Agribusiness 4.0: The Field of the Future Has Arrived

When you mention “agriculture,” you notice that many people still have a stereotyped view of the countryside and rural production.

Agribusiness has undergone significant changes in recent years, especially in the use of new technologies. Investing heavily, the field has modernized and become more and more connected, following a trend observed in other sectors. Formerly known as Digital Agriculture, it is entering a new phase called Agriculture 4.0, or Agribusiness 4.0.

There is no doubt that the management of agribusiness, even in medium and large properties, still presents noteworthy gaps — in strategic planning, the definition of objectives and strategies, the evaluation of business performance, the management and development of people and processes, marketing, and more; nonetheless, the gains in technological innovation have been significant.

With the use of modern technology, soy, corn and cotton farms can be monitored through smartphones, tablets and notebooks, thus developing a new generation of agribusiness entrepreneurs eager for technological innovations to monetize their enterprises.

Agriculture 4.0 seeks to generate better results and has already demonstrated significant potential through the use of technologies that increase efficiency in several areas and others that allow the real-time monitoring of the property. There are countless technologies available for planting control, equipment automation, input management systems, and other activities, all of which are giving agribusiness an increasingly digital character.

These new systems modernize, simplify and optimize the work of producers, who with innovative technologies can map the entire planting area to identify conditions detrimental to their crop and generate agricultural productivity data. Moreover, they give them broad, detailed views of production to control the harvests, comparatively analyze yields, and manage inputs — everything in real time, for any crop and from any location, without the need to be physically present on the property.

But the advances do not stop there.

Drones, AI (artificial intelligence), IoT (the internet of things), precision agriculture data generation, sensors that analyze soil moisture, temperature and chemical composition, autonomous tractors, infrared images identifying which seedlings are growing properly inside a greenhouse, robotic arms relocating selected vegetables and fruits, and sensors monitoring the growth of each plant are increasingly becoming a reality in Agribusiness 4.0. Some more advanced technologies, which look more like science fiction than science, already exist in prototype form and are likely to become reality on Brazilian farms in the coming years.

Figure 1 illustrates some of the technologies that are changing work in the field.

Agribusiness 4.0, the concept of which is connectivity between equipment, is the next agribusiness revolution, after progress in biotechnology and precision techniques.

Pursuing greater efficiency and productivity, agriculture all over the world has joined the IoT movement and is becoming increasingly digital, connected, and a user of big data.

From their headquarters rural farmers can monitor remotely, through computer, tablet or smartphone, the performance of their machines by telemetry and the automatic transmission of data via cellular and satellite signals. With an eye to the potential of agriculture adopting technologies, the big agricultural machine manufacturers are engaged in a race for the development of better products and services.

With telemetry it is possible to evaluate machines’ performance – if their speed is optimal, if the gears are correct, etc. — information which can lead to greater efficiency. Proper speed means reduction in fuel consumption and, therefore, better returns. The systems can also emit signals of machine wear, leading to more timely maintenance.

In agricultural machines, the previous era brought embedded electronics and autopilot. Now, the possibility of remote decision-making by monitoring fleet performance exists, increasing quality in all stages, such as planting, spraying, irrigation and harvesting, through real-time monitoring of the entire operation. The generating and analyzing of large amounts of data emitted by the interconnected machines is also possible, leading to even greater efficiency for the following harvests.

From a technological point of view, there is no doubt that agriculture has advanced a great deal in recent years. From a management standpoint, the challenge is to bring more advanced management models to agribusiness, especially in strategic planning, people management, financial management, process management, marketing and business performance evaluation.

The integration of technological advances and innovative management models will generate even better results for Agribusiness 4.0.

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