Applying tech to agriculture: IoT for the Earth

Technology plus agriculture is an exciting opportunity, especially so for the developing world.

beautiful green farmland with blue sky and clouds
Credit: Thinkstock

We've long heard about how technology can be applied to traditional industries in order to make them better, faster, cheaper, more efficient or some other stated benefit. All too often, however, technology is applied to seemingly less important opportunities and those same traditional industries are left in their existing mire.

So it is always cool to hear of an initiative which takes some cutting edgy technology approaches and repurposes the for more egalitarian means. A case in point is aWhere. An agricultural technology company, aWhere collects and analyzes more than a billion points of data from around the globe every day to create intricate visibility and insights, agricultural intelligence, to improve agricultural decision making from the farm level all the way to national policymaking. aWhere works with farms in the U.S. as well as organizations like the Gates Foundation to help bring modern agronomics and weather analytics to farmers in Africa.

aWhere has been going for 16 years or so, and in that time has seen technology come together to make its job easier. It recently chose Apigee's API management platform as the enabling technology on top of which it builds its solutions. Having readily consumed APIs means that aWhere, along with third-party developers, can quickly and easily build applications that use aWhere's core data. aWhere collects weather, agronomic and other data from both public and proprietary sources in an effort to help farmers optimize crop performance.

aWhere customer's application shave been used in Uganda where farmers can determine the best time to plant seed in order to maximize their yield. While agriculturalists in the western world have pretty much achieved peak performance and are seeing yields that can't be optimized any further, this is not the case in the developing world where agriculture tends to be much more manual, without the benefits of automation and mechanization in many cases.

However, this is only the production part of the equation -- aWhere also includes insights into demand-side metrics to help farmer optimize not only for supply-side yield but also for the demand-side price.

Both suppliers and customers can make decisions based on aWhere's analysis -- companies that use agricultural commodities like sugar and coffee can make buying decisions based on insights that aWhere delivers. Farmers can make planting decisions (to plant a regular variety that crops heavily or a drought resistant variety with less yield, for example) based on weather and market predictions.

All of these insights take a lot of different data sources to create -- aWhere ingests data from a myriad of different sources and then needs to expose its aggregated and analyzed data for third parties to create solutions from. API management is, therefore, necessary both on inbound and outbound data. Offloading the cost and complexity of managing this API footprint is an attractive proposition for aWhere.

“APIs are enabling agricultural intelligence on a scale never before thought possible,” said Stewart Collis, co-founder and CTO of aWhere. “Apigee’s intelligent API management gives us the power to deliver the visibility and analytics that are changing how yield-optimization works and helping our customers feed the world -- from the independent farmer conserving water on a California farm to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation bringing agriculture technology to farms in Africa.”

Nice to see technology being applied to traditional sectors and developing economies -- it'll be great to see the substantive change that aWhere is enabling coming through.

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