Spark launches tool to help farmers embrace digital technology

spark digital farms
Image credit: Spark

New Zealand telco Spark, together with partner Digital Journey, has launched a tool specifically for the agriculture sector to help farmers work out a plan to go digital.

The free tool – Spark Agri Assessment – is available to everyone in the ‘agribusiness’ sector regardless of whether they are Spark customers. After answering a series of questions regarding mobile technology and sensors on the farm, users are delivered a personalized digital action plan that lays out the areas they could consider working on.

According to Spark’s general manager of IoT Solutions, Michael Stribling, the agribusiness sector could see some of the fastest growth in IoT technology, with over 50% of the company’s IoT partners focused on solutions for this industry.

“Farmers and agribusinesses have been some of the first to adopt smart technologies to revolutionize the way they work, some even founding IoT businesses to solve pain points they face in their day-to-day working lives,” he said.  “The innovation we’re seeing in the agri-sector is extraordinary.”

However, despite growing opportunity, farmers and agribusinesses may have some way to go in making the most of the technology available to them. Recent data from Digital Journey indicates that only 35% of agribusinesses are using cloud-based services, trailing nationwide business use of 52%.

“The data shows farmers are more receptive to technology that makes a practical difference in real time – for example, using an IoT platform to read the pH level of soil in a field and then making a decision on what to plant there in the short term,” Stribling says.

There is also space for agribusinesses to market themselves better online by maintaining an online presence, with 35% of the sector doing this compared to 50% nationwide across all sectors.

With MBIE estimating a NZ$34 billion ($23.9 billion) productivity impact [PDF] if more businesses made better use of the internet, and with agribusiness contributing NZ$7824 million to New Zealand’s annual GDP, the fact that many aren’t harnessing opportunities in connected technology is concerning, said Stribling.

“We’re seeing a majority who still aren’t tapping into things that are now considered ‘the basics’, like cloud services and being online,” he said. “For those who just don’t know where to begin, the new digital assessment tool will provide a starting point.”

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