Tech up or check out. That’s the challenge facing the world’s farmers as the wave of digital disruption laps at their farm gates, writes Company-X director David Hallett.

Only teching up on the world’s farms will help keep the human race fed as the demand for food grows by 60 per cent in 2050. By then the world population is expected to swell by two billion people to a staggering 9.5 billion, according to the World Economic Forum.

Checking out is not an option and will, ultimately, cost human lives.

The answer is, of course, technology designed to create efficiencies and help farmers do more with the same resources. At the heart of this is an approach to technology called the Internet of Things which adds internet connectivity to everyday things, providing valuable, real-time data to users and, in some cases, allowing remote control.

The effect, on-farm, is the rise of precision farming. The collection of very precise farm data informs more informed decision making which helps keep costs down and production up.

For example, Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform is enabling what, in New Zealand, has been called the “the cow cloud” or “the internet of cows”. It uses the internet to connect dairy farmers with individual cows in their herds, delivering real-time data. This enables farmers to make business decisions based on the latest data. The age, breed, breeding worth, calving, health records, herd test results, mating, production worth and parentage of the cow is covered, as well as pasture cover.

Similar technology is being used in Japan to predict when beef cows are likely to go into heat, using internet-connected pedometers fitted to the herd. Predictions arrived at by analysing the data collected is very accurate in its predictions.

In the USA Internet of Things enabled technology is being used to monitor soil conditions through network-connected sensors.

While it seems the Internet of Things is all the rage at the moment, such technology has been around for years and, is slowly but surely, proving itself.

John and Margaret Fisher became the first Waikato dairy farmers to install a robotic milking system on their farm in Parallel Road, Cambridge, in 2010. Each cow has a digital profile which governs her and regulates how often she can be milked, with permissions ranging from every six to 14 hours. Milk production using such a system typically leads to the production of a third more milk.

There are plenty of ways to upgrade your farm. The question is where to get good advice?

A good start is an industry good organisation such as Dairy NZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand. Their field staff should be able to point farmers exploring the options in the right direction.