Robots, connected objects … these new technologies that are moving agriculture

A thousand exhibitors, more than 600,000 visitors expected … The Salon de l’Agriculture opens its doors this Saturday, February 23 with the traditional wandering of the Head of State. An unmissable event that attracts both professionals and visitors. If visitors come to contemplate the animals and are fond of the regional and international products presented, this high mass of the agricultural world also welcomes, as every year, the innovations which invent the agriculture of tomorrow. Because the sector is constantly changing, attentive to the benefits that robots, drones, apps and other connected objects can bring. More than 8 out of 10 farmers use the Internet for their business, according to a BVA study for Groupama published ahead of the show. “It is a confirmation of the fact that farmers are very connected” comments Delphine Létendart, director of the agricultural market at Groupama, a group which insures more than one in two farmers in France.

Even more significantly, 67% of farmers already use at least one new technology object for their farm, mainly a GPS on a tractor, a camera on the farm, a camera on a tractor or a connected weather station. And this use of new technologies is found in all types of activity, although it is a little more widespread in field crops. One in two farmers even plans to invest in at least one technology that they do not yet own in the next two years, with planned investment amounts averaging 3,650 euros. A trend which should again benefit cameras on the farm, GPS on tractors and connected weather stations but which could also lead to the emergence of other technologies that are still little used today, such as drones, weeding robots or connected insect traps. “This shows that a development is underway and concerns very different farms” notes Delphine Létendart.

The AgTech sector is exploding

Enough to delight the many start-ups growing in the AgTech sector. An exploding sector. Because in the world, AgTech investment funds went from 38 in 2005 to 450 in 2017. “The amounts invested in AgTech went from 185 million dollars in 2008 to 10 billion in 2017” also recalled in June Paolin Pascot, co-founder of Agriconomie, an e-commerce site for seeds, fertilizers and agricultural equipment, and president of La Ferme Digitale. This association brings together start-ups promoting digital technology and technological innovations in agriculture. The association has been present for several years at the Salon de l’Agriculture.

The start-ups that have proliferated for several years have invaded extremely varied niches: from drones with Airinov or Chouette, for example, to sensors connected to enrich the information available to farmers with Weenat or even Visio-Green to name a few. that two. From crowdfunding like Agrilend to collaborative initiatives like WeFarmUp, which offers equipment rental between farmers. From robots like Naïo Technologies or Syha to software or applications of all kinds… “The sector is booming. Especially since there is a strong demand on the agricultural side and this is a profession where There is a lot of data, weather data or plant growth data for example, ”notes Delphine Létendart. A fertile ground for solutions using artificial intelligence.

Time saving

“There is an abundance of solutions proposed and it is sometimes a subject of questioning for farmers who do not know if all will still be present tomorrow”, however, points out Delphine Létendart. Groupama is also not left behind and is launching an agricultural application called GARI during this show. It is an aggregator of services, some developed in-house and others in partnership with other players, “tested in the field in real conditions”, describes Groupama’s agricultural market manager. If the catalog of services is to expand in 2019, three services are already available free of charge – task manager, agricultural weather and quotation – and three are chargeable – agricultural video surveillance, connected fodder sensors and a precision weather station. “It is not a gadget. This activity is really in addition to our insurance activity, in a logic of operational risk management” specifies Delphine Létendart indicating for example that the connected forage probes allow to prevent fire risks caused by the fermentation of hay.

Because if farmers are so inclined to equip themselves with new technologies, it is because the benefits they derive from them are far from negligible. In terms of production, of course, since a large number of solutions developed aim to inform the farmer’s decision-making via precise information. But also on a personal level. Among the reasons which push them to equip themselves, the farmers questioned in the BVA study for Groupama consider that the beneficial impact on their health, their fatigue and stress and the saving of time are the most important. By using Ekylibre, a management tool integrating inventory, supplier and customer management, accounting, etc., Cédric Lambert at the head of an operation in Maine-et-Loire, explained in August to Challenges that this had enabled him “to divide administrative time by two or even by three”. But 67% of the farmers questioned believe that the use of new technologies will help preserve the environment. “This shows that the expectations of society are well taken into account by the agricultural world and that new technologies will be able to contribute to meeting these challenges” judges Delphine Létendart. Two universes that meet precisely at the Salon de l’Agriculture.

Methodology: The BVA study for Groupama was carried out by telephone in January and February with a sample of 500 French professional farmers.