Agriculture in the platform economy

The opportunities with platforms do not limit to specific high-tech industries only, but spread across the society and the economy. One sector that has so far received little attention, yet holds great economic, societal and environmental promise, is agriculture.

Why is this important?

Applying digital technologies to agriculture could improve the quality, efficiency and safety of farming and the down-stream industries such as food, textiles and fuels. Although digitalisation within agriculture has been modest compared to some other sectors, platforms have been or are being developed to for example the following use contexts:

  • farm management information systems
  • machine and equipment management; including asset-sharing
  • irrigation, fertilization and pesticides; including monitoring and optimisation
  • use of automation and robotics
  • food processing
  • management of subsidies.

In the centre of it all is the farm and the farmer, and platforms could, besides boosting performance of the farm as a unit, facilitate interaction between producers and other businesses along value chains and value networks. Platforms could even involve the end-customers as well as the public sector, in their roles as consumers and authorities.

The opportunities of platform economy paint a more sustainable picture of agriculture, enabling better economic performance as well as less environmental burden. Animal health and welfare could be improved and aspects of safety and ethics of end-products could be better addressed and traced. Imagine being able, as a consumer, to make affordable and fully informed choices on food and clothes, matching your personal values!

Things to keep an eye on

Currently most platforms in the agriculture sector are fragmented to small, unique solutions with little or no connectivity or interoperability to other systems. However, the vast potential of more integrated and interactive solutions to connect entire value networks are envisioned, and strategic efforts are on-going for example on the European level. The Digitising European Industry initiative has carried out extensive work, including exploration of platforms for industry, and Smart Agriculture has been identified as one vertical perspective of specific importance.

Empowering the farmers is a prerequisite for boosting digital technologies and platform economy development in agriculture. Technology developers need to establish an alliance with farmers to pinpoint concrete opportunities and co-innovate.

Selected articles and websites

Working Group 2: Strengthening Leadership in Digital Technologies and in Digital Industrial Platforms across Value Chains in all Sectors of the Economy, First report (December 2016)
Digitising European Industry initiative
EIP-AGRI: Agriculture & Innovation
GODAN, Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition
365FarmNet: Agricultural management software
SMAG, Smart Agriculture: Farming information systems, cloud computing & SaaS, mobile applications

Heidi Auvinen

Research Scientist VTT Technical Research Center of Finland Ltd
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Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence has made tremendous progress over the last decades, moving from beating humans at games towards a wide range of fields. In 1999, IBM’s big blue defeated the world best Jeopardy champions, and 17 years later Google bested the world’s champion “go” player. Recently, Big Blue was employed to develop an antiviral to attack the Zika virus with great success. The new “macromolecule” was effective against not only Zika but multiple other viruses as well. LTP news estimates that “AI is going to change every endeavor of human activity from Medicine to Government to Manufacturing, Law, Finance and beyond.  By 2025, AI Will Have a 5-Trillion-Dollar Direct Impact on the Workforce“.

Why is this important?

  •  AI replaces jobs, and platforms enable this: platforms act as the mediator between the AI and the user, and offer the interface and central place to ask for e.g. law advice.
  •  AI provides new services. This is especially the case for healthcare, where improved pattern recognition can detect tumors, or evolutionary algorithms can design new medicine. Add to this the possibility to turn code into biological products via synthetic biology, and the range of services expands.
  •  AI provides the boost that data analytics needed to make sense of the data collected and created via platforms. Platforms enable the recording of every transaction, which results in vast amounts of data, which can be useful also outside the interests of marketing.

Things to keep an eye on

The range of application areas of AI will expand, covering new industries, such as financial analytics, advising, insurance and law. Bank of America estimates the market for AI-based analytics to grow to 70 billion dollars by 2020. At the same time, artificial intelligence is becoming more and more ubiquitous; people use AI-based services everyday without realizing it. As a counter trend to the hype and excitement over the potential of AI, concern about its malevolent potential has also been raised, ranging from AI causing mass unemployment (most probable) to unleashing “a global propaganda war that sets governments and populations in opposition”.

The Finnish government recently released its action plan for enhancing the innovation ecosystem around intelligent robotics and automation in Finland, with a focus on security, privacy, user centricity and service design. Currently, the main innovation hub around AI and robotics in Finland is Airo island. A good example of a Finnish company applying AI is Zenrobotics, which makes recycling robots based on machine vision. The Finnish “Curious AI Company” is focusing on the development of advanced artificial intelligence and is now trying to apply its unsupervised machine learning to various pilot areas. Finns also take part in the discussion around AI, see for example the predictions on AI by Jarno M Koponen.

Selected articles and websites

A Government resolution to promote the development of intelligent robotics and automation
The next AI is no AI
AI and Communication: Machines That Can ‘Hear’ and ‘Understand’ Voices
Siri creators unveiled a new AI platform that seems to blow Siri out of the water
New Infosys AI tool could transform the way companies maintain complex systems
The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence
New AI security system cleverly combines machine learning and human intuition
DimensionalMechanics raises $4.7M for enterprise artificial intelligence platform


Mikko Dufva

Research Scientist VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd
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