Population growth and diminishing farmable land are forcing the agriculture industry to adopt high-tech IT and big data analytics solutions, according to John Deere global infrastructure services manager Larry Brewer.

Brewer explained how the farming machinery specialist had worked on a project with SAP to help meet the agriculture industry's hunger for analytics during a keynote at the 2014 Sapphire trade show.

"We recently completed a co-innovation project with SAP, called 'emerging issues technology'. We're known as a company that provides great tractors or great lawn mowers. What many don't know is that we have a great focus on innovations in information technology. Information technology is important because at the moment, we all have a great challenge ahead of us," he said.

"By 2050, the world's population will grow to nine billion and we'll need to produce twice as much food. This is a massive challenge because there's only so much usable farm land left. This means the vast majority of the food we need will have to be found and made through innovations in technology. That's what our project with SAP was about."

Brewer said the project saw John Deere use SAP's HANA cloud platform to collect data from a variety of sources and offer customers advanced real-time analytics.

"Innovation was built on the HANA platform and saw our teams load hundreds of millions of data points into HANA. These included machine alerts we capture through the telematics technology running on our machines, warranty claims from our global SAP system, and contextual information from our dealers. We used all this and HANA to get real-time, lightning fast analytics," he said.

"Our team also developed a simple user interface that let our engineers work into the data, and slice and dice it in multiple different ways, to get to the information they need. This provided insights never before available. We got massive amounts of data we'd never seen before in seconds."

Brewer explained that the information will let customers spot dangerous trends and deal with unexpected issues faster than ever before.

"We believe this will let us identify problems in the field much quicker. In some cases we've estimated we'll be able to spot problems two to three months faster than before," he said.

"We also think we'll be able to resolve the problems quicker as the increased information will let us do more thorough analysis. This will result in either decreased, or in some cases, no down time after an issue and a much happier farmer."

Agriculture is one of many industries working to use big data analytics to improve work processes. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began working on advanced big data projects for military and government use in March.