The Agritech Revolution and IoT


Farming in NZ

In another post we dived into the LoRa network and the far reaching implications for New Zealand businesses. Clearly the cat is out of the bag. IoT is here now, and it’s never been more affordable. But what’s being developed and in which industries will we see their application? In this post we’ll dive into the Agriculture industry which is poised to benefit substantially from a slew of IoT solutions in areas such as Smart Farming, Material Handling, Predictive Maintenance, and Mapping applications.


NZ and Agriculture (Background)

Agriculture is the backbone of the New Zealand economy with over 95% of agriculture produce being exported. We’re a pastoral bunch when it comes to farming, and annually export in excess of NZ$13.7 billion in the dairy industry alone. This accounts for around 95% of our national milk production. But we also have a very innovative agricultural industry that continually dips it’s toes in tech.

Our reputation as an agritech innovator is well earned, from the initial invention of the electric fence, to electronic animal identification, to milk meters for herd improvement and livestock scales. The Livestock Improvement Company (LIC) out of NZ was one of the first in the world to offer genomic selection technology for use in identifying elite sires as yearlings and enabling early identification of the best animals for breeding. As a small nation, we simply have no other choice but to innovate if we want to stay competitive.


The Crossover between IoT, NZ and Agriculture

We are uniquely situated in this competitive industry. New Zealand policy shies away from subsidies and prefers to steer the industry towards sustainable farming and long term growth. The Government publicly invests around $30 million annually into research and development to ensure productivity and profitability stay at the top of the priority list.

On top of that, New Zealand is currently ranked 17th on the global innovation index and a significant amount of our innovation occurs in the Information Systems & Services space. Kiwi giant Xero was top of the Forbes 100 Most Innovative Growth Companies for 2014 & 2015 consecutively. Innovation is in our blood, and our strong SaaS focus within the industry highlights an abundance of talent that is uniquely positioned to help business and industry make sense of the impending flood of data as more and more IoT sensors come online.

All these factors make New Zealand the perfect testing ground for globally exportable solutions. With a relatively modern and expanding infrastructure, and the availability of funding, we are positioned to address both local agriculture headaches, as well as create global solutions that are field tested.

The role of IoT - Agriculture Use Cases

Across the globe a new breed of devices are allowing farmers & wine-makers to monitor a number of core variables, such as livestock movement and health, soil moisture, performance of different wheat varieties, leaf-wetness, frost, pests levels. The measurement data greatly improves forecasting, such as predicting plant health, irrigation planning and harvesting in a more accurate manner.

Another outcome is the prediction of environmental changes in silos or grain elevators, such as dust buildup, which can eventually lead to catastrophic fires and health hazards.

The end result is an improvement in the accuracy and speed of plant breeding, which leads to better food quality and increased production. In short, greater yields, in higher quality, with reduced waste.

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The Time and Place is Here and Now!

The race is definitely on as technologies like LoRa continue to expand in scope and capability, enabling an endless slew of new and exciting use cases. This new frontier has the potential to disrupt life as we know it, and your imagination is really the only limit.