Since the turn of the millennium, digital technology has completely transformed retail, manufacturing, transportation, healthcare, and pretty much every industry within the global economy. Still, there is one industry that has been noticeably slow to adopt digital solutions – agriculture. But it looks like that is finally changing, and not just in conventional agriculture.
On today’s podcast of Lighting Up with Illumitex, senior horticultural scientist Mark McDevitt and director of business development Dennis Riling shared their insights on how digital technology is disrupting the way greenhouse growers do business.
As McDevitt explained, specialty crops grown in greenhouse spaces have small margins and fickle demand. A crop can be popular one minute, and while it’s still in the ground, it can fall out of favor with consumers.
Growers have short-term needs and must remain agile to respond to changing market conditions, which is why many have resisted investing in costly digital solutions that might not pay dividends until years later. According to Riling, “There’s still a farmer mentality on where they’ll invest their money for a return they might not see for five years.”
But the challenges of operating large facilities at scale are driving growers to turn to digital tools like visual A.I. which can keep watch over acres of crops and help maintain consistency across multiple greenhouses. As McDevitt put it, “You can’t be everywhere at every minute, but with a camera, it’s very feasible to do that.” He added that these scouting solutions put digital eyes on plants, lowering production costs, and giving growers the ability to identify problems that can ruin a yield before they even occur.
“Customers that use this technology are going to have a gross advantage over their competition,” Riling said. This advantage is why McDevitt believes the industry is nearing an inflection point when it comes to adopting digital solutions. He believes that all growers will need to integrate digital tools into their operations to keep pace with competitors, making it an exciting time for everyone in the space.