It only seems natural to turn to adjacent industries to see what techniques and improvements can be made. As I see it, one of Golf’s closest industry relatives is Agriculture and Farming. The parallels of contesting with nature, ongoing labor management, and maintenance are characteristics that connect Agriculture and Golf. Yet, they are exactly the same characteristics that separate them from other industries. The major advances coming from Agriculture and Farming are found in their technological developments and application—specifically in IoT (internet of things). Smart farming and agriculture are making significant headway in the area of IoT. They call it ‘Precision Farming’ or ‘Precision Agriculture’.
Normally, for technologies to be adopted by industries, there needs to be a collective industry response to change the current way operations normally function. The response by the industry to change is typically influenced by an external force that causes the industry to adapt. So, what is the external force that is causing Farming and Agriculture to adapt and adopt new technology? According to Beechum Research, the global population is set to increase to 9.6 billion which will require a 70% increase in food production to sustain the growth. According to Therese Cory, Senior Analyst at Beechum Research, “The demand for more food has to be set against the challenges of climate change, more extreme weather conditions and the environmental impact of intensive farming practice.” A significant challenge that requires a new approach to effectively meet these external demands.
Part of the technological adoption by Farming and Agriculture is grounded in the way the analysis of the data is structured. Not uncommon for most industries, Farming and Agriculture are adopting a 4-step process in their analysis with the goal to make effective decisions from the data produced.
- Sensors are embedded or attached to ‘things’ and data is produced
- The information is transmitted to a software that presents it as ‘business-logic’ in relation to the current environment and the goals that need to be achieved.
- Users and/or the machine define next steps as a result of the incoming information.
- The decision(s) are executed and the cycle repeats itself.
The cycle is creating an environment of precision and the strength of this process is rooted in discipline. The parts of Farming and Agriculture being advanced being IoT are things like:
- Agricultural Drones
- Equipment Monitoring
- Smart Greenhouses
- Soil and Crop Health
- Machinery in Use
- Animal Behavior
- Climate Monitoring
- Storage Conditions
IoT is providing a 360 view and round-the-clock insight to the activities in each of these areas. It is quickly being known as the Third Green Revolution, following the advancements of plant breeding revolution and genetics revolution.
Like Farming and Agriculture, Golf has experienced external pressures that are seemingly affecting the industry as a whole. A main issue, so far as I can tell, is the excessive rain experienced in the U.S. over the past few years. In fact, according the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this past May in 2019 was recorded as the second wettest month on record. The continued wetness seen in the past few years are having an impact on people going out to play golf—thus having an impact on golf’s revenue. Consequently, this natural occurrence is a factor that is impacting Superintendents and their ability to maintain their properties at high level on a lower budget. Having spoken to and worked with many Superintendents, there is a growing understanding and adoption of using technology to improve operational efficiencies. As technological developments in IoT and soil monitoring, for example, become more mature, it is likely that the ability to do more with less becomes a reality—much like Farming and Agriculture. If there is any takeaway from what we see in Farming and Agriculture, it’s that external forces will often create cause for change and the ability to learn and adapt to that change will ensure not only survival, but prosperity.