This month I attended the National Farmers Union event in Birmingham. I know what you’re think and, yes, I do like tractors.
Away from my interest in farm machinery though, I wanted to get a much clearer view of the challenges facing UK agriculture. The farming community in the UK is a closed one; farmers are working on very tight margins, are conservative in technology adoption and face constant challenges (which we’ll touch on later).
Although farmers don’t lack the appetite to innovate, when you speak to them, they’ve often heard the same old tech story that gets floated out time and again, and more often end up with a larger bill than they would have by standing still.
So, why did I spend two days at a farming conference only to be moaned at? Well, that moaning is what gave me a clear view of the challenges in the UK agricultural sector…
Some of these are crystal clear and ones you’d expect but, because I’m a decent chap, I’m going to tell you what keeps farmers up at night:
- Labour (not the political party, but actual people they can source)
- Energy (electric, fuel)
- Environmental concerns
- Price dictation (what supermarkets will pay for goods)
- Crime (theft)
- Rural connectivity (mobile, fixed services)
Some of these are obvious. The big challenge is margins are very tight and vast outlay on technology will not provide a realistic return on investment. So, we need to work to help them out.
During a conversation with NFU representatives, I was able to build a much clearer picture of where specific support and IoT solutions should be targeted:
- Energy – prices expected to climb by 200% in October YoY
- Crime – £20 million was stolen in farm equipment last year
- Environmental concerns – farmers want to protect the land and be able to see success
All of these are easily met by IoT solutions. In energy, we can deploy low-cost energy monitoring solution, with basic automation, manual intervention, and performance management. Where these have been deployed, Connexin have achieved savings of between 17%-18%.
In crime, we can install and visualise basic asset tracking solutions that can be delivered as part of insurance package or direct. The proposition helps keep insurance premiums down and boosts recovery rates for the technology.
Possibly the hottest topic right now, environmental concerns, Connexin delivers a package of solutions from air quality and soil monitoring to chemical performance in green houses. All visualised, actionable, and cost effective.
Well, I left the NFU conference thinking that UK agriculture has some challenges that basic IoT solutions can solve. As an industry, we need to do more to build trust in sectors like this – similarly to Smart Cities, we need to be crystal clear on what the outcomes are we propose to deliver for their difficult subjects and so it in a cost-effective manner.
As a company, we have some good follow-up meetings planned with agriculture organisations and I’ll share any success we have in this space in providing sound outcomes for a £120 billion sector that the UK often takes for granted.