Tony Gil is Brazilian, he is a techie farmer, who runs an ag data collection platform and who dabbles in public domain IoT design.
Born Sao Paulo Brazil 1964
1.Hi, Tony. Please can you give us a little background about yourself and your current role.
I am a farmer who has been programming since 1978. I currently run a couple of farms, develop an ag data collection platform for farm cooperatives and study tech law in Brazil.
2.Can you tell me more about agriculture in Brazil and how the sector is doing over there?
Agriculture in Brazil is very diverse, ranging from high technology /high investment operations to rudimentary subsistence agriculture, from small plots of a few hectares to farms half the size of Luxembourg.
There are various different biomes (some count 7, others 9) over subtropical plains, wetlands, deserts, semiarid, rainforests of a dozen different subcategories spanning an area almost twice the size of the European Union.
Agriculture, as Dr Diouf, former DG of UNFAO, once told me “is the science of local conditions”.
With China as our main market, and the trade war between the USA and China, soft commodities like soybeans have kept high demand. The market for meat is also steady, due to sanitary conditions which reduced local production in China. The sugarcane market will take a big hit this first semester, but a probable wariness of public transportation will surely drive demand up as soon as oil stocks fall back to their pre-Covid19 levels. Flowers and vegetables took a big hit under social distancing.
3.How can IoT help in agriculture?
IoT has an increasing number of roles in Agriculture, the most important of which are, in my opinion: Geolocation, weather, microclimate control, irrigation and onboard automation for tractors and heavy machinery.
4.Which are your favourite IoT Applications in Agriculture?
I design and publish public domain weather stations using Arduino, as well as custom WiFi asset trackers. I also try my hand at high performance solar powered drones for orthophotography (NDVI), but they don’t always come back once they take wing. As an end user, I rely heavily on tracking, mapping and weather control.
5.Is IoT in agriculture only a win for the developed countries? Who will benefit most?
IoT is mandatory for indoor production, but as all onboard technology, development is centralized but products are shipped worldwide. Having said that, Africa, as usual, will not be competing on par with Europe, but Brazil (a technically underdeveloped country) beats Europe hands down in raw production. Nevertheless, countries like Holland, France and Germany have larger ag GDP than Brazil, because they deal in
transformed products (cheese, wine, etc) as opposed to commodities.
6.Do you think there is a difference in attitudes using IoT solutions between Europe, US and Asia?
Definitely, yes. USA and Asia go for high volume and low prices (with little respect for collective human rights, which may be qualified as unfair competition). IoT prices in Europe are astronomical, absolutely non-competitive when compared to the USA and Asia. It is the same with soil sample analysis, which costs 20 to 100 times more than in Brazil.
7.How the agriculture will look after 10 years?
The Sun will rise in the East and getting your boots muddy will still be THE single most important thing a farmer can do. I don’t see the robot farmer tilling the fields so soon, though I do, on occasion, run my John Deere sprayer with no human inside.
8.In conclusion, please give advice to our readers before to implement smart farming.
- Be well versed in “dumb farming” before attempting “smart farming”;
- Techies rarely know the first thing about farming, so most systems
wont work for you;
- 90% tech startups won’t make it past their 2nd year, be careful
before adopting new technology;
- Never be a first adopter. Let your neighbors buy the gadgets first
(wait for a year or two before deciding on buying your own, or not);
- If you can’t see how something will make you money, chances are that
- If there is no local support, don’t buy it, don’t implant it;
- Rise early;
- GET YOUR BOOTS MUDDY!
As my greatgrandfather used to say (family motto):
“If you haven’t gotten your boots muddy in my fields, you have not earned the right to share your opinions about how I should till them.”