IoT: Powering the Digital Economy – The B2C Agriculture Sector | Schneider Electric


IoT, powering the digital economy. Brought to you by Schneider Electric. [MUSIC PLAYING] Agriculture is the oldest industry
on earth, and since its beginning, it has always been a risky enterprise,
prey to weather, narrow profits, and uncertain markets. But farmers today are having
to face some of the biggest challenges in the sector’s history. As global population grows, so does
the need for more and more food from fewer acres. Competition for land and water,
labor shortages, climate change, and increasing environmental regulation
add to an already challenging agenda. In the past, mechanization proved
the key to farming progress. But food producers now
turning not only to digital but a whole host of
innovative technologies to reduce costs and
increase efficiencies in this often-volatile marketplace. The use of digital technology in
agriculture, also known as agrotech, is booming. In 2017, investors plowed
almost $700 million into agrotech companies, more
than double the previous year. But by 2050, it’s estimated that
the number of mouths to feed around the world will reach over 9 and 1/2
billion, so levels of investment will still need to rise for
farming to meet future demand. In this program, I’ll be finding
out how cutting-edge technology is transforming traditional
farming methods and ushering in a new era of food production. I’ll be meeting disruptors
and adaptors and finding out how digital innovation can
increase efficiencies, help manage our livestock, and bring fresher,
more sustainable food to our tables. And we’ll also hear
from experts in agrotech about future development in this sector. There are over 270 million dairy
cows producing milk around the world, but demand is outstripping supply,
and the pressure on farmers to increase their yield is unrelenting. In the UK alone, milk production has
more than doubled in the past 40 years to a current daily average
of around 24 liters per cow. This has certainly kept milk
prices low and a plentiful supply for the consumer. But for the farmer with high yield
at stake, maintaining a healthy herd is a constant challenge. I’ve come to Fife in Scotland
to see how one company is using cloud-based technology to
set the standard in assessing the well-being of livestock. Douglas Armstrong is CEO of
IceRobotics, a company that specializes in using sensors to
detect movement in farm animals. Upper Urquhart farm here in Fife
installed the company’s CowAlert system in October 2017. Hi, Didi. Hello, Douglas. Welcome to Scotland– Thank you. –and the lovely weather. It’s lovely to be here. Come this way. Thank you. All right, Douglas, so what
is the system you’ve got here? Well, first of all, this is the
sensor that we fit onto that cows. It goes on the cow’s rear
leg, and it acts really like a sophisticated Fitbit. So what it’s doing is it’s recording
data multiple times a second. The data that is transmitted. It goes over a trigger
in the milking parlor. The data is then sent to the cloud. We run our diagnostic
algorithms in the cloud, and then all the information
is sent back to the PC. And how does that make
things easier for farmers? Well, there’s three or four
really important things in a farm. One of them is fertility. For a cow to produce milk,
it has to have a calf. So one of the very
first things that we do is we tell the farmer when
the cow is ready to serve. So whenever the farmer
goes on, he can see here that he’s got 12 cows that
are ready to serve today. They’re in heat. And whenever he clicks on
this, you see the graph. So you can see this is our
regular behavior every day. So this is her walking
to the milking parlor. And what we’re doing is we’re measuring
the difference between today’s behavior and yesterday’s behavior. Wherever she becomes in heat,
she’s looking for a mate. She’s not interested
in lying down anymore, and her behavior totally changes. And you can see here a lot
more activity in the graph, and that’s triggered a heat alert. So as you can see,
cows like to lay down. So they’re either lying or
eating or they will socialize. But generally speaking they will lie
down for about 12 hours every day. And if they’re not, if they’re
lying down for less than that or they’re lying down for
a lot longer, then you know that there’s something
potentially wrong. So it either could be a
cow-comfort issue– they might not be comfortable in their
surroundings– or they could be ill, or they could be lame. So if they’re lying down a long
time, they’ve got sore feet, and they lie down a little bit longer. So from that information, we can then
start to look at lameness itself. So lameness is a critical thing because
the cow could be in pain if she’s lame. So we don’t want that. The farmers don’t want their
animals to be suffering. So we’ve developed a
lameness-detection system which identifies cows that are becoming lame. Dr. Vivi Thorup is a lead
scientist at IceRobotics and developed the algorithm that detects
lameness using the CowAlert system. Why is lameness an important
issue for dairy farmers? There are many good reasons. A lame cow produces less
milk than she optimally could produce if she wasn’t lame. So you could say the
farmer’s losing money. It’s also a welfare issue to the
cow because if the cows lame, it’s a sign that she’s feeling pain. She’s got sore feet for some reason. Lameness has an impact
