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We have more agricultural data than ever before, but this critical piece is missing

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Soil sensor. Pest management platform. Irrigation monitor. satellite imagery. labor management. Yield forecast tool. File Sharing. Even social media management. As agricultural technology has proliferated over the past decade, the technology stack of the modern farm has become dizzying. It’s a growing challenge for farmers who are responsible for growing crops and managing all this IT. In general, these tools do not communicate with each other. Platform incompatibility, information silos. In fact, one study found that 86% of agtech platforms failed to effectively share and analyze the data obtained.
Massimo Colombo | Getty Images

All of these technologies are missing what makes our phones work seamlessly. The same tools can turn a computer from an esoteric machine into a device anyone can use with a few clicks. In other words, agriculture desperately needs an operating system.

Industry analysts have stopped trying to count agricultural technology tools for years, but arguably the modern farmer has thousands of technologies at their disposal. And, these technologies are increasingly becoming bets, not bells and whistles. Extreme weather has made agriculture increasingly unpredictable and risky. With supply chain gaps and inflation, input prices have skyrocketed. More than ever, growers must find efficiencies to expand their resources and save time, while meeting pressure from regulators and food retailers to justify their actions.

This is the promise of many agritech companies today: Do more with less. But with so much on their plate, farmers need lean, user-friendly and integrated technology – and the farm’s operating system can help. RELATED: What Matters Most When Choosing Smart Farming Technologies So what is an operating system (OS)? In technical terms, an operating system is Software that “schedules tasks, allocates storage, and presents a default interface to the user”. Familiar examples include Microsoft Windows, Google Android, and Apple’s iOS—without these technologies running in the background, other apps won’t work. But what we need for farming is more conceptual. We are missing a central hub – a place to pool data and coordinate digital tools. After all, that’s what iOS does for iPhone users. Apple users can seamlessly use 3.6 million different applications on their phone, which would not be possible without the iPhone’s operating system. iOS is a key intermediary between users and hardware, providing a common framework for communication and data sharing. Consider the iPhone Health app: it can collect data from any app the user chooses to track things like sleep quality, heart rate, and miles walked throughout the day. It consolidates this information and provides a simplified interface that presents powerful new insights. This data sharing, availability and compatibility between software and hardware is thanks to the operating system – the kind of integration agtech desperately needs. RELATED: Why Revolutionizing Agriculture Should Be the Next Space Race
start up What the farm operating system looks like Now, farmers are Apps and devices are spoiled. But for these tools to reach their full potential, a foundation is needed. For users, the ideal farm operating system would be a one-stop shop for collecting and displaying farm vitals — from temperature to humidity levels and pest counts, and even labor and equipment availability. Equally important, the operating system will help farmers categorize decisions, providing data-backed insights on what to do and when. Finally, the Farm Operating System will provide farmers with a unified interface to deploy their technology, from remotely activating irrigation and pest control to autonomous tractors. Under the hood, what makes this system so effective is the collection and sharing of data. A common operating system on the farm would also enable more connectivity between data sources such as labor, equipment, and yield, and could also accelerate the development of new applications. In agriculture, data is power. But while vast amounts of data are collected on farms every day, they are often isolated in specific applications and not integrated with other programs that collect supplemental information. For example, growers can use drones to capture data from their fields, but there may be no bridges to turn visual data into actionable application recommendations. It’s up to farmers to analyze, derive insights and find solutions – increasing their workload. The farm’s operating system will allow these technologies to work together and communicate their data, giving farmers the answers they need. RELATED: Major Agricultural Technology Trends Expected in 2022 Then, we How to get there? If the situation of the centralized farm operating system looks like Clearly, then the reality of building one is more complicated. First, we’re starting to see proprietary end-to-end crop and farm management platforms that strive to bring together multiple farming technologies into one hub. However, the problem is precisely this: these platforms are proprietary. Often, they only integrate a narrow range of technologies and tools. On a deeper level, some proprietary platforms drive the sale of chemical inputs rather than prioritizing the best interests of farmers. A better approach is a purpose-built farm operating system by an independent agritech company. The ideal platform is compatible with various tools. It should provide cutting-edge analysis, but give farmers a space for neutrality and impartiality. In the end, a true farm operating system needs to be powerful enough to accommodate new technologies, yet simple enough for anyone to use. Admittedly, this is easier said than done. But done right, these systems can become so invaluable that they are almost ignored. Clearly, this approach has the potential to transform agriculture. At a time when farmers are facing so much uncertainty, integrated operating systems put growers back in the driver’s seat, allowing them to better understand and control their results. A robust operating system will open a new chapter in farming, thereby increasing farmer profitability and environmental sustainability. It’s time to build a foundation for agtech and put power back where it belongs – in the hands of land managers. Start with farm operating systems.



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