M2M tech – digitally transforming sustainable agriculture

Since its inception M2M technology has had a dramatic impact on the way we live, work and play today. One very different area where it is powering real digital transformation and fundamental change is an industry not typically associated with cutting edge technology – agriculture.

simple origins

Meet Dutch company Dacom, an enterprise that is making a difference for farmers all around the world. The family-founded and run company began life in 1987, founded by Jan Hadders, father of present day Dacom CEO Janneke Hadders.

Jan himself was a farmer but one with a passion for technology and inventing. As personal computers became common in the late 1980s, Jan thought that there must be better ways for farmers to work more efficiently and increase their crop yields – so he set about creating a database to help farmers and influence day-to-day decision making. What began life as a solution to make potato growing more productive soon branched out into farming hardware, other crops, soil moisture measuring, quick-setup weather stations and more. This type of innovative thinking continues through Dacom’s activities today.

“Dad started out wanting to help farmers make smarter, better-informed decisions”, says Dacom CEO Janneke Hadders. “He began developing revolutionary advisory models for farmers in the 1980s and he is still involved in Dacom in an R&D capacity today”.

advising farmers, enhancing agriculture

Today Dacom develops and provides cutting edge hardware, software and online advisory services to arable farms and other agribusiness organizations throughout the world. Their approach is to help farmers gather information on a particular topic or crop and combine it onto one platform – with data being collected through sensors in weather stations and soil moisture sensors. These sensors are connected to farmers’ mobile devices through the Dacom platform and deliver the most up to date data possible, enabling farmers to make optimized decisions.

“Our platform has been designed to be scalable, so that it can grow with a farm’s needs and operations, and the data gathered can also be shared with local and nearby partners”, continues Janneke Hadders. “As such we’re able to help farmers and agribusiness in general anticipate needs and allocate resources and materials on a continuous basis, all via their smartphones. It’s all about enabling them to be more efficient, less wasteful and to maximize yield”.

maximizing efficiencies

One example of how solutions like Dacom’s are driving change in agriculture is in water consumption. Water consumption is one of the most important elements of farming, and how to make it more efficient has long been a key challenge. Some estimates suggest that agriculture wastes up to 70 percent of the water it uses per year, so there is a real opportunity for M2M technology to improve this situation dramatically. The Dacom sensor technology and scientific knowledge help farmers to continuously monitor and streamline water consumption processes all the way through the growing season.

a global approach needs global capabilities

Orange Business’ global footprint and scalable infrastructure means that Dacom is able to roll its solutions out around the world – beginning with 10 international locations this growing season and with plans to increase this quickly to 30.

The Dacom product suite evolved from a data logger in the early days, with this solution utilizing first radio communications and subsequently GPRS – but these systems ultimately proved not to be scalable  as it was necessary to open up the product and insert a new SIM inside – plus if a Dutch SIM was used there were also roaming costs involved. In addition, a sensor box which could be opened to install a SIM means possible trouble with watertightness.

So the Dacom approach focused on simplicity, with a plan to make every connected device easy to install for each individual farmer. The engagement with Orange Business meant one Orange M2M SIM inside each Dacom box, with one price per SIM card irrespective of location and a solution that doesn’t roam but that picks up the local signal. This made a massive difference both in terms of ease of installation and getting online plus also brought big cost benefits from farmers being able to self-install. Furthermore the connection through Orange’s international M2M network means Dacom enjoys the business benefit of a single provider approach and also built-in scalability.

smarter farming for today and the future

Today Dacom is the world’s number one provider in arable agricultural yield management systems. Their technology means that every professional farmer in the world can have access to smart, connected solutions that help them to plan on a day to day basis – and the benefits are proven.

As the technology evolves, so too will the M2M communication between systems. The monitoring of weather patterns and crop information is complex, data-intensive stuff, and it is important it is shared with other systems.

Janneke Hadders concludes, “We foresee the smart farming business speeding up very soon. Right now market penetration is growing but it is not yet an ‘Apple experience’ for end-users. As we transform that and make it easier all the time I am convinced that all farmers will be using smart M2M technology to help them before too long”.

Read more and see the video about how Dacom and Orange Business have worked together on smart farming

Steve Harris

I’ve been writing about technology for around 15 years and today focus mainly on all things telecoms - next generation networks, mobile, cloud computing and plenty more. For Futurity Media I am based in the Asia-Pacific region and keep a close eye on all things tech happening in that exciting part of the world.