Enterprise Ireland: The future of profitable farming
With the global population forecast to hit nearly 10bn people by 2050, ever increasing food production must be weighed against growing demands on land, water and labour. With a 70% increase in food production required from now until 2050, the agricultural industry will need to place agritech at the forefront of their strategy to drive to growth in yields while helping to meet increasingly stringent environmental obligations. No more is this challenge more pronounced than in the UK. Agfunder, an online venture capital platform dedicated to technology in agriculture reported that the UK agritech sector is worth more than £14bn and employs over 500,000 people and the government has invested a further £90mn at the end of 2018.
The recently published ‘Future of Profitable Farming‘ whitepaper, commissioned by Enterprise Ireland, highlights the importance of improving yield, efficiency and profitability whilst protecting the environment. A high demand for innovative and technological agricultural solutions has resulted in a significant number of Irish businesses working with UK farmers to achieve their growth and food production ambitions.
Shauna Higgins, Agritech Market Advisor for Enterprise Ireland in the UK notes that “Ireland’s agricultural links with the UK are centuries old and Irish businesses have a proven track record of servicing UK farmers, developing a reputation for durability and technical excellence. Irish agritech companies have the unique advantage of a strong understanding of the farming industry and its needs, which has empowered them to innovate and enhance traditional agricultural practices. Though technology has been applied to agriculture for some time, more UK farmers are turning to innovative agritech solutions to future-proof their businesses”.
One such company, Abbey Machinery, have developed a unique slurry management system that focuses on slurry preparation, application and minimising compaction enabling farmers to raise farm profitability. Abbey’s slurry tankers have been developed to enable flow control for precise application and is supported by an array of applicators that to pace the slurry to optimum effect. Abbey’s system also supports environmental considerations via the inclusion of monitoring technologies.
Irish agritech is also pioneering advanced techniques in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), robotics and sensor networks. For example, Irish company Moocall’s award winning products include IoT calving sensors, herd management software, and heat monitoring collars. Moocall’s calving sensor is currently monitoring cows, heifers and unborn calves in 40 countries across the globe, helping to significantly reduce mortality.
In the area of GPS and mapping, AgriSpread has developed its fertiliser application equipment, the Section Control system, which ensures the uniform application of exact target amounts of product. This results in a reduction of input costs, increased yields, as well as minimising crop damage and environmental impact.
According to Frost and Sullivan research, about 70% to 80% of new farming equipment sold today is equipped with some form of precision farming component while an increase in agritech funding and innovation demonstrates the sector’s growth potential. Agritech is ultimately aimed at improving yield, efficiency and profitability. It has the potential to enhance traditional farming practices while also dealing with the challenges that are facing the agricultural industry today.
About Enterprise Ireland
Enterprise Ireland is the trade and innovation agency of the Irish Government, investing in the most innovative Irish companies through all stages of their growth and connecting them to international customers across multiple industries. With over 30 offices worldwide, our teams of industry experts consult with international businesses to understand and solve their business needs. For more information, please visit: https://irishadvantage.com/why-work-with-us/
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”