What is AgTech and Why is it Important?

Written by Celeste A. Barron October 22, 2020

Adopting AgTech Means a Growth in Yield and Revenue

At Shift3, we have had the pleasure of working with many clients in a variety of industries. We’ve built enterprise custom software in education and accounting, mobile apps in both real estate and legal reporting, and we’ve built dynamic web apps for nonprofits and even in the world of dance (to name a few examples). Now, we’re seeing one industry in particular is gaining steam into the world of technology: Agriculture.

Agriculture technology or AgTech is the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture, and aquaculture with the aim of improving yield, efficiency and profitability for farm managers and growers.

Farmers have been slow to adopt technology for the past decade, primarily because of operational traditions and ambivalence to invest dollars into innovations that are unfamiliar and frankly, not guaranteed to bring a return on investment. That mindset is quickly changing as the workforce in farming begins to shift to incoming millennials. In fact, a study by Research Hub predicts that millennials will drive 75% of the technological change in the farming industry.

This is hugely important as the worldwide value of technology and data-driven farming is estimated to reach nearly $27 billion by the end of 2020.

What the Heck Qualifies as AgTech?

Today’s farms and agricultural operations work far differently than those a few decades ago, primarily because of advancements in technology, including devices, sensors, machines and information technology. Contemporary ag entities routinely use sophisticated technologies 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
  • ⬬  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 HexaReports, precision ag will reach $43.4 billion by 2025.

A Real-world Application of AgTech

Shift3 HQ is located in the heart of California’s Central Valley. Over one-third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown here. Moreover, California is the leading U.S. state for cash farm receipts accounting for over 13 percent of the nation’s total agriculture value.

It was incredibly easy to locate a local farmer to talk a little about the farm technologies he’s using and why the adoption of AgTech and precision farming is important to his production and yield.

When it Raisins it Pours

Steven Cardoza is an organic raisin grower with Cardoza & Cardoza Farming Company in California’s Fresno County. The other Cardoza is his dad, Dwayne, who’s been in the farming business since the mid 70s. Their farm 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.

Last year, their farm experienced the unthinkable; near complete devastation of their grape crops due to pests called spider mites. These types of pests only occur to water-stressed plants; that is, plants that aren’t receiving enough irrigation to keep their ammonia levels in check.

Finding a solution to monitoring and remedying water-stressed crops (to prevent the spider mites) was the catalyst for Steven’s journey into the world of agriculture technology and the possibilities of exploring a tech-based resolution.

Research and Ag Expos

Steven joined his dad as a grower about five years ago; he’s also a millennial, which is a generation raised with technology and who are much more inclined to seize new digital platforms. Steven was excited to research types of technology to monitor the moisture in his soil, but he had a feeling it was going to be a tough sell to his dad, who had been content utilizing traditional methods to monitor soil moisture thus far.

For nearly a year, Steven devoted time and attention to attending farm conferences and AgTech expos, in addition to speaking with other farmers who had not only experienced similar tribulations, but had already adopted the technology he was exploring—and had successful outcomes with it.

After a year of research, Steven decided to pitch strategic irrigation management via mobile ag technology to his dad. With an ambivalent green light to move forward, Steven invested in GroGuru.

Cultivators, Mount Up

GroGuru is a subscription-based solution for farmers that enables optimal irrigation and soil moisture management via the use of wireless underground moisture probes. Steven initially began with two probes to test the system. With a successful test, he added an additional two and he predicts he’ll add three to four more probes by the end of this winter.

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. The best part is it updates in fifteen-minute intervals, giving real-time updates to Steven and his dad, no matter where they are, all from their smartphones. The data they receive in the app is fully actionable, meaning they can make instant changes to the irrigation system depending on their readings within the app.

The app is easy to use and easy to follow. The data is laid out in a simple manner, which is a good thing if traditional farmers are thinking about adopting similar tech into their farm management practices. Steven chose this particular platform because the data presented in the app was clear, digestible and actionable.

Within months, Steven was able to get their probe system calibrated and giving accurate readings, allowing them to adjust their water delivery to their crops to keep them healthy and growing strong. The best part? No spider mites. And they haven’t had issues with them ever since.

Steven’s drive to utilize ag technology didn’t stop there.

The Drone Zone

Adopting the new technology encouraged Steven to begin using drones to monitor water levels and irrigation leaks from the skies. Prior to flying the drone, he and the staff would have to drive the perimeter of all 300 acres for four hours in vehicles to visibly find leaks in the irrigation system. This took valuable time and staff energy away from priority tasks. By using drones, it now takes about ten minutes to scan every inch of land for leaks, then takes twenty minutes max to remedy them when applicable. This simple tech solution now saves valuable staff time and effort, not to mention gas from driving around for four hours.

AgTech it to the Limit

As mentioned above, agriculture technology is becoming more and more prevalent with growers as more young farmers take to farming. Modern technologies in this industry are continuing to increase the efficiency and yield of farms. These advanced techniques, precision agriculture and robotic systems allow ag businesses to be more profitable, efficient, safer and more environmentally friendly.

Take a Chance on AgTech

Are you a grower interested in cultivating some knowledge about technology that could help your farm increase its yield and grow? Schedule a call with us using this link. Check out our latest published article about agriculture technology in Global AgInvesting. Exploring new technology solutions for your business or farm has never been easier. You bring your vision and Shift3 will do the rest.

This post was written by Celeste A. Barron, Content Development Manager for Shift3 Technologies. You’ll find her rewatching every episode of Top Chef even though she never cooks, nor does she plan to cook ever.

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