Trends and innovations

    Technological advancements in the agriculture sector meet the growing demand for farm automation, digitalisation, and sustainability. Emerging agriculture trends mark a shift towards smart farming and efficient utilisation of time and resources while reducing crop losses. Smart farming is an upcoming concept that deploys technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), computer vision, and artificial intelligence (AI) for farming. Robots and drones are replacing traditional farm operations such as picking fruits, killing weeds, or spraying water or fertilizer on crops. Imagery from drones and satellites, coupled with Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, provides a high-resolution and location-specific view of the field.
    Further, IoT devices, powered by sensor technology, collect real-time field data that allow farmers to make data-driven decisions. In addition, the widespread adoption of precision agriculture and indoor farming in recent years fuels IoT growth in farming. Taken together, these technological innovations generate disruptive and sustainable changes in agricultural practices. The focus is to not only improve the overall quality and quantity of crops and livestock but also to reach the ultimate goal of a sustainable future for all living things on earth.

Impact of the Agriculture Trends
    Working on technological solutions to benefit farmers by automating farm operations and improving productivity. The most prevalent trend is the Internet of things (IoT), which enables farmers to better monitor the needs of crops and individual animals. Automation in irrigation, farm machinery, and harvesting further ease farm operations, while minimising losses. Additionally, drones save time spent on crop scouting.
    Further, advancements in AI and machine learning (ML) boost prediction accuracy and provide insights on weather events, crop classification, and diseases of plants and animals. Precision agriculture is another major trend observed across the industry. It refers to using the right quantity of inputs, at the right time, and at the right location. Finally, also address concerns over a sustainable future, and thus, advance new growing techniques like hydroponics and aquaponics.

Internet of Things
    Monitoring of the crop field in conventional farming requires intensive labor, physical equipment, time, and effort. IoT technology provides an alternative to these traditional methods. An IoT device contains one or more sensors that collect data and provide accurate information via mobile applications or other means in real-time. These sensors perform countless activities, such as soil, temperature & humidity sensing, plant & livestock tracking, and more. It also facilitates remote monitoring of farms, providing greater convenience to farmers. Further, new irrigation systems utilise IoT sensors for automation of the delivery of water to crops. These constitute evapotranspiration sensors, on-site soil moisture sensors, rain sensors, and several others.
    Developing innovative sensor solutions that combine IoT technology with drones, robots, and computer imaging to increase the agility, accuracy, and precision of farm processes. These send on-time alerts and improve the response time for areas that need attention.
    Agrila creates a modular IoT- based sensor station to facilitate sensing of vital parameters like soil moisture & temperature, wind speed & direction, rain, humidity, solar irradiation, and much more. The station is solar-powered and provides real-time alerts via mobile or web applications. Moreover, the solution also offers detailed charts, reports, and analysis of sensor data, enabling farmers to gather insights in an economic and efficient way.

Agricultural Robotics
    Shortage of labor is a critical problem farmers face, and this is amplified in the case of large field operations. So,  manufacturing agricultural robots to assist farmers with numerous farm operations, including fruit-picking, harvesting, planting, transplanting, spraying, seeding, and weeding. Farmers are increasingly relying on robots to automate repetitive tasks in the field. They deploy smart agricultural machines, such as GPS-enabled autonomous and semi-autonomous tractors for harvesting. Tractors also come with auto-steer technology for easier navigation across the field.
    Moreover, robots are used in automated systems in livestock management as well. This includes automated weighing scales, incubators, milking machines, auto feeders, and many more. Robots allow farmers to focus more on improving overall productivity, without having to worry about slow farm processes. They also prevent human-induced errors andprovide convenience through automation.
    Le Chevre, a robot that detects and removes weeds from fields. The robot makes use of deep learning algorithms and cameras to differentiate between weeds and crops. This enables the robot to correctly identify the weeds, which are then removed without damaging the crops. It also collects data about the growing conditions of the crops and enables farmers to leverage the data into making informed decisions.

