Planning your investment in AgTech
Investing in AgTech can be expensive. Before making a purchase, you should plan what you need or what problems you are trying to solve. Planning for AgTech helps ensure the products you buy fit the needs of your business and provide a return on investment.
Opportunities for AgTech
Asking yourself what it is you are interested in using and why is a good starting point. This question often comes down to time management, skills and value for money.
Time management is critical for successful businesses, particularly for farming systems reliant on the weather. It is not possible to increase the amount of time in a day, but it is possible to change how the time in each day is. Before you invest in AgTech, consider the task you most want to automate to save time in terms of an average wage. For example, how much time do we spend driving around paddocks checking water troughs and tanks? The table below is a useful tool to help you do this.
The upfront and ongoing costs of AgTech can be a deterrent preventing some farmers from digging deeper into what the advantages for their businesses could be. While anything new on a farm can take time to settle in and understand, the benefits of AgTech can extend beyond the problem it was initially installed to solve.
Farmers using AgTech are reporting, for example, improvements to the efficiency and productivity of their business, safety, confidence in their decisions and a better quality of life.
Do your research
As with any investment, it is important to consider the options available and best-suited to your specific business. A good place to start is with other farmers and service providers in your area. There are also online groups sharing information about what AgTech is working and not working on their properties.
When researching, it is important to look at the whole picture:
- Data analysis, collection frequency and security.
- Network requirements and or availability.
- Mobility (data access or hardware).
- Ongoing costs such as subscriptions.
- Installation, servicing, maintenance costs and availability.
- Durability. Will the device be exposed to weather or animals?
Planning a ‘smart farm’
Identifying what AgTech you need on your farm can seem daunting. Taking time to plan how you are going to use technology will make this first step easier and help guide your purchase decisions.
For AgTech devices and sensors to work properly, they need to collect and transmit data. Mapping your requirements will help make sure you purchase the right equipment for conditions on your farm. There is no one way to map what you need, but you should consider:
- Network costs.
- Local network coverage.
- Data transmission requirements (amount of data and frequency).
- Availability of a power source.
- Farm topography and distance of transmission.
- Device compatibility. Will they be able to ‘talk’ to each other?
It is also important to consider how you will access the data to make management decisions. This is usually done via a dashboard, where the data is displayed in an easy-to-read format such as graphs. When researching AgTech, you should also consider:
- If the dashboard is easy to use on your phone and or computer. Can you find your way around the data and retrieve the information you want such as total yearly rainfall?
- If the data allows you to make decisions in real-time, such as wind speed for spraying.
- If the data analysis be customised.
- Privacy and data sharing. Who can access the data and can you share it with a business advisors such as an agronomist?
- Compatibility with other devices. Can a single dashboard display all the AgTech data collected on your farm?
- Ongoing costs such as subscriptions and maintenance.
- Where the data from your farm is stored.
Putting it all together
With a plan in place, you should be better equipped to make sure an investment in AgTech outweighs the costs, and the data the devices provide help you make more informed decisions to benefit your business.
To create your own AgTech Project Plan, work through the modules in the AgTech eLearn series.
How much is your time really worth?
This exercise may help you to decide if an investment in AgTech could be useful in your business.
How much time do you spend on the farm?
(………… hours/week x ………….. weeks/year)
How much time do you spend doing the task?
What classification is the task?
How much could AgTech save?
(………….. hours/week x ………….. weeks/year) x ………….. $/hour = $…………/year
How much does AgTech cost?
$.............. Purchase price
$.............. Repairs/maintenance (estimate)
……………. Equipment life expectancy (estimate)
Estimated costs ……………. / labour savings …………. $/year over life expectancy