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Farming And Internet: Quick State of the Art
I recently stumbled upon article written back in 2000 by professor Larry D. Jones of the University of Kentucky’s Department of Agricultural Economics. The article tackles with elaborating emerging uses of internet in agriculture, but also with problems and barriers when it comes down to farmer‘s internet adoption.
It was a revealing experience for me to sift through some old pieces out there, written in the times where internet in agriculture was considered to be a very distant – almost science fiction future. Today, 11 years later, agriculture is moving fast in terms of further diversifying ways of farmers leveraging internet to boost their businesses. But one major, core thing still needs to be done – bringing agricultural production data to the web.
We all remember times when radio broadcasts were the primary sources for farmers to learn what’s going on in the commodity markets – information extremely crucial for their work. I remember my own father nailed-up to the chair by the time clock was ticking noon – it was a sign for stopping all the work and concentrating for that 10 minutes on the voice on the other side, giving some very important data nuggets.
Back to the article now: beginning of the millennium was marked with farmers slowly beginning to discover how internet can help them become more efficient. Around 29 % of farmers in developed countries of the world had access to the internet back in 1999 – and15 % of those guys have used internet in developing their farming business (for example, marketing their products online). It roughly means that only 1 out of every 25 farms with an internet access was actually aware how internet can take their business to the next step – regardless of the size of the farm.
So it was a year of 2000, and very early farming visionaries felt that internet can help them to:
- access government reports on supply and demand predictions,
- access current weather data and forecasts,
- easily communicate with partners and friends via e-mail,
- stay updated on newest market prices and production trends,
- obtain research papers and access knowledge on best farming production practices out there,
- market and sell their production online.
Indeed, these predictions we’re right on the track of what actually happened in the last couple of years. Every single one of these points made way back in 2000 is actually widely utilized right now in everyday life of a farm – although to be honest, that cannot be said for every part of the world.
The numbers are quite different right now as well. It is considered that up to 55 % of farmers coming from developed countries of the world actively use internet to search for market information, prices, government reporting and general correspondence. Not so bad! We at Farmeron have done our own research: there is a total of 165 million farmers actively using internet in developed countries of the world right now. The number grows by 8 % per year – which actually makes farmers one of the largest and fastest growing internet adopting groups of world’s population.
It is most exciting and humbling task to predict what will be the next steps in farmers finding ways to use the internet to expand their businesses. Since we’re actively involved in making that vision of future coming true, we believe there are 3 key emerging topics that will leave a serious mark on the overall agricultural industry in the years to come, when it comes to internet and it’s disruptive nature (whatever vertical within the ag industry is at question):
- migration of agricultural production data from desktop to the cloud - this is definitely the next and most important step in the evolution of general farm management and organization: sustainable web solutions built upon world’ best farming production practices will not only enable simple and efficient production records tracking, but will also create a bridge of knowledge by empowering farmers to learn what practices are utilized in their surrounding, what practices and inputs provide better outcomes and how can production simulation and planning benefit the production results – for farmer of any size. Emergence of carefully designed, exciting to use and best practice-based web farm management and analytics solutions will improve the overall farmer’s software adoption curve,
- mobile farm management – ability to access farm data from every single device, from any spot on the farm or the field is something we are already witnessing. Wherever there is an access to the internet, farmer must have the ability to jump online and make production record in real time, on the spot, instead of tracking everything on a paper or holding thoughts until he has time to sit down at a desktop PC. The penetration of smartphones and tablets to farms (look at the below picture of Farmeron being used on an iPad by one of our users) thoroughly disrupts the paradigm of how farmers relate to their production data by allowing them to easily interact with real time production results. We think that this trend will lead to farmer’s greater interest in historical perspective on his production, which will consequently influence the amount of on-farm knowledge and will increase awareness of the need for becoming more competitive on a micro and global level,
- farmers connecting online, to learn best production practices and share information on what is involved in producing food. While farmers are seeking to connect to their fellow farmers out there for the cause of learning about what can be done to improve farm efficiency, food buyers are getting smarter as we speak: they want to learn how their food is being produced.
Every single point made here inevitably leads to democratization of food production industry. But it will also lead to increased competition among farmers trying to reach food buyers in the world where information (and it’s online presentation) is the ultimate resource. In the form of small farming operations using the web to gain access to markets they only could have imagined in their dreams in the past – there is a brand new agricultural industry emerging today. The one based on utilizing high technology in everyday farming operations, the one with the potential of becoming the next internet hero.