By Erald Smith, Head of MyFarmWebTM and Services Agri Technovation.
According to a new market intelligence report by BIS Research (Source: MarketResearch), the global smart farming market is expected to reach $23.14 billion by 2022. In the coming years, smart farming is also anticipated to impact significantly on the agricultural economy by bridging the gap between small and large-scale businesses. This trend is pertinent not only in developed countries, but also developing countries. In South Africa, applying Agricultural Technology (AgTech) sooner rather than later could improve on the ultimate sustainability of agriculture as we currently know it.
As with any digital platform, keeping consumers happy is not an easy task and requires more than just regular updates. It involves an iterative process – consisting of in-depth research, extensive planning, and unbeatable commitment. A firm reality of our current technological world is that the existence of a healthy developer/consumer relationship is absolutely non-negotiable for the success of any digital platform.
The Agri Technovation MyFarmWeb™ platform is at the forefront of digital innovation, especially when it comes to precision agriculture. The platform itself offers consumers the opportunity to easily apply precision farming in their daily farming practices with the help of a cloud-based application. The primary objective of precision agriculture is to attain profitability, efficiency and sustainability on the farm – these aspects representing what every producer always strives to improve on. By improving their overall production efficiency, producers will be able to make swift yet informed decisions. In this instance, MyFarmWeb™ is a complementary tool in the form of a convenient internet-based platform that is easily accessible to all producers.
MyFarmWeb™ has succeeded in turning the availability, use and accessibility of agriculture-related data into an important resource. It also provides producers the opportunity to give valuable input (suggestions, requirements, needs etc.) on the development of the platform itself. User suggestions are sent directly to Agri Technovation for consideration, assisting us in our efforts to develop regular updates for the platform with the end-user in mind.
This healthy relationship between developer and producer/consumer is beneficial to both parties in that it facilitates a continuous development process through which the App evolves into the best possible end-product while keeping the daily users’ requirements and needs in mind throughout the development process.
It’s a give and take relationship
The team behind MyFarmWeb™ receives regular updates and feedback from users (producers working in the field) and administrators using the platform on a daily basis. This provides the development team with new content to incorporate into the development for roll-out, as part of weekly updates to the platform.
These updates are based on specific user feedback – and whilst each comment goes through a vetting process, almost all comments are implemented into the final product. The development team believes that every single piece of feedback received from one producer could also represent the need of another.
The vetting process focuses on the real-world application of the feature by considering the potential real-world impact that the feature could possibly have. For example, if the feature is specific to a crop that is less common, it would only apply to a small number of producers in South Africa.
On the other hand, implementing a feature that is specific to a large number of producers in South Africa such as citrus producers, would be more viable as they are more wide-spread across South Africa and they are more in numbers. Above all else, with MyFarmWeb™ the end-user has more power over the evolution of the platform than one would find with other widely used digital platforms, because the developer/consumer relationship is extremely tightly knit. It is therefore highly likely that the features that producers have requested and/or would like to use on the platform, will be implemented.
Innovative and customer centric features
User feedback varies, ranging from concerns about user experience interfaces to innovative ideas concerning actual features that many could benefit from. Agri Technovation takes each query to the drawing board for consideration and to determine whether it is technically possible to implement and worth developing.
Initial features on the platform included profitability configuration expansion and aerial maps. Since then, updates have been implemented, most of which were fuelled by user requests. The most recent updates include:
Smart Layer Yield Map:
Identify crop, cultivar, root stock (perennial crops), row width,
plant spacing, plant population and economic considerations such as cost per
hectare and price per ton on a per field basis. Once a harvest has been marked
as complete on the smart layer, a new map is created automatically showing the
crop cultivar and yield. This also enables the producer to see graphically
where specific crops and cultivars were planted and harvested.
Historic production data on field level is stored indefinitely.
This feature allows producers to monitor a customised selection of provincial dam levels. Users have the ability to select dams that are of interest to them and monitor their levels throughout the year.
