50%5. This highlights the challenges faced by agriculture organizations.

One of the first future-oriented tasks can be to bundle new technologies to create all-inclusive digital platforms for farmers. This would serve to increase yields by 20-30%, according to some estimates6. In addition, the following research-based innovations (through plant breeding and soil surveys) can significantly sustain future food security: plants requiring less nitrogen, crop protection, soil protection, heat-resistant plants and improved soil fertility7. The conclusion is: Agriculture organizations have to make some big (technological) leaps in order to supply the current and future demand, and to tackle upcoming challenges.

But digitization may not be a high priority for agriculture organizations. It is likely that their focus is on agricultural innovations, rather than investing in new programming technologies. In those cases, a rapid application development (RAD) platform can be beneficial. RAD platforms enhance efficiency and effectiveness for a wide range of business processes such as automating and securing Excel sheets, supporting the overall path to innovation, improving internal processes and enabling design thinking, all in a short and cost-efficient timeframe. This improves organizational success, performance and survival, as well as supporting agricultural innovations.

Karsten is a biologist by nature. He received his Bachelor's degree in Molecular Plant Biology while conducting research on plant-insect interactions. He also widened his knowledge of nutritional metabolism and behaviour during the same study. Missing from his studies, however, was the use of his commercial talents and interest in IT in plant biology. Betty Blocks offered a solution. Using his knowledge and expertise of the biological sector, Karsten now advises Betty Blocks customers and creates awareness on the implementation of digital transformation in food, agriculture and plant-seed enterprises. To learn more about your digital transformation in the agriculture industry, contact Karsten here.

References

1Baragheh, A. Rowley, J. Sambrook, S. Davies, D. (2012),"Innovation in food sector SMEs", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 19 Iss: 2 pp. 300 - 321

2Ray, D. Mueller, N. West, P. Foley, J. (2013), "Yield Trends Are Insufficient to Double Global Crop Production by 2050." Plos One, retrieved May 28, 2018, from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0066428

3Bury, J. (2016). "From plant to crop: The past, present and future of plant breeding." VIB, Retrieved May 25, 2018, from http://www.vib.be/en/about-vib/plant-biotech-news/Documents/vib_facts_series_fromplanttocrop_ENG.pdf

4Mitchell, C., Brennan, R. M., Graham, J., and Karley, A. J. (2016). Plant Defense against Herbivorous Pests: Exploiting Resistance and Tolerance Traits for Sustainable Crop Protection. Crop Science and Horticulture, page 1132

5Wang, W.; Vinocur, B.; Altman, A. (2007). "Plant responses to drought, salinity and extreme temperatures towards genetic engineering for stress tolerance". Planta. 218: 1–14.

6Gerhardt, C. Donnan, D. Subei, B. Tuot, C. (2016), "Agriculture is fertile ground for digitization." ATKearney, retrieved May 25, 2018, from https://www.atkearney.de/documents/856314/9452388/Agriculture+Is+Fertile+Ground+for+Digitization.pdf/063ac53c-9448-4247-be72-9e4d76cfde09

7Rosegrant, M., Jawoo Koo., Cenacchi, N., Ringler, C., Robertson, R., Fisher, M., Cox, C., Garrett, K., Perez, N., Sabbagh, P. (2014). Food security in a world of natural resource scarcity : the role of agricultural technologies. IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute), Washington, USA, retrieved May 31, 2018 from http://dx.doi.org/10.2499/9780896298477

8American Public Health Association. (2007).“Addressing the Urgent Threat of Global Climate Change to Public Health and the Environment.” APHA Policy Statement Database, Policy: 20078. Retrieved May 25, 2018, from http://www.apha.org/advocacy/policy/policysearch/default.htm?id=1351