Inventors from LG Electronics have designed a smart platform that helps small farmers optimize their production, and enables consumers to directly purchase produce.
The Seoul-based company’s patent application discloses a method to minimize agricultural product and food waste by offering an approach based on information and communication technology (ICT) to smaller players in agriculture. ICT is a broader version of information technology that is responsible for the communication, convergence and management of data lines among devices or multiple sources. The document cites a Korean patent for an ICT-based agricultural product management and production system and an application for an online agricultural product wholesale auction platform. Both examples are targeted towards professional agricultural companies, associations, and merchants, and neither can automatically determine the prices of crops or plants.
LG suggests a system comprising a plant grower, a business platform, as well as producer- and consumer-side terminals.
The business platform in the form of an application, presenting various agricultural and retail information, as well as an image of the plant grower (Device). The application is linked to a server database (DB) and a consumer-side terminal (illustrated as a smartphone).
The plant grower is configured to produce and photograph agricultural products. Inside is a lighting bar with a camera, pointed at growing panels that can rotate into day and night positions. The machine may come with various sensors gathering additional information for the business platform, including plant growth information, fertilizer amounts, as well as water and electricity consumption.
The business platform uses data from the plant grower to determine the recommended sale prices for agricultural goods. Production costs, personnel expenses, and local supply-demand information factor into the platform’s pricing. The system may also base its prices on the quality of produce, conveyed by images captured by the plant grower. Even the delivery distance of a consumer from the farm may be considered by the business platform.
Finally, the terminals display processed information from the business platform, along with predetermined information from a server database. The agricultural and retail information helps consumers make buying decisions, which are then translated into demand data for producer-side terminals. Farmers could use this information to minimize their crop surplus, which winds up as food waste.
A 2015 report by the Congressional Research Service shows that, at least in the U.S., farmers’ share of total consumer food expenditures has fallen from 41% in 1950 to 17.4% in 2013. An important observation about farm-to-retail price transmission is the presence of “sticky” retail food prices: store shelves see cost markups almost immediately as commodity prices increase, but are slow to keep up with downward farm price movements. LG’s platform could grant small-scale producers additional sales at higher profit shares, and small-scale buyers fresh commodities at up-to-date prices.
The featured patent application, “Smart Farm Platform”, was filed with the USPTO on December 18, 2020 and published thereafter on June 24, 2021. The listed applicant is LG Electronics, Inc. The listed inventors are Younsung Choi, Eunjung Lee, Kangseong Lee, Takashi Morimoto, Masako Ikeda, Hiromu Imanishi, and Masami Yokota.