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What Is The “Agri Internet of Things” And What’s It Got To Do With R&D?

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When you hear the term "Internet of Things" you probably don't immediately think of agriculture. Yet it's having a massive impact on the crops we grow, the farming of our land and the food we eat.

Internet of Things technology is changing the agricultural sector across the globe. IoT and AI-based solutions now mean that farmers can rear livestock and cultivate crops with more efficiency and reliability than ever before. Such technologies also allow farmers to produce more with less resources, to keep on feeding a demanding world.

The issues faced in the agricultural sector are only set to get worse, as climate change, drier soils and population growth take hold. Luckily, advances in technology mean that these challenges can be met head-on. Indeed, investment in research and innovation across the Agri-Tech sector is proving to be a ray of hope for mankind.

What is Agri-Tech?

This is where technology is being used in offering solutions to problems across farming, agriculture, food production and food distribution.

Year on year the demands on farmers increase, with resources being stretched and input costs soaring. People are also more interested than ever before in issues around sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices, particularly in food production. Such challenges have a strong impact on the economy, and many Irish farms are struggling to stay profitable. This is where Agri-Tech comes in, helping farmers to do more with less. It’s all about boosting productivity through data and technology, instead of developing even more land for agricultural use.

R&D and Agri-Tech

Farmers both in Ireland and around the world face all sorts of problems every day. Technology has the power to solve such problems with everything from Big Data and drone technology to vertical farming and robotics. The amount of research and development (R&D) required is therefore massive.

In the Republic of Ireland, Agri-Tech businesses can take advantage of the Revenue’s R&D Tax Credits scheme to offset some of the cost of innovative research. The scope to qualify is incredibly broad, with relief available providing a ‘scientific or technological uncertainty’ has been addressed.

This makes the Agri-Tech sector a real hotbed for R&D. Ground-breaking new technologies are being applied in just about every aspect of farming and many Irish companies are benefiting from R&D tax relief claims already.

What problems can be solved by Agri-Tech?

Agri-Tech’s potential is huge, but R&D expenditure is very often targeted at these areas in particular:

  • Limited resources and increasing pressure on natural resources
  • Feeding a global population that’s growing by the day
  • Reducing energy use
  • Dealing with waste from harvesting
  • Environmental threats and resilience including disease and disaster
  • Storage, for instance of silage and grain

So where does R&D tend to occur?

When it comes to agriculture, innovation is likely to occur in these areas:

  • New technologies and processes - either developing something brand new or improving tech that already exists
  • AI and robotics
  • Big Data and the Internet of Things
  • Increasing crop yield
  • Remote sensing
  • Monitoring and satellite imagery
  • Drones
  • Vertical farms
  • Improving labour productivity through machinery and robotics
  • Biotechnology
  • Resource management
  • Smart irrigation and soil management

How does Big Data fit in?

Big Data refers to massive data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal associations, trends and patterns. It can be used in an almost infinite number of applications, but is particularly lauded in agriculture where it has the greatest impact. Such data can potentially improve efficiency and productivity exponentially, paving the way for maximum output at minimum effort and cost. It also plays a prominent role in minimising the impact of farming on the environment.

How does it work?

Data in very large quantities can be gathered from a broad range of sources, across just about all areas of farming. It can then be collated and processed in conjunction with advanced analytical software and programs so it’s accessible to farming businesses across the world. This then enables them to use this information in making decisions more strategically. Farmers are also able to dramatically improve the performance of their business through constant monitoring and analysis.

With regard to Big Data, information collected allows for more informed decision-making on issues like where to plant crops for the best yield. But the real power comes when the data from multiple farms is combined. Individuals can share their data with other local or regional farmers in Ireland, or even upload it for the benefit of farmers in other parts of the world. Collecting and analysing this data in real time could be the key to a dramatic increase in productivity almost instantly.

Monitoring

Monitoring a particular farming process can bring about data that will improve that process whilst cutting costs. Everything from soil and water management to how much fertiliser is left in a tank could be subject to close scrutiny - and without the need to do it manually.

Drones and farming

Areas of disease and weed growth in particular are easily identified by the images beamed back by drones. Farmers can survey a much larger area of land far more quickly than previously and analyse the high resolution images. More accurate, effective strategies to manage spraying programmes can then be implemented so stopping the spread of disease in its tracks. Again, this can help reduce input costs whilst providing maximum yields.

Robotics

Robots or “agribots” are already used by farmers to fertilise, water and harvest many of their crops. Technologists are now working on agribots that are able to undertake a number of different agricultural tasks at the same time, massively boosting productivity. Indeed, the potential for robotics in general is huge.

Agribots can also work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to harvest far more crops very quickly. This prevents them from rotting in the field, which will increase farm revenues dramatically. It also reduces the labour costs of working by hand.

Why choose Myriad Associates?

With offices in both Dublin and London, the Myriad Associates team are experts in all areas of R&D tax relief across Ireland and the rest of the UK. Whether you’re fully established or just starting out, we will help you get the most out of your R&D Tax Credit claim. Call us today on +353 1 566 2001 or use our contact page.


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