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Smart Farming: sowing the seeds of innovation

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), there will be nearly 10 billion people on the planet in 2050, while the cultivable acreage is expected to increase by only 4% worldwide.
These worrying prospects are prompting the agricultural sector to embark on a genuine technological revolution. Welcome to the farming 3.0 era.

Cultivating artificial intelligence everywhere

Today, more and more farmers are using cutting-edge innovations to optimise their farms and significantly increase their harvests. From drones, driverless tractors and thermal imaging cameras to connected milking machines and humidity sensors... all these technologies enable farmers to increase, and more importantly, improve their production. Artificial intelligence can be useful to farmers as it helps them process the masses of data generated by these technologies.

Parameters obtained from soil analyses, seed growth stages, weather variations and irrigation levels can help farmers make their decisions about when, where, how and what to plant, but also about when to harvest and how to prepare for climatic events.

One thing is certain: AI cultivation is a flourishing market. According to Research and Markets, the global market for Artificial Intelligence in agriculture was estimated at nearly €518.7 million in 2017 and should grow by more than 22.5% to reach €2.6 billion by 2025.*

 

Drones: is the key to the future of agriculture in the skies?

Thanks to its ability to perform complex and varied tasks on demand, the drone has now become the farmer’s closest ally.

Acting as genuine flying laboratories, agricultural drones can monitor and observe the changes taking place on farms, which enables them to collect a large body of data (hydrometric measurements, crop growth heights, seed growth stages, etc.) in order to analyse the health status of soils and a wide variety of crops. Certain drones can already take samples from fields and apply fertilisers or herbicides in a highly localised manner.

According to a study by PwC, the global market for agricultural drones is set to soar between now and 2025, to over 32 billion. Precise and still quite reasonably priced, drones are highly profitable tools for farmers. According to a study by the cooperative OCEALIA in Western France, the yields of crops analysed by drones could be 10% higher than those on conventional farms.            

In France, the start-up Airinov, created in 2010, is the leader on the agricultural drone market with turnover of €2.5 million in 2016, and accounted for nearly 80% of all declared agricultural drone flights. It has now turned its attentions towards international markets, particularly in Eastern Europe and North Africa.

 

Precision agriculture: when CAA innovates

The major challenges of the future include climate change and its impacts on agricultural holdings. In 2015, Pacifica launched its first policy derived from scientific research: Grassland Insurance.

This policy enables the payment of capital to farmers in compensation for a drop in production caused by a climatic event. This drop in production is measured by satellite and scaled according to the Fodder Production Index (Indice de Production Fourragère - IPF) developed by Airbus Defence and Space and Pacifica.   

The correlation between this index and actual crop growth has been scientifically established by five years of research.

In 2017, a new scientific protocol was launched to enhance the evaluation of the Fodder Production Index used.

Based on the experience of Pacifica’s General Insurance BU with Grassland Insurance and in collaboration with its French colleagues, Crédit Agricole Assicurazioni has launched “Protezione Foraggio-SAT”. This is the first insurance policy on the Italian market based on an index calculated according to remote sensing data. It enables customers (individual farmers or farmers’ associations) to be compensated for grassland production losses caused by unfavourable climatic conditions.

Digital agriculture: is France ready?

In France, farmers are the most highly connected socio-professional category. 81% of farmers use the Internet at least once a day for their agricultural activities* (weather, farm data, banking services, the latest professional and agricultural news, etc.).

Far from being on the margins of digital society, the modern farmer is firmly rooted in the 21st century.

France is already considered a world leader in the agricultural sector, and with its willingness to embrace advances in artificial intelligence, it seems determined not to miss out on the smart farming revolution.

 

At the European level,  France is currently at the cutting edge of digital agriculture. Agritech, combining agriculture and digital technology, is a rapidly developing sector. In February 2018, the investment fund Xange listed over 250 promising start-ups operating in the agriculture and digital technology sector. La Ferme digitale (in English: Digital Farm), an agritech incubator, has observed that a large proportion of agritech start-ups are founded by children of farmers, and address real needs encountered in the field.

 

*According to an Agrinautes 2016 study by the French Ministry for Agriculture and Food.

 

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