The smart farming market has been emerging in the Internet of Things landscape thanks to the introduction of innovative technologies. New LPWAN technologies in particular will prove invaluable in terms of energy consumption and long-range transmission, primarily in crop and livestock markets.
A growing but very piecemeal market
We forecast that there will be 37.5 million active smart farming sensors and devices in use by 2025.
In 2025, livestock (and especially cattle) will be the largest market in terms of volume, with 23 million devices. The number two spot will likely be occupied by the machinery market (11.5 million – original and replacement equipment) followed by the crop farming market (3 million).
Buoyed by Chinese agriculture which is being modernised, and large farms in Australia where adoption rates are high, Asia-Pacific will be the biggest regional market from 2018 to 2025, enjoying an average annual growth rate of 33% (accounting for 43% of smart farming sensors and mechanism installed worldwide), followed by Europe. But Latin America will be the fastest growing region: with an average 36% increase per annum.
Livestock, the largest opportunity in terms of volume
Distribution of smart farming device use worldwide, by segment, in 2025
Specialised players in each segment
The crop farming market is populated by myriad players: traditional smart irrigation system suppliers in particular, but also start-ups marketing smart weather station solutions. Agrochemical heavyweights are also in the mix, focusing chiefly on services.
In the livestock segment, the leading players are suppliers of milk processing equipment, starting with veteran suppliers of milking machines and farming equipment that have embraced robotics. Present too are start-ups marketing dedicated smart-only solutions.
In the farm machinery segment, we find mainly tractor companies whose strategies are focused increasingly on selling services. There are also start-ups positioned in the replacement machinery market.
Connected livestock solutions set to enjoy massive growth
The different smart solutions/applications for cattle
Market driven by the prospect of productivity gains
The main impetus for adopting smart farming solutions is to improve productivity: farmers can optimise their crop yields and livestock production, and reduce their costs considerably. Added to which, they can generate new revenue streams, and improve milk production. All of this will be made possible by the introduction of LPWAN technologies (Sigfox, LoRaWAN NB-IOT/LTE-M), which will enable these applications (for which sensors’ energy autonomy is vital) to flourish.
The main impediment is the cost of acquiring the hardware (CapEx) and the solutions’ recurring cost (OpEx), which means a distant return on investment that makes them a hard sell. Farmers’ relative lack of technological culture is another impediment to adoption, even if this is improving over time.
AI at the heart of smart farming
With the explosion in the amount of data coming from connected solutions, the use of artificial intelligence becomes indispensable to analysing the data and helping farmers make the right decisions. Most of the smart farming market’s value thus lies in this decision-support tools (AgriDSS).
Artificial intelligence is being used in smart farming in several ways. First, it helps farmers monitor what is happening on their land. Farmers have been using drones and sensors for a number of years now. Machine learning and deep learning now enable them to analyse these data in an ever more detailed fashion. AI also helps increase crop yields that depend on several parameters (climate, state of the cultures and soil, irrigation levels, risks of diseases, etc): this helps farmers know what to plant, where and when, which crops to monitor and when to harvest.