The Internet of Things is Coming to Agriculture, Bringing a Mixed Bag of Outcomes
IoT in agriculture promises increased yields, reduced costs, and other efficiencies, but three case studies reveal mixed results from start-ups and larger developers, says Lux Research
BOSTON, MA – August 4, 2016 – A wide range of start-ups and incumbents as varied as John Deere and Verizon are jumping in as the Internet of Things (IoT) comes to the farm with the promise of raising yields, reducing costs, and improving efficiencies, according to Lux Research.
Agriculture is an excellent use case for IoT, rich with data sources and ripe for operational improvements with the deployment of sensors, connectivity, and analytics. A major challenge for adoption of IoT systems for ag is the wide variation in outcomes, which can vary from single-digit reductions in inputs like water, fertilizer, seed, or other chemicals, to double-digit increases in yield. The magnitude of the cost savings or revenue increase has a significant impact on a solution’s traction with growers.
“Technologies have emerged to combat many of the difficulties inherent to deploying IoT on farms including durable hardware, effective connectivity infrastructure, and powerful information management and analysis platforms,” said Sara Olson, Lux Research Analyst and lead author of the report titled, “The Internet of Agricultural Things.”
“Solutions that focus on increasing crop yields and target multiple pieces of agricultural value chains have broader appeal,” she added.
Lux Research evaluated IoT’s value propositions in agriculture and conducted three case studies. Among their findings:
- Start-ups are rising. Phytech, AquaSpy, OnFarm Systems, and SemiosBIO are leading start-ups, with compelling technologies and solid business execution. In start-up funding activity this year, CropX has raised $10 million while SemiosBIO received $9 million.
- More accurate irrigation management can help raise yields. AquaSpy’s probes to monitor soil water status in irrigated fields have a clear value proposition. In a case study conducted over the course of a full corn growing season in South Carolina, AquaSpy-managed fields generated 22% higher yields.
- Question marks loom over costlier services. Phytech’s system consisting of soil, plant and weather sensors, and irrigation flow meters showed 10% water savings over a two-week period in one case. At a relatively high irrigation cost of $500 per acre, the system would deliver a return on investment of 10%, but at lower water cost, returns are questionable thanks to high per-acre service costs.