If precision agriculture began in the mid-1990s, then today we are in the middle of another agricultural evolution-this evolution began in the early 2010s. This is "Agriculture 4.0".
"Agriculture 4.0" is also called smart agriculture or digital agriculture. It is characterized by the development and adoption of new digital technologies, which are considered to have evolved from the era of precision agriculture; but agriculture 4.0 is much more than that.
In fact, we can understand "Agriculture 4.0" from two aspects. On the one hand, it is to continue precision agriculture through the use of new advanced technologies such as robots, drones, aerial images, sensors, GPS, and blockchain, allowing more agricultural production activities to be automated. On the other hand, Agriculture 4.0 makes "Agricultural Internet" possible, that is, intelligent use and analysis of data used in the entire agricultural food supply chain, thereby reducing costs and improving the quality and traceability of agricultural products.
According to Markets and Markets data, the value of Global Agriculture 4.0 in 2020 is US$13.7 billion, and it is growing every year. The value in 2019 and 2018 is US$7.8 billion and US$7 billion, respectively. Since 2012, the annual growth rate of agricultural technology startups has exceeded 80%, including business leaders such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson, many venture capital funds, and large agri-food groups. The field of agricultural science and technology. For example, the Japanese billionaire Son Masayoshi's SoftBank Vision Fund invested millions of dollars in vertical farming startups. Agricultural equipment manufacturers and technology giants such as CNH, John Deere, AGCO, Mahindra, Bosch, Kubota, Trimble Navigation and Tokyo Optics have increased their investments in precision agriculture, automation and data analysis technologies.
Thanks to the introduction of the Internet of Things, big data, artificial intelligence, and blockchain, it is now possible to more accurately manage a larger amount of information and make decisions, and transfer the value of this data to the entire agricultural industry and its value chain. "Agriculture 4.0" is not only to innovate technology, but also to improve and meet the real needs of consumers, and to redesign the value chain.
According to the analysis of 456 products and services provided by more than 200 agricultural technology providers and 136 international scientific papers conducted by the Politecnico di Milano and the University of Brescia, a key aspect and process of Agriculture 4.0 is that farmers have the opportunity to interact with agricultural food Different participants in the supply chain connect to exchange useful data and services. This creates new business opportunities and efficiency for farmers and businesses that provide products, services and technologies. For example, at harvest time, farmers can better coordinate with transportation and food processing companies; equipment manufacturers can provide monitoring and maintenance services based on machine-generated data; or agronomy experts can provide consulting services remotely.
In addition, the data collected throughout the supply chain can increase transparency, improve food traceability, and create new market opportunities by sharing information with consumers. Many agri-food companies’ current value propositions are also based on transparency, traceability, and guarantees of origin.
Finally, agricultural data can be directly monetized. Even though it is not very common now, there are still some interesting cases for us to study. For example, farmers charge a fee to share their data on platforms that analyze agricultural data in order to generate accurate insights and forecasts, including data on climate events, market trends, or commodity prices. In the future, agricultural companies may have the opportunity to make profits by providing data services, allowing their core business to enter new areas from production.
"Agriculture 4.0" will become a necessary example of improving agricultural profitability and economic, environmental and social sustainability. First, one of the main opportunities provided by Agriculture 4.0 is the opportunity for farmers to exceed the limits of the farm. Through the integration of data, farmers have the opportunity to further reduce agricultural inputs, achieve process automation and increase yields. In addition, they can also choose business partners flexibly, improve their market presence, and obtain effective services in a more efficient manner.
Secondly, Agriculture 4.0 plays a decisive role in sustainability, allowing agriculture to engage in agricultural practices that adapt to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture 4.0 will no longer water and fertilize the entire farmland and spray pesticides, but more effectively use agricultural inputs, all of which will help protect biodiversity and cope with the pressure of water resources.
Obviously, in order to make full use of Agriculture 4.0, data price management will become a key capability to seize this historical opportunity. However, this concept is still quite unfamiliar to most farmers. In fact, through the analysis of academic literature and case studies, we have seen that people generally lack a strategic vision of agricultural data and only regard it as a "by-product" of agricultural operations, rather than its own asset value.
Although data sets are used for business management or for regulatory purposes (for example, for food traceability), data-driven corporate strategies generally do not exist. The journey of agri-food big data will redefine a company's data strategy and how to implement this strategy in different functional departments. This is also a redefinition of the image of the farmer, the main participant in this transformation.
Of course, agriculture 4.0 will not become a reality overnight. For example, most farmers in Asia and Africa are still struggling for mechanization. Investing in infrastructure and capacity building will make it possible to remove barriers to the transition from precision agriculture to agriculture 4.0, and data ownership and privacy are still major issues that need to be resolved. This requires specific actions by all parties in society, in-depth research and distribution of power to ensure farmers' rights in data use, sharing, and trading. Faced with issues such as food security and climate change, governments of all countries must revive agriculture, which is the core of the national economy and basic food security.