Technology in the Agribusiness: What will be the trend in 2023?

The use of footage, artificial intelligence, automation tools and monitoring to significantly improve in 2023. All that depends, however, of more connectivity.

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06 February 2023

The forecast for a record-setting grain harvest — the Brazilian Geography and Statistics Institute (IBGE) estimates a production of 288.1 million tons -  and the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (PIB) - in the order of 10.9%, according to the Applied Economics Research Institute (Ipea) - allow projections of a robust growth of the agribusiness in 2023.

Add to the optimistic scenario, the development of technology is moving on at full speed. Essential for the expansion of the sector, with solutions ranging from auto steering, harvest monitoring and the use of drones to results planning and analysis tools, technology has been revolutionising the way production happens. The guarantee of more productivity without setting sustainability aside, passes through several innovative solutions. 

Progress, however, takes time. According to Alexandre Alencar, R&D Director of Hexagon’s Agriculture division, extremely complex operations, different from one another, cause the steps of technology in the agriculture & livestock industry, especially relative to automation, to move slower. “I always list at least five steps: pre-planting, planting, fertilisation, spraying and harvest. There are five different types of autonomy required for a fully-autonomous harvest. The complexity in that is enormous and will not happen overnight”. 

Check below some trends for 2023:

Use of imaging and artificial intelligence
In the past, crop problems, such as disease and pests, for example, were only detected through visual monitoring: it required going to the planted area in person, which made the process much slower and much less efficient. Today, image-based detection technology, such as drone flights, with an infrastructure that automatically identifies problems in the crop are capable of covering large areas in much less time. 

According to Alexandre, the use of footage allows for more complex and advanced data processing, and consequently, better planning for execution of the operations. “Activities previously carried out manually are currently being accelerated by the use of footage. And behind that we have machine learning and AI, which train algorithms allowing for more accurate monitoring of the areas”, he explains. 

Full automation
Full automation — in 100% of the activities in the field — is still far from being a reality, but many tools already allow facilitating the day-to-day of farmers. “One of the greatest dreams of producers is having a machine fully independent of human action, carrying out operations independently. That does not mean ending jobs, but increasing agricultural production and let machines do the physical labor while humans keep engaged in the intellectual effort”, explains Alexandre. 

Despite this reality still being distant, agriculture already counts on several semi-automation elements, and the trend for 2023 is that investments will be increased even more. “In Hexagon’s Agriculture division, for example, the auto steering was developed to aid in the navigation of tractors, machinery, and agricultural and forestry implements, ensuring alignment and minimising overpass during planting, application of inputs, and cultivation”, in the example he provided. 

Remote monitoring
Another area likely to receive attention in 2023 is remote monitoring. “In the past you would send an army of people to the field, not only to carry out the activity, but also to control whether everything was right. We had a series of field coordinators, managers, front leaders, who had the mission of checking if the operation was being correctly executed. Today, the activity, especially given the expansion of corporate farming, is managed remotely”, says Alexandre. 

Through control rooms, in the case of large operations, or by using mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, in the case of smaller-scale farming, operations can be coordinated more efficiently. “We are used to saying that the control room in agriculture is almost like the control tower in an airport. You can see the harvesters and tractors working inside specific areas, and, at the same time, you can monitor the movement of trucks in transporting the raw materials to the industry”. According to the director, in 2023 producers are expected to invest more and more in technology, since it is possible to achieve a better sync between all equipment and machinery and solve the problems in a much faster and more precise way.