When temperatures rise, applicators make spring passes, and planters start to roll, the growing season has arrived. However, there is still time to harness the power of data and technology to improve your business in 2019 and beyond.
Jeff Bradshaw, CTO at Proagrica, and Patrick Sanders, Director of Enterprise Solutions at Proagrica give their insights on the four major opportunities with data for ag retailers.
1) Connecting to a network will create a step change in productivity
“Joining a digital network that effortlessly links your established company systems and data to a wider business network, across whole supply chains will be transformative for agriculture and animal health” Bradshaw says.
This type of connectivity leads to better customer satisfaction, but some sectors of ag retail have been faster to adopt than others.
“Crop protection has led the way with electronic data transfer with the manufacturers,” Sanders says. “But seed and fertilizer will catch up and close the gap in adoption in 2019.”
Sanders also notes the importance of integration in the software that is empowering this communication.
“We are seeing that the larger the retailer, the less likely they are to utilize an application that doesn’t integrate to their existing systems,” he says.
2) Delivering actionable insights
Related to the idea of one, unified customer view with data integration, the next step (and the next opportunity) according to the Proagrica leaders is the ability to deliver actionable insights.
“Actionable insights represent the apex of any businesses data. The result of data analytics, they provide key insights which allow organizations to make well-informed decisions,” Bradshaw says. “We have entered a period where we have the technology to harness the vast quantity of generated data and we will witness transformational change within connected businesses.”
The biggest changes in 2019 will come from the quantity and size of businesses taking the next step.
“Businesses have always made decisions on actionable insights,” Bradshaw says. “However, we have entered a period whereby data analytics have the capability of transforming whole supply chains, making sense of the data and providing both efficiency gains and new value propositions”.
3) Unlocking precision agriculture
As Sanders explains, farmers’ baseline expectation of today is to know a practice or recommendation works specifically for them on a specific area of a specific field. And in that vein he adds, “precision agriculture is really just agriculture.”
Both Bradshaw and Sanders emphasize the biggest obstacles to bringing the full potential of precision are the compatibility and ease of use in taking raw data and making it usable.
4) The Internet of Things (IoT) continues its momentum
Ag retail has already started to use smart devices connected for remote data sharing, for example fertilizer levels at tank farms. But the potential for large efficiency gains will increase for ag retail in the coming year with new connectivity options and higher quantities of sensors.
“The cost of IoT will go down, particularly with the establishment of 5G networks and the cost of sensors is already going down—so the more affordable they are, the more likely new sensors will be deployed,” Sanders says.
Ag retail’s next IoT products that will be adopted focus on logistics and inventory management at the warehouse, storage and distribution hubs.
Looking ahead, Bradshaw challenges retailers to not sit still.
“The first step for a business in the supply chain is to investigate their own operations and determine areas of possible improvement,” he says. “At every stage, business leaders should ask themselves whether they are getting ahead of the wave of technological innovation or simply treading water.”