Using Data Analytics to Meet Agribusiness Challenges


Agribusiness faces some formidable food security challenges:

•   A global population of 9.7 billion by 2050 

•   Alternative energy demands fueling competition with food.

•   Climate change.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projected that food production would need to increase by 70 percent to feed 9 billion people in 2050. McKinsey this year said “feeding the global population has reemerged as a critical issue,” citing increases in caloric demand and crop demand, resource constraints such as water and arable land, and the competition for corn and sugar between food and energy production. The management consulting firm states that meeting global demand “will require disruption of the current trend.”

Is Data a Solution?

Part of virtually every solution for meeting world food needs is to leverage Big Data. When it comes to agronomics, better data leads to better policies. It enables world food organizations to more easily measure the effect of those policies and “to hold governments accountable for the pledges they make,” according to the FAO’s 2015 Statistical Pocketbook, World Food and Agriculture. 

Agribusiness firms and farmers in developing nations are increasing their use of technology and data to   better understand crop yields, soil conditions, weather patterns, pest infestation, and more. The goal is to spread the technology and best practices to developing countries. Monsanto -traditionally a chemicals, seeds, and genetic traits company - has announced it is transitioning to a greater emphasis on data science and services. Chief Technology Officer Robert T. Fraley told Reuters the company would offer services and solutions that use data to help farmers boost crop yields.

The Right Data Tools

A major, multinational agricultural company has been applying data solutions internally as well to improve its productivity, innovation, collaboration, transparency, and intellectual property protection. For more than a decade, the company has been expanding its use of TIBCO Spotfire® analysis and visualization software across R&D, QA/QC, and commercial operations. 

As an enterprise solution, TIBCO Spotfire® helps the company improve farming practices, protect crops from pests and diseases, and make more efficient use of farming resources, including water. The TIBCO Spotfire solution was selected for four primary reasons:

1. It enabled company leaders to build and visualize analytical pipelines.

2. It easily handled the large volumes and variety of data.

3. It integrated with the enterprise’s data ecosystem.

4. It demonstrated a commitment to the R&D market.

Dow AgroSciences, an agribusiness company, uses a different PerkinElmer solution, the E-Notebook electronic laboratory notebook, which provides templates for the physical science sector. For more than eight years, R&D scientists working on insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and more have tracked all individual and group experiments using E-Notebook. The data is date- and time-stamped, easily searchable, and secure. E-Notebook serves as a long-term data archive central repository for R&D scientists to search, retrieve, and find the data for analyses that can drive innovation.

Dow AgroSciences has found that data quality improved with E-Notebook, first by eliminating the risk of manual transcription errors, but also because users are far more likely to directly upload Excel spreadsheets and other supporting files to their experiments. This level of detail enriches the record, compared to summary notes in a paper notebook. Scientist productivity has increased 10-15 percent as well - no small accomplishment when the challenge to improve the food supply is so great. 

Learning from Others

From finance to pharmaceuticals, other industries leverage big data to drive innovations from deeper insights - and agribusiness is no different. PerkinElmer’s informatics solutions have been helping agribusiness clients for years to achieve better insights from data in order to do the important work of improving crop yields, reducing disease and infestation, and finding solutions for constrained resources. 

The planet is counting on farmers and agribusiness to feed the growing population. To meet this challenge, agribusiness must leverage data – and have the best tools available to collect, manage, store, retrieve, analyze, and visualize that data for maximum effect. 

What agribusiness data challenges are you facing? Do you have the right partner?

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