on cow reproduction because she’s not as good as
expressing that she’s in heat when she has sore feet, so you would
want to relieve her of that pain and make sure that
she’s in peak condition and that she can express
her heat when she needs to. Are there plans for future
developments with the system? Do you plan to add a
lot more features to it? Yes, we’re constantly
looking out for extra things to detect via the
accelerometer data that we’re picking up from the cows’ legs. And if there are different
diseases that express themselves with different changes
in behavioral patterns, we are able to measure them and
come up with an algorithm that detects that particular disease. Farmer Alex Jack is
already seeing the benefits to her 300-strong herd of milking cows. The CowAlert system
that we’ve put in here has been fantastic
because it’s like having a person with each individual cow all
day long collecting data from them. Every morning I check
the computer and I’m able to see cows that are
not lying for long enough, and that would indicate that there’s
potentially a problem with them. Furthermore, it’s also
collecting all their heats, so we get more accurate
with getting cows into calve earlier, which is obviously
better for them and better for us. The Urquhart Farm here in Fife is
a long-established family holding with a mix of livestock and arable. It is what we might all think
of as a traditional farm. But the creation of new
farms will also be crucial if we’re to meet with
growing consumer demand. With cropland and pasture
at a premium, food producers are having to rethink and also
reshape the farm of the future. London, it’s a hub of innovation
but perhaps the last place you’d associate with agriculture. But one ingenious London
startup has crowdfunded its way to write a new chapter
in sustainable farming. I am about to travel over a
hundred feet below street level to the world’s first subterranean salad
farm called, aptly enough, Growing Underground, built on a network
of disused tunnels originally used as air-raid shelters during
the Second World War. These long-abandoned
passageways have been transformed into a state of
the art subterranean garden. Co-founder and CEO Steven
Dring has a long-held passion for sustainable farming. Would you like to try
a little bit of fennel? Oh yes, please. Here we go. It’s got that real kind of
intense anise-seed flavor. There’s a sweetness to it as well. Chefs like it because they use it in
desserts as well as kind of salads. Very nice, but how do you
manage to grow all of this here? So simple technology just
using LEDs and hydroponics. So LED lighting, it’s now
kind of advanced enough to replicate the spectrum
that we get from the sun. And then it’s just simple
hydroponics where we just flood the root system
with water and nutrients, and then that floods these benches,
and then that adds back to the tanks below us. And then we recirculate
the water from there. Fantastic. We’ve got a variety
of different products. So we’ve got some baby-leaf
products, and then we’ve got some herbs and microherbs as well. So we grow about 10, 15 different
microherbs, and it’s just normal herbs but grown to a small level with
really intense flavors in them. And then we grow some pea shoots. We grow some sunflower shoots
and some daikon-radish shoots. So lots of different flavors, lots
of different types of products. So the beauty of controlled
environment agricultural growing with this kind of position
means that every six days we’ll get a crop of peas. So I get 60 crops a year. If you were growing in
a field you’d get five. If you were growing in a
greenhouse you may get 25. So it’s those efficiencies. I can produce a lot more
volume in such a smaller space, and that allows me to compete
in terms of the economics. So who are your customers? So we supply to a variety
of customers in the UK. So we’ve got the food-service
market, and then we’ve got our retail market as well. Our food-service market, our restaurants
and contractor caterers and hotel groups, and then the retailers are
Marks & Spencers, Ocado Waitrose, so all the major retailers in the UK. Let’s then focus on the consumer. How does all of this
benefit the consumer? I think it’s more
around consumer choice. Certainly consumers
want a local product. They want a sustainable product, but
they also want provenance as well. They want to know where
their food is coming from. And because of the short supply chain– we deliver it into
stores and our customers get the product earlier
than they usually would– means it lasts longer in their fridge. So hopefully it means that
they will eat that product and then we don’t have
food waste as well. So there’s a lot of benefits along the
way why customers choose our product. I think the starting point is some
really good flavors and really punchy flavors in there, which they enjoy. I want to know more about the
technology that comes with all of this. How does it all work? Throughout the whole of
the farm we have sensors placed in lots of strategic
places throughout the farm. That captures data in terms
of air velocity, temperature. It also captures pH levels
in the water, EC levels. So we’re capturing all of
these different elements around the environment,
and then in real time we’re adjusting that to give the plants
exactly what they want all of the time. So it’s just giving the
plants an optimum environment to grow at every second of every day. And managing all of that