Artificial Intelligence
    Incorporating artificial intelligence in agriculture provides farmers with real-time insights from their field, allowing them to be proactive. AI offers predictive insights for forecasting weather data, crop yield, and prices, thereby helping farmers make informed decisions. Chatbots, like a farmers’ Alexa, give suggestions and input recommendations to farmers. AI and ML algorithms automate anomaly and disease recognition in plants and livestock. This allows timely detection and corrective response if required. Biotechnology also deploys ML algorithms for gene selection recommendations. Further, AI provides easy access to finance to creditors who are denied mainstream credit.
    Exploiting AI in several ways to come up with innovative solutions that improve overall agricultural quality. For example, harvest quality vision (HQV) is a recent agritech innovation that scans and determines the quality and quantity of fruits and vegetables.
    Offering plant disease detection through an app, Planticus. Powered by artificial intelligence, the mobile application identifies diseases and detects pests in plants. It ensures food security by developing identification technologies and crop monitoring solutions that enable farmers to secure their crops before possible damage occurs.

    Increasing farm productivity while saving costs is challenging. But drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), help farmers overcome this hassle in an effective way. Drones collect raw data which translates into useful information for farm monitoring. Drones equipped with cameras facilitate aerial imaging and surveying of near and far-stretched fields. This data optimises the application of fertilizers, water, seeds, and pesticides. Moreover, drones along with GPS technology, are used for livestock tracking, geofencing, and grazing monitoring. They fly over fields to capture images that range from simple visible-light photographs to multispectral imagery which helps in the analysis of crop, soil, and field.
    One drawback is they are not fit for poultry monitoring, as birds tend to get frightened by their movement. However, for others, like cattle or livestock monitoring, grazing monitoring, and crop cultivation, they are a cost-effective and invaluable tool for farmers to survey their lands. Working on drones capable of measuring the chlorophyll level, weed pressure, mineral and chemical composition of soils.
    Equinox’s Drones leverages drone technology to offer numerous services like crop surveillance, aerial inspection, data processing, and data analysis. Providing drone aerial mapping solutions with the help of ortho-mosaic maps, 3D point clouds, digital models, contour maps, and more. They processes images and videos from the drones to facilitate aerial inspection of crops and data analysis. They also provide crop yield estimation based on the data acquired from drones.

Precision Agriculture
    Environmental degradation prompts calls for sustainable solutions across all industries. Sustainability in agriculture refers to the use of eco-friendly methods and inputs which have zero or minimal negative impact on the environment. An example of this is site-specific crop management (SSCM), commonly known as precision agriculture. It is a method in which farmers use exact amounts of input, such as water, pesticides, and fertilizers, to enhance the quality and productivity of yield.
    Different tracts of land across the field have different soil properties, receive different sunlight, or have different slopes. The same treatment for the whole farm, thus, is inefficient and leads to a wastage of time and resources. Consequently, developing solutions in precision agriculture to improve profitability while addressing sustainability challenges.
    Developing numerous tools for precision farming to improve farm management. Deploying satellites and drones for calculating parameters relating to vigor, water stress, and the quantity of chlorophyll. They also develop maps that facilitate variable rate application of fertilizers and other inputs. Further, Agricolus offers traceability of the farm operations and performance analysis via hardware, AgriPlug. Overall, the solutions optimise production with the right treatment and inputs, while lowering the management costs incurred.

Agricultural Biotechnology
    A lot of crop yield gets wasted due to pests and plant diseases. Although agrochemicals are utilised in fields, they are not the best solution when it comes to sustainability. On the other hand, the application of biotechnology in agriculture improves the quality of crops and livestock. Scientific techniques like plant breeding, hybridization, genetic engineering, and tissue culture facilitate the identification of better traits in plants more rapidly.
    CRISPR-Cas9 is a genome editing technology that allows high target specificity with improved speed and precision. It produces transgenic plants with desired qualities like disease tolerance, drought tolerance, pest resistance, and high yield capacity. This enhances the profitability of farm production. Leveraging agri-biotech methods to provide solutions such as biopesticides, bioherbicides, biofertilizers, and bioplastics for fields. These solutions address soil toxicity concerns and ensure a minimal negative impact on the environment.
    Working on breeding techniques for sheep, cattle, and aquaculture. DNA technology assigns the right parentage to sheep and cattle, which helps farmers identify the good flock quickly. XytoVet also works to improve aquaculture by selecting genes with higher growth rates and disease resistance. They provide a range of genetic analyses to assist farmers in livestock decision-making.

