Thursday, 18 January 2018 11:29

Skills shortage impedes agritech progress using IoT: Inmarsat Featured

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Skills shortage impedes agritech progress using IoT: Inmarsat Image courtesy of moggara12 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Companies in the agritech sector are moving towards the introduction of Internet of Things systems to run their business, but a new report says there’s an urgent need for upskilling employees to cope with IoT.

According to a new research commissioned by satellite communications company Inmarsat, the potential for IoT technology to drive innovation, efficiency, and increased productivity in the agricultural sector is at risk, as agritech businesses must urgently upskill employees and recruit staff to ensure they have the capabilities to deliver the technology.

The research also reveals that while the vast majority of agritech companies are moving towards IoT, a significant proportion lack the staff and skills needed to take advantage of the technology.

Market research company Vanson Bourne interviewed respondents from 100 large agritech businesses across the globe and found that while over 46% of agritech businesses reported full deployment of IoT solutions and a further 16% have initiated a partial deployment, many lack the skills needed to do so effectively.

Additionally, agritech businesses require an uplift in skills at the strategic level, where 65% of respondents identified a shortfall, as well as the management and delivery of IoT deployment, where more than 50% said they lacked staff.

The research also revealed the specific IoT skillsets that agritech companies are lacking – with 55% reporting a shortage in cyber security personnel, and analytical and data science skills coming in second in demand at 53%.

According to Chris Harry-Thomas, director of Sector Development Agriculture, Inmarsat, IoT is the frontline of the “Fourth Agricultural Revolution”, providing a digital nerve system with a network of connected and automated devices and sensors.

“Farmers are leveraging these technologies to dramatically improve the efficiency and precision of their operations, automating irrigation systems so that water is only delivered to where it is needed, and optimising fertilisation to improve yields.

“The automation of these processes is reducing the need for manual intervention on the ground, but creating new requirements for staff skilled in areas such as data analysis and cyber security which, as we have seen from our research, the industry is currently lacking.

“With the digital transformation in full swing, many traditionally mechanical-physical industries, such as agriculture, find themselves in a race to recruit digital specialists to support their IoT ambitions.

“Competing with the likes of Silicon Valley tech companies for skilled staff will be a challenge for the agritech industry, but as these businesses look to take on the burden of data security to build market share in the agriculture sector, it is critical that they recruit staff with the capability to do so.”

Harry-Thomas said that forming strategic partnerships with third parties could help agritech companies bridge the gaps in their IoT skills portfolios.

“Agritech businesses must upskill their existing staff and attract new talent if they are to develop successful IoT solutions. However, longer term, the focus needs to be on establishing strategic partnerships with IoT specialists. With greater economies of scale, specialist partners can draw together complex IoT solutions across multiple communication networks, including satellite and cellular data, to deploy sophisticated, automated IoT networks across the agricultural industry.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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