data must be challenging. Yes, all of these sensors go
back to lots cleverer people than me at Cambridge University. They crunch all the
numbers and all the data, and then we’re constantly adjusting
the systems with those guys to make sure that we’ve got the
optimum environment for growing. And so it’s just using that bit
of traditional kind of agriculture and then linking it in with
the sensors and then Cambridge to be able to analyze the data with us. Precision urban farming is
one answer to the challenges food producers face today. And as consumer demand grows,
we can be sure there’ll be many more challenges to come. But how are farms and farmers
adapting to the changes in the sector, and what does all this
mean for the consumer? Join me after the break
when I’ll be finding out. Digital farming is changing the
face of the agriculture sector and transforming productivity with
radical new tools and working methods. But what do these new methods of food
production bring to modern consumers, and how do they benefit? Harper Adams University
in Shropshire in the UK is a world leader in agricultural
technology and digital research. Professor James Lowenberg-DeBoer
holds the position as the Elizabeth Creek
chair of agrotech economics. He believes farming innovation
is building new relationships with the consumer. There is a growing part
of the consumer world that is interested in how their food
is produced, what kind of methodologies are used, and what the impact
of that food production is. And this corresponds
to a time when there is much more information available
and it’s much easier for farmers to communicate. So there’s much more
communication occurring at the same time that most people– in fact the majority, especially
in the industrialized world– have lost direct connections to farming. So a couple, two, three, four
generations ago, most people had some part of their family that
was involved in agriculture, and that’s no longer the case, but
this increasing communication about how was this animal raised
that I’m now eating or how was this grain or
other product produced? And the companies, the
food and beverage companies will influence that maybe to
an even more direct extent because they are filtering what
they perceive the consumers to want. Eric Lemaire is the food and
beverage solution marketing director at Schneider Electric, a European
multinational specializing in energy management and automation. Eric believes that transparency
in the supply chain is the key to meeting rising
consumer expectations. Transparency is one of the
key challenge of the food industry and the agriculture together. We all want to know where
the food has been produced, how it has been produced, and how it
has been transformed and transported. So there is a lot of work being done
at the present time in this direction. We see many initiatives to have a
complete tracking of the product from the farm to the distribution point. So the whole example exists already
with companies like Cargill. They implemented traceability of
turkey from their point of production to the point of distribution. In France, Carrefour is starting the
same exercise with chicken production as well. You know that it’s quite easy
to do because the transformation from the chicken from the moment it is
grown to the moment it is consuming, there is not a lot of change. It will be more difficult to
have the same thing for a pizza where the number of ingredients you need
to make the pizza, it’s much bigger, but we are working on
this type of element. This information can be grounded using
technologies like blockchain that will allow that it cannot be modified
when it has been published, and it can be also certified by quality
certification bodies in order to make sure that the final consumer can
see exactly where the product were manufactured and where the ingredients
used for this product and where these ingredients were coming from. For Douglas Armstrong of IceRobotics,
transparency is even more crucial when it comes to the
rearing of livestock. Well, consumers are really
very, very interested in where their food comes from. They want safe food,
but they also want to be assured that the animals
that are producing it are kept in the best
standards that they can be, and animal welfare is a critical issue. So we’re monitoring the animals 24/7. That data is provided to
the farmer, but the farmer can also share that with his processor
or the consumer if he wanted to. So the consumer gets
complete transparency as to what’s going on in the farm, and
that’s really, really important as we go forward because people want to be
sure that the animals are well kept, but so do farmers. Farmers historically have
always traditionally looked after their farm animals. So it’s not a
contradiction, but this just provides a method by which they
can validate that to a consumer. I think the benefit for the consumer is
knowing that the welfare of these cows is of utmost. We’re doing everything we possibly
can to make sure that they are safe and have enough to eat, that they’re
comfortable, that they’re not lame. All these things for the consumer
is really important, plus we’re producing more milk because
their welfare is higher, which then means that the milk
will be cheaper for the consumer. Because it’s obviously
expensive now for food, and we’re trying to
continue to drive that. New digital innovations
