The agriculture sector is continuously evolving and transforming to support the growing population. Advances in technology, including the adoption of satellite data, robotics, and drones have rapidly expanded the scale and speed of production leading to yet another agriculture revolution, at the heart of which lies data and artificial intelligence (AI).
Planet has partnered with Arva Intelligence, a scalable agtech platform that uses data and AI to optimize agricultural production at scale, and our data will now be integrated into Arva’s CropForce data analytics platform. With CropForce, growers and agricultural suppliers can analyze fields in real time to track crop health, guide scouting, and respond quickly to potential issues.
We asked Matt Rohlik, Managing Director of Farms and Strategic Partnerships at Arva, to share his perspective on the transformation he’s seeing in the agriculture market today. Read on for his thoughts.
Planet: The 2021 growing season is here and the agriculture industry is gaining momentum as the economy opens up, putting the uncertainties of 2020 behind. What are some of the current challenges that lay ahead for this industry, specifically retailers and growers?
Matt: I think it largely boils down to a few main challenges: getting the crops in and inputs ready and available with a reduced workforce in ports around the world, ensuring profitability as inputs continue to rise, getting involved in the ecosystem service market as topics like carbon offsets and water credits are added to the global agenda, and succeeding in a highly competitive market. Consolidation of the market is driving this competition but also creating opportunities for efficiencies that retailers and growers will need to capitalize on that in the coming growing season.
Planet: What role does technology play in making retailers successful in this era of consolidation?
Matt: Technology drives efficiency and economies of scale. From an agronomic perspective, it allows for better logistics management and scouting optimization. Retailers can look across their territory and find out what input products are working and how they work across different farms. This level of insight provides additional value for clients as they can optimize inputs across their farms. From a sales perspective, it allows you to automate and reduce the time spent on manual processes.
Planet: Today growers have more data at hand than ever before. How do you make that data actionable for growers?
Matt: Simplify it. As grower’s scale of operation increases, it becomes increasingly difficult to look at the fields so it’s important to understand how they can leverage technology to enable quicker decision making for higher profitability – how can we leverage it for early order discounts, cash discounts or for financing opportunities, for risk management and for different insurances? But it needs to be simplified because as farms grow, you can’t be the CFO, and the banker, and the accountant, the equipment dealer, and drive a tractor.
Planet: What are some of the most impactful use cases that Planet’s high cadence data and Arva’s platform can solve for growers and retailers?
Matt: We’ve seen a lot of success in targeted scouting as Planet’s high cadence imagery can really help drive smarter decision making. Additionally, it gives us a deeper understanding of how a product is performing. Many retailers try new products and Planet imagery allows us to monitor the use and make changes as needed. Planet’s data can also power in-season variable rate technology (VRT) applications including variable rate plant growth regulators for cotton and application of variable rate fungicides for crops like wheat, and canola, driving yield improvements and nitrogen use efficiencies.
Planet: Regenerative farming and land stewardship are becoming more and more important, how do you see technology playing a role in creating more sustainable farms?
Matt: Technology will play the most pivotal role in sustainability because data will be key. You will need a digital footprint of what is happening on the ground in order to make measurable change. We want to help leverage Planet data to monitor cover cropping and crop rotations. Imagery reflectance values can give us some key metrics around soil characteristics and soil health. And this isn’t just for row crops, there are 450m acres of pasture and forestry out there. Arva Carbon Ready was designed for this purpose and creates an easy path into the sustainability markets. Today, retailers and growers are using anywhere from three to seven platforms to hold data and we want to bring all these data into one platform in order to better monitor and manage it. We want to create a sustainability balance sheet.
Planet: What do you think the future of farming would look like?
Matt: The market will continue to consolidate. The average age of farmers is 58-60 years old so in the next decade we’re going to see a major shift of land. Agriculture has always had a slower technology adoption curve, however I think this generational shift will drive accelerated and greater adoption of technology and data to help manage and create efficiencies on farms.