The Latin American livestock industry has boomed over the past two decades. As its role as a major player in the global market continues to expand, the region risks being unable to compete with the high-tech solutions of more technology-oriented countries around the world. Thus, a necessity for Internet-of-Things (IoT) solutions in local farming has become evident for both producers and developers, creating a promising, if challenging, environment for innovation and growth.
Latin America has become a livestock farming powerhouse since the turn of the millennium. As of 2019, production in the region accounts for 12% of the global consumption of meat and milk, with over 25% of world’s beef, 24% of world’s poultry, and 7% of world’s pork being farmed in its territory. More than two thirds of meat production come from the three main producers of the region – Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico – which represent 70% of the continent’s land area. With an annual growth rate of 3.7%, the livestock sector now accounts for 46% of the agricultural GDP of the continent.
A higher local demand for livestock product and the interest of foreign economies like China and Russia in the affordable, high-quality products being exported from the region have propelled this accelerated growth. However, much of this development has come as a result of the expansion of inventories, in contrast with the efficiency-based increments recorded in the US and other established markets. With the decades-old exodus to the cities across the continent and the ever-present thread of climate change casting gloom over the sustainability of the industry, a shift towards intelligent systems for breeding and production is of paramount importance.
The implementation of IoT solutions in the livestock industry has been a watershed in the way processes of tracking, feeding, and health monitoring are carried out. GPS tracking provides farmers a remote, real-time picture of the location and distribution of their cattle, allowing them to monitor their interactions and habits in a much cheaper and efficient way. By using special tags or monitoring collars, farmers can generate a database of the animals’ status and make informed decisions on their grazing schedules, breeding and milking periods, and overall wellbeing. The array of possibilities offered by these data-driven techniques has paved the way for a livestock monitoring system market worth over 600 million USD worldwide in 2021, growing at a compound annual growth rate of almost 18%, and which, for Latin America, would be worth more than 101 million USD by 2025.
For all its benefits, IoT for farming is still in an early phase. As pointed out by Sebastián García Marra, co-founder of LESS Industries, an Argentinian IoT startup working on smart farming, “for the average farmer, the value an IoT solution could add to his production line wasn’t clear. This, however, is a worldwide problem. Connecting sensors and variables is not going to produce better results unless each client’s needs are clearly understood.” Regarding the external obstacles for the implantation of IoT, García Marra singles out the lag in connectivity across the region (particularly so in rural areas), with 4G and LoRa networks slowly making their way over the past decade. Despite this obstacle, continued investment in infrastructure and the development of policies promoting digital initiatives “are a sign of progress both in the technological side and in the intention of governments.”
Farmers in Latin America are now global players in the livestock market, and as such, the need to upgrade and digitalize their production is more present than ever. IoT solutions in farming are revolutionizing the way livestock monitoring and breeding are carried out and, despite the regional challenges, local producers, entrepreneurs, and policymakers are beginning to see their potential as game-changers for the future of the industry.