The technology revolution in agriculture started with machinery that brought about increased production and use of efficient methods of plowing farms, spraying, and harvesting. This was just the first phase of improving the different sectors of agriculture. This phase was more equipment oriented than data-based management. Over time, new needs have emerged and in most sectors, the use of data to inform decision-making is currently the accepted norm.
Farming is no different from any other form of corporate business as there is a need to track the number of indicators that affect input and output including scouting records, planting records, spraying records and harvesting records. Paper-based data collection has been widely adopted in farms as a solution but many challenges have been encountered. Some of the challenges include:
Manual data collection on large tracts of land on paper takes a long time and more human workforce, this is not cost effective and quality assured as the process has to be repeated frequently for the data collected to give meaningful results. There is a risk for great errors in the collection process as tracking the whole process would be cumbersome therefore the use of technology would make the process much easier and promising on deliverables. This means more data to be collected and analyzed
Time factor and convenience
Time taken to collect data manually is longer and requires more energy. The convenience of using a mobile device to collect data increases the ease of collecting data. A mobile app that would allow you collect data both when you are online connected on the internet and also facilitate data collection while offline would provide great efficiency to users as they would collect data at any location regardless of connectivity. Little time to work with between problem detection, assessment and intervention requires the use of technology to save on time.
Data storage and security
Data management on paperwork has security risks like fire or physical loss. There are many incidences where important data has been lost and never recovered based on different perils. Web-based solutions that utilize cloud infrastructure with automated backup procedures to safeguard against data loss provide the best insurance in this regard.
International market standards and competitiveness
Farming is focused on international markets that insist on international standards for all produce. Data collected manually lacks in consistency and may not be sustainable over time for decision making. Farms that have quality data at hand and are using the data to derive solution have better outputs while those that do not have a well-defined data management structure take longer before arriving at quality decisions and would struggle in keeping up with the competition.
Data analysis and visualization
Data collected on paper is more cumbersome to convert into a digital format that is machine readable and better suited for analysis. The use of applications to record data improves on this because the data is recorded digitally which makes it more palatable for quick and automated analysis to provide analytic insights.
Overall, there is a need for more robust data collection, processing, and analysis while providing the stakeholders with information that is easily accessible, accurate and explorable over the web within a secure infrastructure.
The ability of mobile applications to run on portable devices like mobile phones and tablets has provided a solution both in web-based communication and data collection in all sectors. Web-based applications come in handy as they facilitate users to share this data in real-time for decision-makers to access and analyze the data and make key decisions.
Data collection flow
The chart below is a simple explanation of how data would flow through an integrated data collection and analysis system from the point of collection to the desired user in the intended form.
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