The future of farm management software

Tanja Folnovic

Agriculture is one of the most important areas of human activity worldwide. As the population rises there is a need to increase the agricultural production. Agricultural modernization due to commercialization, land-saving and labor intensive production between 1870 and the 1920's doubled agricultural production per land area. Over the past 15 years however, farmers started using computers and software systems to organize their financial data and keep track of their transactions with third parties and also monitor their crops more effectively. In the Internet era, where information plays a key role in people’s lives, agriculture is rapidly becoming a very data intensive industry where farmers need to collect and evaluate a huge amount of information from a diverse number of devices (e.g. sensors, farming machinery, meteorological sensors, etc.) in order to become more efficient in production and communicating appropriate information. Nowadays, a number of proprietary solutions have been developed to help farmers manage their farms in an effective way. Most of the Farm Management Systems focus on specific tasks and use their own specifications to implement the functionality provided. Currently, these systems are slowly moving into the Internet era and are starting to use some of the well-established networking solutions to improve what they offer to the end users. FMSs have also started to become ‘‘coupled’’ mainly with some farming equipment (e.g. actuators) to allow the automatic execution of decisions if this is desirable from the farmers. Currently, FMSs are providing significant services, but their capabilities can be greatly improved. The goal is that future systems should provide universal market places for the publicizing, evaluating and subscribing for agricultural related services in a plug and play manner. Why do we need a change in FMSs?
  • Many diverse, small scale agricultural applications are unable to communicate and share data
  • Barriers to scale up to support a larger user base
  • Difficult for decision makers to understand the current agriculture situation, for policy and planning
  • Duplication of efforts, leading to waste and inability to integrate solutions

A wide range of technologies, such as mobile phones and mobile-enabled devices radio, video, and television, computers, GPS and sensors, can be used to enhance agriculture in areas such as: supply chain management services, financial services, data collection and analysis services, agriculture content and knowledge management. Changing the vision of farm management software will enable farmers to enhance their farm productivity by making more informed decisions as a result of better access to accurate and complete information on best practices, pests and disease management and coping practices to manage abnormal weather conditions. Facilitating better market access will improve farmer’s income by reducing transaction costs, increasing access to timely storage and transport facilities, and opportunities for export. These will also contribute to the general well-being of farmers by saving their time and offering them hassle-free and efficient services.
Service Current situation Situation by 2015 with the delivery of e-Agriculture vision
Accessibility to information and services Not accessible by all, particularly in remote areas Accessible by all
Timeliness of services Timely services not guaranteed Timely services available to the farming community
Production system services Incomplete and generalized Holistic and site-specific resulting in increased efficiency of inputs and saving of cost
Pest and disease outbreaks Incomplete and untimely information and inefficient way of managing the crisis resulting in huge economic loss Better management of pest and disease outbreaks with complete and timely information resulting in preventing crop failures
Weather information Incomplete and generalized information resulting in poor benefits Holistic and site-specific information resulting in better benefits
Market access Largely limited to information on commodity prices Holistic information on markets, prices, transport, storage. Trading with less or no involvement of middlemen or agents
Payments and money transfers Largely done manually with cash - slow, tedious, inefficient and involving considerable cost and risk Fast, transparent and reliable money transactions at affordable charges with reduced risk
Interaction with experts Limited Significantly improved level of direct interaction with experts