MyFarmWeb™ has added cellular coverage maps to allow users to see what the coverage on their farm is. This is especially useful when deciding on whether to acquire data transmitting devices used for monitoring irrigation and other relevant IoT applications.
ITEST Leaf™ expansion:
Recently MyFarmWeb™ introduced norms on the ITEST Leaf™ points. All new leaf samples are indicated by colour, which coincides with whether or not the elements are within or outside the norms.
With My Irrigation™ infrastructure, users have the capability to view and store their irrigation designs on the platform.
My Flight™ provides users with the ability to view aerial application flight paths. This feature is especially useful with PPM™ to see if target areas have been covered or not.
MyFarmWeb™ has integrated with Airbus VERDE™, which will provide a solution that offers more than a standard NDVI (Normalised Difference Vegetation Index). VERDE™’s biophysical parameters are calibrated by crop type and are currently offered on wheat, maize, soya, pastures, cotton, sunflowers, sugar cane, canola, potatoes and barley. Users can subscribe to their fields of interest and monitor it via the platform.
VERDE™ offers three parameters, namely:
FCover: The percentage amount of area within the monitored zone occupied by the crop.
Chlorophyll: Allows for the assessment of nitrogen concentration and deriving nitrogen variable input recommendations.
Leaf area index: The number of square metres of leaves present in one square metre of ground.
With weekly MyFarmWebTM roll-outs of updates taking place, we take pride in the fact that queries regarded as highest priority could be implemented very quickly – something that is rather unusual in the app development world. Agri Technovation always endeavours to have open communication lines with all of its users, effectively providing a pinhole insight to each user’s needs.
The next steps
Agri Technovation is continuously looking to add value to the MyFarmWeb™ platform by finding new and innovative ways to enhance the users’ experience. By taking into account user queries received, our developers have a range of features lined up to be included in future updates.
Upcoming features development
Multi-select on the Smart Layer:
Users will have the ability to select multiple fields whilst allocating crops in the Smart Layer. The same crop and cultivar information can be applied over many different fields, which will ultimately save the user the time it would take to input each crop individually.
This feature will enable users to select points of interest on their farm such as the position of an irrigation pipe or a patch of sedges on his land, and pinpoint coordinates to share with other stakeholders.
This is also a very useful feature when the
taking of samples is required, when areas that need specific attention need to
be inspected, when revisits or follow-up
visits need to be done or for identifying areas of high yield,
to mention a few.
Fruit growth and quality indicators:
By the next fruit growth season, the platform will have a function in place that allows users to monitor fruit growth and trends, while visual representations of growth are displayed on MyFarmWeb™.
Hortec’s integration with the platform is underway and users will soon have the ability to view their Hortec weather data on the MyFarmWebTM platform.
Smart Layer download:
This feature will allow users to download smart layer data in CSV or Excel format, in addition to having the ability to upload CSV or Excel data into MyFarmWeb™ using a template. This will significantly reduce the effort associated with the uploading of historic data and will speed up the uploading process by collating historic information into one document for this purpose.
Smart Layer identifier:
Users will be able to query the Smart Layer
to determine where certain crops and
cultivars are planted on a farm. For example, this feature will allow users to
determine where citrus trees of a certain age and rootstock have been planted. The resulting map will display on which
field these trees are planted and give
a dynamic feel to the Smart Layer tool.
Lastly, the platform will soon have the ability to download and display harvester maps produced within the John Deere Operations Centre. This feature will also allow users to view their John Deere vehicles as a live layer – information about the vehicle position, heading, speed and fuel level will be displayed.
Developers are hard at work to ensure
future updates are available to users as soon as possible. Some of the next essential developments include Notifications and an Activity Tracker. The tracker will enable users to plan, manage and report on specific farming activities such as spraying, fertilising, planting, fieldwork and harvesting.