Why unglamorous technology is exactly what your farm needs in 2024.
December 21, 2023
The technology spectrum
There is a spectrum of technology coming down the pipe to the farm. We have seen it grow for years, and many farm managers are still waiting for useful, finished technology to arrive at their farm gate. Visionary products such as autonomous sprayers and robotic harvesting systems are making progress, but they are only used on a small number of farms globally. This end of the spectrum requires high investment, changes in farm work processes and a certain tolerance for risk that only some farms can currently absorb. But there is light on the other end of the spectrum. Here, you won’t find the stuff that typically makes headlines because it isn’t glamorous. It’s simple, pragmatic changes enabled by technology that improve everyday work processes on the farm. These seemingly smaller, less exciting advancements can make a real difference in saving time and money for your farm business. Unlike the visionary stuff, they have a low investment cost and are easy to adopt. More importantly, your farm won’t be able to capture the value of a future implementation of visionary products unless you have some unglamorous technology working for you. So, for 2024, we hope you and your farm get inspired to test and adopt the unglamorous.
Good technology comes in small, easy-to-use packages.
Unglamorous technology is simple, and that’s a good thing. We want simple products to solve challenges in a format that is easy for you to use and understand.
Below are six products or trends driven by technology that you can expect will save you time and improve decision-making on the farm in 2024.
Reducing Administration Time:
1. Subsidy Program Management
Most farms receive some level of financial support, subsidies or reimbursement for complying with national or regional agricultural schemes. The challenge is naturally that costs accumulate for a farm business early in the season, and both crop revenues and financial support programs payout at the end of the season or even later. Agricultural loans typically support farms to cover the gap. Financial institutions have been moving the farm loan processes online over the past few years, but finally, subsidy programs are following suit as well. In the EU, several member states manage CAP application processes through web applications; France, for example, opened Telepac for online CAP administration for the first time in 2023. Farm owners can manage their subsidy applications online and easily access key information for loan processes with the bank.
2. GlobalG.A.P Compliance
Few agricultural compliance programs can compare to GlobalG.A.P. Worldwide, they have become the trusted authority on farm compliance with a range of services covering virtually every type of crop and the many postharvest activities such as packing, handling, and storage. What you can look forward to is the digitalization of their compliance process. GlobalG.A.P has been busy building the tech infrastructure so they can integrate with Farm Management Software (FMS). In 2024, you will see more and more FMSs offering to feed data directly to Global Gap (with the farm’s permission) to reduce the time spent on compliance administration dramatically.
Some info for you
Farmable was originally founded on the premise of simplifying on-farm work processes through digital tools developed on our own farm in Norway. Over the past five years, we have received valuable feedback from farmers worldwide, particularly in our focus countries such as Spain, Germany, the UK, Australia, and South Africa. Today, we stand as a leading farm management software provider with more than 35 000 farms registered.
Farm Management Software (FMS), at its core, is about streamlining daily agricultural activities and meticulously documenting essential data from these activities. A prime example is the precise mixing of spray tanks for plant protection treatments, a critical process for farm operations. Farmable empowers farmers by ensuring they correctly mix spray tanks, adhere to product label limits, and maintain high health, safety, and environmental (HSE) standards. These are just a few examples of the significance of FMS in modern agriculture. Whether you use Farmable software or another digital tool, we are happy to see digital progress in the horticulture industry. Are you wondering about effective approaches to data management for your farm? Check out our series on Organizing Your Farm Data and Automating Your Documentation.
3. Government Reporting
As a general trend, more and more government bodies are adding reporting requirements for agriculture under their jurisdiction. While more documentation is unlikely to be welcomed on your farm, this trend has a silver lining. Across Europe, three member states have already announced their transition to digital reporting platforms for farm compliance, and one has already been successfully launched. The Department of Agriculture in Spain, Switzerland and Austria have all announced distinct projects to roll out digital reporting platforms in order to minimize the re-entry of essential farm data. A digital shift at a federal level is no small feat; it includes offering secure access to farm registries and geospatial data but done well, it offers a massive upside to both the farm and the industry looking to provide solutions to farms. The earlier government teams get on board with digital work processes, the faster the industry can collaborate and use a single set of farm data to meet the growing demand for documentation from the farm. This is already happening successfully in Spain, which launched its SIEX portal for more than 800,000 farms.
Simplify Decision Making:
4. Farm Management Software (FMS)
Digital tools for farming operations, commonly known as Farm Management Software (FMS), are becoming widely available not only for field crops but also for specific sectors like ornamentals, horticulture, dairy and livestock. Implementing a FMS ensures the management of daily operations are being efficiently captured in a digital format and stored securely. In return, a FMS will visualize farm data in a way that will support decision-making on everything from planting to nutrition and can be particularly beneficial for time-sensitive decisions like spraying or thinning.
If you have been looking for tools with specific language capabilities, you can expect to see improvements here in 2024. Advancements in AI are making it easier for tech companies to offer their products (and support material) in multiple languages. The cost of developing software, in general, has been trending downwards, meaning farm managers should expect to find various affordable solutions in their local language soon.
The availability of affordable FMS is coming at a critical point in time as the EU Commission announced earlier this year that crop treatments on EU farms will need to be managed electronically from 2026. Furthermore, a portion of the CAP program will include data tracking on climate-related metrics as early as 2026, so the digital link for farm operations will serve farm owners well when it comes to successfully managing their CAP subsidies and related eco-schemes. Last but not least, unlocking the time savings mentioned earlier in this article will require farms to seek out and implement a suitable FMS.
5. Digital Fertilizer Labels
There are new rules coming for chemical labels across all major industries, and agriculture is no exception. The general trend is that digital labels for chemicals, specifically fertilizers, are voluntary as of 2023. In the EU, the intention is to review the use of digital labels over the next 2 years before formally adopting legislation on using digital labels on fertilizer products. Why should you care whether the label on your bag of fertilizer is physical or digital? It comes down to having the right data at the right place at the right time.
With a digital label, particularly one that integrates with a product list in your FMS, you capture all the necessary restrictions along with the safety considerations required for product use. Have you ever had to double-check a withholding period? A re-entry interval? Or application limit? With the average farm using dozens of products, keeping track of all the safe-use restrictions can be overwhelming and yet devastating to people and crops if misunderstood or forgotten. The future here is bright. Scan your product label and keep all the necessary data at your fingertips to ensure your farm operations are planned and executed safely. Any documentation required for using the product gets instantly updated in your FMS, with the correct details directly from the digital label.
6. Weather Data
Weather is the biggest risk to any farm at all times. It’s outside our control, but the tools to help us respond to weather are getting better and cheaper. Weather stations are no longer only for the tech-savvy farm. In recent years, the hardware cost has decreased, and the accessibility to existing hardware has improved. Companies like Sencrop offer weather data solutions that link you to the existing stations closest to your farm, removing the upfront investment in your own weather stations and replacing it with a lower software subscription fee. Encouraging farms to either join existing station networks or build cost-effective networks by pooling resources through a local cooperative or producer organization are two encouraging trends for increasing the accessibility to precision weather data. Why make the effort to improve your farm’s weather data? In the short term, it improves immediate decisions relating to crop treatments and irrigation while a solid baseline of historical data allows you to leverage pest and disease models that are also becoming increasingly accessible.
Regarding technological advancements on the farm, the pace of change is ramping up, and there is a lot to look forward to beyond 2024. Implementing Farm Management Software and ensuring access to quality weather data are two simple steps to ensure your farm is ready for the future and unlock the benefits of reduced administrative work and better decision-making. For your 2024 season, get the unglamorous tech working for you and your farm.