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Making Sense of Agriculture with Elizabeth Fastiggi REAP 2022

Agri-TechE Article
Elizabeth Fastiggi AWS
Elizabeth Fastiggi, Head of Worldwide Business Development for Agriculture at AWS

At this year’s REAP conference we will exploring the interface between the real and the virtual worlds, and how emerging technologies will enable improve decision making against a background of turbulence in the natural and economic environment.

From yield mapping and precision livestock through to digital twins and cloud computing, we will be asking specialists to explore the technology and inviting progressive farmers and producers to discuss the applications for agriculture. 

REAP keynote speaker Elizabeth Fastiggi of Amazon Web Services

To provide the big picture we are delighted to have Elizabeth Fastiggi, Head of Worldwide Business Development for Agriculture at Amazon Web Services (AWS), as the keynote speaker at REAP 2022.

By providing an infrastructure for cloud computing AWS is supporting the creation of a more sustainable and resilient food system.

Elizabeth says: “Our objective is to enable the entire industry to use data to deliver insights and improve outcomes.”

AWS’ customers large and small can use its tool kits to harness data to support better farming solutions, develop more efficient machinery and use machine learning and AI for improved decision support.

Elizabeth is one of a panel of experts who will be discussing how the virtual world is driving change in the real world, facilitated and grounded by Anna Hill, best known for her role as a presenter on BBC Farming Today

Leveraging the power of the cloud

Recent years have seen the development of an ‘Internet of Agri-Things’ – smart sensors and monitors that are connected to the internet and provide real-time information to farmers and producers.

Cloud computing is facilitating this by reducing the processing load for the sensors, and therefore the energy required. The role of the sensor is simply to collate data and transmit when connectivity is available and the processing is done on a remote processor ‘in the cloud’.

The development of cloud computing has opened the door for new types of agri-tech services. Early-stage companies can develop their products and services rapidly using toolkits, and farmers will be able to use ‘plug and play’ applications that don’t need lots of setting up or powerful computers for them to work.

One example is the smart collars being developed by herd management tool developer Halter. Its devices aim to improve the work/life balance for dairy farmers by enabling remote management and monitoring of the herd, even creating virtual fencing to improve the efficiency of grazing.

However, to be feasible, the device needs to be low-cost, lightweight and solar powered, and the company also wanted to be able to update its functionality remotely. This is where Amazon Web Services (AWS) comes into the picture.

Smart collars create virtual fencing Halter
Smart collars create virtual fencing Halter

Instead of trying to analyse the data in the field, the smart collar now sends information to the ‘cloud’.

Machine learning is then used to understand the implications of the data – the animal is lame; the calf has become lost – and to use this to create an instruction for smart equipment or to provide the farmer with an alert or decision support.

As a result of leveraging the cloud, the wearable device requires less computing power, can be charged by sunlight, and reprogrammed remotely.

Of course, you do still need a connection to the internet – but with the new network of communication satellites this too is improving.

AWS helping agribusiness harness data

Project Carbonview will enable farmers to report, analyse and better assess their end-to-end supply chain carbon footprint. Credit: Bayer

Elizabeth explains that AWS customers are not individual farmers, but the enterprise and start-up companies that work with these farmers:

“We work with customers across the agricultural landscape, including major equipment manufacturers and corporations, as well as start-ups.”

Customers include CropX, which is developing a system to detect crop stress by integrating soil data with numerous above-ground data layers such as satellite imagery and weather data, and Bushel, which is part of a collaboration developing Project Carbonview, a system that aims to track carbon emissions through the value chain from the farmer to the end purchaser of agricultural goods (categorized as Scope 3 emissions by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol).

Enabling automation, robotics and machine vision 

There is a myriad of ways where modelling of the real world can improve productivity in agri-food systems, but for Elizabeth Fastiggi the long-term viability of the food system is the biggest challenge.

“Several of our solutions – and those of our partners and customers – are focused on addressing sustainability in farming,” she explains.

“There is a collective recognition that no one organization can ‘go it alone’ and we must collaborate because of how complex and interdependent the agri-food system is.

“This makes me incredibly hopeful because I know we will get to much better outcomes – for people and the planet – through cooperation, and AWS is uniquely positioned to foster these cross-industry collaborations and help our customers work together to build a more sustainable and resilient food system.”

REAP 2022: Making Sense of AgricultureREAP 2022: ‘Making Sense of Agriculture’ – Tuesday 8th November 2022 

From yield mapping and precision livestock through to digital twins and cloud computing, at REAP 2022 we will be exploring the technology and looking at the implications from a field to landscape level. Making technology farm-centric is core to Agri-TechE’s mission so a key feature of the conference will be a panel of farmers and producers discussing the emerging technologies and future scenarios.