Farmers’ sentiments can tell future crop price fluctuation’ says Chinese-based tech giant

Digital technologies -- from autonomous robots that pick fruit, subterranean farms, and streaming apps that predict future grain prices -- help transform the agriculture industry. With innovation pushing drastic changes, new skills and a better understanding of these technologies will be required

Photo: You Tube screengrab from Engadget

In China, traders are using streaming apps to predict the future of grain prices. For instance, a farmer in the rural northeast utilises his phone to film trucks lining up to load mounds of golden corn. At the same time, approximately 2,000 miles away in a Shenzhen office, someone is attentively watching, probing into the producer’s animated remarks combining it with images of his fields for clues on supply and demand.

“It provides intuitive information about the domestic markets,” 33-year-old Wei said of his experience on the Kuaishou app, a short-form video platform backed by tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. “Traders are seeking correlations between farmers’ sentiment and future price fluctuation.”

With over 700 million users combined, Kuaishou and Bytedance Ltd.’s Douyin offer a vast potential source of intelligence in an opaque Chinese market where government data isn’t always the most reliable or efficient. Along with social media such as Weibo, traders are gathering information on crop plantings, harvests, stockpiles and sales in real-time, instead of the hours of telephone surveys and physical travel that were once necessary.

The following are some of today’s leading technologies helping farmers not just with their yield but also the quality of their farming lives:

Smart Farming
Based on a recent market intelligence report from BIS Research, the global smart farming market is expected to reach S$23.14 billion by 2022, rising at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.3% from 2017 to 2022.

This market growth is principally ascribed to the escalating demand for higher crop production, the rising diffusion of information and communication technology (ICT) in farming, and the growing necessity for climate-smart agriculture.

Automated Farming Trends – An adjustment in the worldwide aging demographic has prompted the espousal of automation in farming practices. Automation and control systems makers have seen an explicit spike in their sales because of this intense drift in the farming industry.

Over the past five years, agricultural robots have also been integrated into farming operations as they take care of soil and crops selectively based on constraints and the need for a reduction in manual labor. Generating the highest revenues among all agricultural robots are the UAV/drones utilised in smart farming.

Photonics – these are technologies that work to exploit and generate light, which have various applications across a range of industries. These are applied when implementing precision agriculture, it monitors, observes and measures crop health.

Specific examples include the prediction of protein levels, determining optimum harvesting times, mapping water quality, screening crops for contaminants and monitoring overall soil health. These applications allow for the accumulation of valuable data, which can be used by farmers to predict future yields, monitor crop health and ultimately make better strategic decisions before going to the market.

Blockchain – with the creation of a digital passport for agricultural products, barriers have been broken down not only in tracking food from field to fork but also in farmers’ ability to better market and sell their crops.

For example, Canadian start-up Grain Discovery endeavours to track the path of soybeans as they are transformed into tofu. “Everyone in that journey – from the seed company all the way to the supermarket – will be digitally recorded,” explains Rory O’Sullivan, Grain Discovery founder and CEO. Not only is it trying to bring clarity to a dense supply chain, it’s also working to move grain marketing into the digital age.

Utilising blockchain, farmers and buyers get connected to a larger pool of customers locally, regionally, and globally. Both can view prior trade history, what local cash prices are doing, as well as assess the depth behind the bid and offer. This unique intelligence enables users to set a target price with confidence.

“Once a trade has been confirmed, self-executing smart contracts on the blockchain ensure instantaneous settlement, payment, provenance, and most importantly, the security of the transaction,” O’Sullivan explains.

Mike Stern, head of the Climate Corporation in the US, sought to paint a picture of how agriculture will develop and change over the coming years. “The farm of the future, I think, could be very, very different from the farm of today,” he said.

“I have no doubt that these technologies are fundamentally going to change the way that we use our natural resources to produce food,” he said. “Even today, I am sure we can’t even articulate where these technologies will end up 10 years from now,” Stern added.

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