Nurturing green shoots in agriculture with IoT
The improved efficiency and growth-enabling cost-effectiveness delivered to Royal Eswatini Sugar Corporation Limited (RES Corporation) shows how technology can work for organisations in the agricultural sector.
For a company facing numerous industry pressures, technology has proved to be a vital solution. It’s a clear demonstration of how the digital integration of business processes, complemented by IoT technology and the intelligent use of data, is a winning formula for the industry.
An industry under pressure
RES Corporation was founded in 1952 and operates 22,000 hectares of irrigated sugar cane. Every season it produces roughly 3.6 million tonnes of cane for markets in Southern Africa and Europe, and 35.3 million litres of potable ethanol, which is often used as a biofuel additive for gasoline.
At the time of our engagement, the sugarcane sector was facing escalating fuel and labour costs. Falling global prices owing to cheap imports were undercutting the market. RES Corporation needed a solution for long-term sustainability – one that would help them save costs ensure and compete with international suppliers. To achieve this, RES Corporation commissioned Dimension Data and SAP technologies to help streamline and optimise their operations and achieve agility.
A four-part IoT solution
We took a collaborative approach to the solution, starting with workshops that gave RES Corporation’s farmers and engineers an opportunity to raise issues and discuss solutions. The principle of design thinking was applied to explore these challenges and the best ways to address them. As a result, four key areas were identified for IoT implementation:
- Crop management
- Factory management
- Water management
Sensors on trucks help reduce transport costs
The transportation of cane was identified as an area of high operational spend. Optimising the logistics of this process would offer a direct and immediate cost benefit. Sensors placed on trucks linked to a geospatial information system now provide RES Corporation with intelligence on the location of cane trucks, driver behaviour and readings on oil temperature, tyre pressure and the likes. With this insight, they are able to streamline logistics and take proactive steps to address any potential issues.
Insight into crop yields enable improved agricultural input
Drones, together with satellite imagery, now provide information about the crop’s vegetation index. With insight into areas of lower and higher yield, farmers can prioritise areas to improve agricultural output.
Live data for 24/7 factory management
The factory can now operate around the clock thanks to the application of live data to enable decision-making.
Real-time data on water allocation reduces waste
RES Corporation now has access to real-time data on where water is most needed, so they can make the best use of this valuable resource. This is particularly useful in times of drought and, when combined with weather data, helps avoid waste by switching off water pumps when it rains.
Putting data to work through digital integration
Our consultative process revealed the amount of data available from various stakeholders across the enterprise. That data is now being relayed to where it needs to be, enabling business processes that are now integrated from end to end through a digital core.
Not only has this project equipped RES Corporation with a future-proof solution to enable it to compete with the best sugar companies in the world, it has also afforded it the opportunity to branch out into new markets and new products.
Watch a video on RES Corporation’ journey here.