Agribusinesses across the value chain are adapting and transforming in response to technological breakthroughs in the digital age. PwC’s Africa Agribusiness Insights Survey 2017/2018 identifies access to technology as the greatest challenge to business growth in the industry.
Digitisation is set to become one of the foundational pillars for agribusinesses, with three common imperatives driving technology investments across the mature agribusiness market. They are:
- Improving yields by implementing precision agri-solutions, integrated equipment and data collection.
- Improving asset productivity through the use of automated machinery, drones and agri-ERP (agriculture software) systems.
- Improving sustainability and accountability by managing and tracking land and water use, and supply chain traceability.
Most of the survey respondents agreed the greatest opportunities come from the availability of real-time data and precision farming, including mobile computing, analytics, sensors and drones. We see a variety of technologies that offer promising potential to the wine industry.
Given declining acquisition costs and improved image and sensor technologies, the use of drone technology is more accessible and beneficial than ever. Precision drones can be used throughout the agribusiness life cycle, from soil and analysis to harvesting and logistics.
Blockchain is a distributed electronic ledger that records and confirms transactions with reliability and anonymity. It can play a major role in reducing wine fraud and meeting the growing demand from consumers and retailers alike for improved supply chain traceability.
The advancement in automation capabilities through physical robotics and software-based robotic process automation (RPA) is transforming both operational and back-office productivity. The challenge is to balance the benefit of potential cost savings with related job losses in an already labour-conscious sector.
With the increase in the volume of data collected through drones, internet of things (IoT) devices such as soil sensors and device trackers, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) enable producers and supply chain participants to make informed decisions about daily operations to improve yields and predict future challenges.
About 77% of respondents agreed AI will be the main enabling factor to increase agricultural production over the next 10 years, with the cost of implementation and knowledge of AI being the most significant obstacles.
Although digital agriculture is at an early stage of adoption, still allowing some time to shape technologies, regulations and implementation, there is a noticeable increase in the digital transformation initiatives adopted by agribusiness, and 85% of respondents were considering investing in technology-related projects in the next 12 months.
Several key lessons have been learnt from these digitisation initiatives. Agribusinesses are faced with a vast array of new products and services that don’t have common standards, creating the need for expert system engineering.
The volumes of data generated by drones, IoT and cloud-based technology require an increased focus on data stewardship and security to ensure the quality of data used for decision-making and compliance. Along with new technologies come new regulations, and users need to make sure they’re operating on the right side of the law.
Decision-making in the future will be a complex mix of human and digital challenges. The success stories will be those where these challenges are faced head-on to create opportunities for a more precise and efficient way of doing business than before.