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Sun World Yields 20% Fuel Savings through Smart Farming

Sun World International, an agribusiness based in Bakersfield, Calif., is using IBM analytics technology to help the company implement more cost effective and energy-efficient harvesting practices, improve crop yields, reduce waste and expand its customer base.

The solution from IBM and Applied Analytix enables Sun World to collect, track, interpret and disseminate real-time information on everything from crop management to managing sales while controlling cost throughout their supply chain.

As an example, by measuring its water use and using a variety of irrigation techniques, Sun World’s water use per unit has dropped 8.5 percent since 2006. In addition, the company’s fuel consumption dropped 20 percent by measuring equipment use and matching the proper-sized equipment to the right application.

Sun World now also evaluates per unit costs and revenue for each crop type to optimize harvesting and speed the ‘field to shelf’ distribution process. The agribusiness can also analyze how many boxes per hour each crew harvests to help maximize harvest investments. The result is an 8 percent efficiency increase in farm labor and a 10 percent to 15 percent reduction of labor and lower distribution costs between produce varieties.

Sun World grows more than 60 commercial varieties of produce, including table grape, pepper, stone fruit and citrus varieties on 12,000 acres of farmland in California.

Prior to implementing the new analytics software, Sun World was using manual processes to track consumer trends, weather, labor, fuel costs and water management, which made it difficult to deliver timely information to support the company’s decision-making process.

Now, report generation takes minutes instead of days and with greater accuracy, says the company.

Smarter farming practices also help Sun World determine how to develop, plant, harvest and sell the right products at the right time to the right markets. With the system, Sun World can analyze numerous types of farming data, including root stock, timing, location, irrigation and crop type to predict which combinations will bring the best crop yield at the lowest cost.

The system also helped Sun World increase its customer base by more than 20 percent year to year while generating more than $3 million in new business in 2009 due to better insight into crop yields, sales data, retail buying trends and waste reductions.

IBM’s ‘smart’ analytics software has found homes in a variety of sectors including transportation and utilities. As an example, IBM recently partnered with Texas Transportation Institute to develop intelligent transportation projects. IBM says with the use of technology such as road sensors and predictive analytics, transportation systems can be made smarter, allowing agencies to be more proactive in dealing with traffic issues.

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