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Water saving drip irrigation system being used in a Blueberry field from iStock.

Brief: Water conservation more of a priority for agriculture companies than reaching net zero – survey

February 9, 2023

  • Water conservation and waste reduction topped the list of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) priorities for 33% of agricultural businesses, according to a survey of over 200 senior technology and ESG decision-makers within agriculture firms. 
  • The 33% figure beat out “reaching net zero,” which 29% of respondents cited as their top goal in the survey conducted by satellite communications firm Inmarsat.
  • Inmarsat’s “Accelerating sustainable action through IoT” report notes that 87% of respondents saw “improved environmental outcomes” from leveraging satellite IoT tools for agriculture.

Why it matters:

While Inmarsat clearly has a vested interest in satellite IoT, its findings about water usage and ESG, in general, are relevant to broader sustainability conversations. They are also a reminder that sustainability involves more than reducing emissions.  

Around the world, droughts and water shortages grow worse. According to the United Nations, the frequency of droughts since 2000 has increased by a third. Drought impacts countries in all parts of the world, from the Horn of Africa to parts of Europe and swaths of the US.

“Sustainable and efficient agricultural management techniques are needed to grow more food on less land and with less water,” notes the UN’s Drought in Numbers 2022 report.

Inmarsat’s report notes some of the ways in which satellite IoT tools can assist with agriculture’s water issues, from irrigation management to real-time status updates on water troughs. Of those ag businesses already using such tools, 87% reported “improved environmental outcomes” such as a decrease in water usage and improvements in local biodiversity. 

Three quarters (72%) expect IoT to play a key role in strengthening their own credentials when it comes to ESG goals including those related to water conservation.

“Agriculture accounts for 70% of all freshwater withdrawals globally, on average, Steven Tompkins, director of market development at Inmarsat, said in a statement. “However, if you cannot measure your water usage, you cannot manage it. IoT-enabled solutions, like remote irrigation control and tank and trough monitoring, can help farmers use the right amount of water at the right time.”

The report also noted a few challenges agriculture enterprises will likely face in the near future. The cost of IoT was a big concern amongst those surveyed for the report. Others reported unreliable access to IoT connectivity and difficulty implementing tools in remote locations.

Almost nine out of ten (86%) said that satellite connectivity is “key to improving the effectiveness of IoT solutions focused on bettering sustainability.”

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