Big data & analytics
    Large volumes of farm data are generated every day, which is of no good if not analysed. Big data and analytics techniques transform this data into actionable insights. Statistics of crop area, crop production, crop forecasts, land use, irrigation, agricultural prices, weather forecasts, and crop diseases, lay the foundation for the next farming season. Analytical tools make the use of data on weather events, farm equipment, water cycles, quality, and quantity of crops to extract information relevant to farm operations. This helps identify patterns and relationships that may otherwise remain hidden.
    Developing solutions in the area of farm analytics that enable farmers to take advantage of their field data. For example, analytical data fosters an understanding of the nutrient levels of the soil, soil acidity and alkalinity, fertilizer requirements, and several other parameters, which allow farmers to make the right choices for their fields.
    Facilitating the collection, analysis, and visualization of farm data, especially of greenhouses. ADI develops embedded data transfer and control software. It specialise in compartmentalisation from an image up to a specific leaf of the crop, thereby enabling farmers to make accurate decisions. Further, deploys neural networks and image processing to measure crop health, leaf size, and more. Their insights from data analytics and visualisation improve the overall productivity and operations of greenhouses.

Controlled Environment Agriculture
    Fluctuating and extreme weather events constantly hamper conventional farming methods. Further, growing crops in populated cities, deserts, or other unfavorable conditions pose significant challenges. This is overcome by controlled environment agriculture (CEA). In CEA, plants are subjected to a controlled proportion of light, temperature, humidity, and nutrients. There are different growing environments, namely, indoor farming, vertical farming, greenhouses, among others.
    There is an increased deployment of techniques like hydroponics and aeroponics which involve growing soilless plants in a liquid nutrient medium or steam. Another such technique is aquaponics, where plants and fish are cultivated simultaneously. Fish provides nutrients to plants, while plants purify the water for the fish. CEA methods reduce pests and diseases, increase yield, and establish sustainable farming practices.
    OnePointOne builds a vertical plane aeroponics farming space. It deploys vertical farming techniques to come up with space-saving, water-saving, and labor-saving solutions. Further, deploying hyperspectral high-resolution imagery to analyze plants on the farm. Providing personalised farming and nutrition services to farmers.

Regenerative Agriculture
    Conventional farming practices lead to long-term erosion and crusting of soil. Often, the plowing, tilling, and overgrazing don’t allow much time for the soil to revive before the next cropping season. Regenerative agriculture, on the other hand, causes minimal soil disturbance while focusing on improving soil biodiversity and topsoil revival. It involves different practices like no-till farming, reduced tillage, crop rotation, and more.
    For example, cover crops are planted to cover the soil between cropping seasons to restore soil fertility. Further, regenerative farming facilitates fields to act as a carbon sink through sequestration. This leads to fewer carbon emissions into the atmosphere and a lesser negative impact on climate change.
    Developing high-quality plant-based compost extract for the soil. Once the compost extract is applied to the soil, it is naturally selected by the plants, and this ensures its applicability to multiple crops. Freesoil also add microorganisms to the soil on a regular basis. This enhances the symbiosis between plants and microbes and ultimately leads to nutrient-rich soil. Thus, the solution enables plants to grow in healthier soil, making them more resilient to diseases.

Connectivity Technologies
    A lack of connectivity via an established network or broadband is a problem in rural areas globally. Smart farming is not possible without connectivity technologies like 5g, LPWAN, rural broadband, or satellite-enabled connectivity. 5g facilitates different IoT devices, robots, and sensors to communicate the data at ultrafast speeds. This enables farmers to monitor the data more accurately in real-time and take the required actions.
    High-speed internet using fiber optic cables enables the exchange of field data in real-time, which is crucial when it comes to improving accuracy. Connectivity technologies support other technologies like IoT, which ultimately work in coordination to form connected farms.
    Ellenex's offering a wide range of agricultural sensor that are powered by connectivity technologies such as LoRaWAN, low-power satellite, Sigfox, and low-power WiFi, among others. These network technologies support battery-powered devices used for the measurement of pressure, flow, level, water quality, and temperature. This helps in on-time monitoring of the farm with farmers easily accessing accurate data.