Big Data approach to the challenge of food production

The role of data is ever more prevalent, with those businesses that control and glean value from large amounts of data opening an ever increasing advantage in valuation and operations over more traditional businesses.  However, most of those traditional businesses are still vital – where would the internet be without telecoms and electricity? And arguably none more so than agriculture, addressing the challenge of sourcing food for the world’s growing population.

With a growing array of sources, including wider use of drones, among other methods, to collect data, technology has advanced rapidly.  Now however they are being put to use to drive the modernisation of what might be considered a more traditional, low tech sector.  Of course here, as we see elsewhere, players will have to adopt these new technologies or risk falling very quickly by the wayside as they become uncompetitive from the significant step changes in capability achievable by those that do.

At Polestar, we have been involved with a number of businesses in the food and agriculture sector.  Generally, those that have invested have benefited strongly, using data across their businesses for production, logistics, demand management, procurement and tracing etc.  In this respect, those in front can open up a considerable gap on the trailing pack without those systems to leverage off. 

Earlier today, I was listening to a CEO of just such an agriculture business, who, by his own admission, had initially been slow to adopt certain technology to enhance his business, a fact he only recognised immediately after having been forced into new IT investment and seen an almost immediate increase in volumes: Monitoring the data was not something they had been on top of to the same degree. With new ways of working forced on most businesses this year, the monitoring of data on a more real time basis had allowed his business to, as it were, “sort the wheat from the chaff” in terms of their new initiatives. In a period that has proved to have a number of elements less certain than normal, having defined metrics to support confidence that your decisions on where you are investing time and money helps efficiency across all sectors. 

Pleased, also, to see a holistic approach, considering how to reduce waste, important for efficiency and profit, for the environment and, as the general population becomes ever more cognisant of the green perspective, to support your own green credentials. 

With the world’s population approaching 8 billion, the agricultural industry needs to grow more food on the same amount of land. A data-driven approach to crop management that maximises yields, optimises the supply chain and reduces food waste. Armed with information from satellites and drones, big data and hybrid cloud technologies can provide the intelligence farmers need to grow their crops smarter.

By Richard Hall on 29/01/2021