are helping farmers flourish in the face of
increasing global demand. But in a sector full of so many
developments and opportunities, what does the future hold? After the break, I’ll be talking
to experts about the cutting edge of agrotech and finding out what
to expect from the farming of tomorrow. New innovations are equipping
farmers with the digital tools to help meet the demands of
a booming global population. But just how fertile is
the future of farming and what challenges to
the sector lie ahead? The biggest challenges facing
the rollout of agrotech include the difficulty
in finding employees with the right skills that are
interested in working in agriculture. Young people want to go to the city. They want a different lifestyle. They see the urban life as
giving them more opportunities. So even in places like
Bangladesh, which has to be one of the most
crowded places in the world, it’s hard to find agricultural labor. A longer-term challenge
is how the sector will adapt to the kinds of technologies
that are now coming on board. So a key example is GPS guidance changes
the economies of scale in agriculture. So with GPS guidance and even
more with autonomous equipment, the size and shape of the field
becomes less and less relevant. That will change where farming
is done and how it’s done. In the US, for instance,
this will mean probably agriculture will move east into
places like Pennsylvania and New York where they have many small
fields with good soils, with good rainfall, close to markets
but which have not been farmable with conventional mechanized equipment. In Europe, including the UK, this
means that the economic disadvantage of European agriculture with
many small fields and so on will be much less than it has
been for the last 30 or 40 years. So they will be more competitive
than they have been in the past. But adapting to those
changes is not easy. And are there any
challenges that you can foresee for the industry in the
future, and how will technology help to make things easier? Well, there’s several big challenges. The consumer wants produce that
is as low cost as possible. The climate is changing
dramatically around the world. So farmers are facing low
product prices and they’re facing an ever-increasing
difficulty in the environment. So technologies like this help greatly
in combating both of those things. They’re trying to help the
farmer become more efficient. It’s the new efficiencies
offered by agrotech that Steven dreamed of growing
underground finds so promising. I think the farm of
tomorrow, I think what we’re going to see is highly
automated and highly optimized. Resources like water are going
to be scarce in the future, and therefore we need
to be extremely careful how we throw that around in terms of
[INAUDIBLE] farming and how we grow. So painting a picture
of the future, I think we’re going to see more in cities,
subterranean in warehouses. For example, we are actually growing
underneath one of our retailers, and so their store is above us. And so we can literally
take the product upstairs and put it straight into retail. In the future I think we’ll
see as well is a lot more farms on the roofs of supermarkets as
well as underneath them whilst freeing up the rural economy to
continue growing or grazing cattle. And so I think they’ll be
complementary to each other. I think farms in the
city will work closer with farms in the rural environment. There’s no point us trying to grow
carrots in a city and potatoes, for example, whereas
they lend themselves to large, outdoor agriculture. So I think the farm of the
future will look a lot different, but I think it will look very exciting. As somebody really young in this
industry, I definitely see a future, but I don’t know whether or not
it’s going to be a really big farm. Certainly here we have a lot
of cows, and I hope for more. And I think it’s just constantly
striving for better welfare, for more technology that can
help us with that, and hopefully to encourage people to come into
it as well I think is so important, and to educate the public
of what we’re doing here. Eric Lemaire believe that
digital will open new channels in business-to-consumer communication. The future of farming will of course
be more respectful of the environment, increase the productivity
but use less chemicals. That [INAUDIBLE] one of the goals of
the agriculture at the present time. So for this, we would have to use this
technology we have been talking about– IoT, artificial intelligence,
and analytics, but also robotics and precision farming. That is absolutely important. And in 10 or 15 years it will be
possible to have all the information about the product you are consuming now
and the organic practices of the farmer that contributed to the ingredients. Agrotech is the point where
our oldest business, farming, meets our newest in digital technology. Dwindling global resources
and increasing consumer demand is putting the farming sector under
the greatest pressure it’s ever faced. For the sector to grow to meet
the needs of the 21st century, then continued investment
in agrotech is essential, bringing with it new production
methods, efficient data analysis, and cloud-based support. By embracing the digital
revolution, agriculture is such to enjoy the
fruitful future it deserves. [MUSIC PLAYING] IoT, powering the digital economy. Brought to you by Schneider Electric.

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